Haley Kieser

Louisiana is vibrant, lush, and full of life. Its many waterways and wetlands are teaming with wildlife and adventure, while its cities and towns pulse with activity and culture. In a state where so much of its landmass is covered by water, it is essential that Louisiana’s government, businesses, and residents take extra care to protect natural resources.

However, a new study conducted by WalletHub indicates that Louisiana is one of the least environmentally friendly states in the union, ranking 49thout of 50 states. Comprehensively, the study showed that Louisiana has poor water quality, low recycling rates and high energy consumption without using any significant amount of renewable energy. Yet, there are plenty of steps that residents can take to ensure a greener future for Louisiana: water conservation, waste management, energy efficiency and getting involved in local sustainability efforts are great ways to get started.

Conserving Water
Conserving water at home is not only good for the environment, but it is also a money saver. Using less water decreases waste, while increasing savings on water bills. Water leaks make up as a significant amount of water waste, so it is essential that residents check toilets and other plumbing regularly. Installing low-flow faucets and toilets decrease water usage without changing habits, while functionality stays the same.

Similarly, installing water-saving and high-efficiency appliances such as washers and dishwashers will save both water and money over time. Residents with yards can reduce outdoor water usage by watering during the early morning and evening hours, where evaporation rates are lowest, and by planting native plants. Native plants have evolved to the conditions in their local biome, requiring less maintenance and less water while decreasing erosion—a phenomenon that negatively impacts water quality. Other ways to improve water quality at home are to use organic pesticides and weed killers, use biodegradable soaps and reduce solid waste.

Waste Management
Quality solid waste management is critical for every community, particularly in areas with an abundance of surface water resources and coastal land. In order to keep Louisiana’s many natural resources clean and thriving, it is essential to keep garbage out of its many rivers, lakes, swamps, bayous, wetlands and ocean fronts.

One way to minimize solid waste is through recycling programs. According to Keep Louisiana Beautiful, Louisiana has a recycling rate of 6.3 percent, which is extremely low. Residents in areas with curbside recycling, as well as those near a recycling center, can recycle the following items: aluminum, glass, paper, plastic bags and containers, steel, automotive parts, and electronics. Homeowners can also switch to using recycled paper products, such as paper towels, toilet paper and printer paper.

There are also Louisiana junk removal companies that will take larger items such as appliances, mattresses, electronics, carpeting, furniture and even hot tubs. They will donate and recycle as much as they can before sending items to the landfill. Never leave any garbage or unwanted items in areas not designated for solid waste disposal, and only purchase new items when they are no longer functional, cannot be repaired or have low-efficiency ratings.

Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is another excellent way to both practice sustainability and save money in Louisiana. According to Entergy Louisiana, the two largest household energy uses are heating and cooling (55 percent) and water heating (20 percent). While Louisiana residents experience some excruciatingly hot temperatures during the long summer months, there are ways to reduce energy costs by making minor home alterations. Most importantly, adjust the thermostat to the highest (or lowest in cooler months) comfortable degree.

When vacationing, set the thermostat to a higher or lower setting than when the home is occupied. Maintaining air conditioning and furnace units is a must; wash or replace filters monthly, and don’t block the air vents with furniture or fabrics.

During summer months, reduce the amount of sun filtering in through the windows. Use solar screens or films on sunniest windows, and close shades and drapes during the day. During the winter, try the opposite by allowing the sun to heat rooms naturally. These and other physical alterations that capitalize on natural or pre-existing heating and cooling mechanisms keep electronic units from working too hard, saving energy and cutting costs.

Similarly, using insulation on hot water pipes keeps homes cooler while making hot water heaters more efficient. Another way to save on hot water expenses is to invest in an energy efficient water heater, and to practice regular maintenance. For example, water heaters collect sediment over, and draining one gallon of water per year will help maintain efficiency and increase the life of the unit. Smaller changes to reduce energy waste include taking quick showers, avoiding baths, and not allowing the water to run while shaving and brushing teeth. For those who can afford the change, investing in solar panels is another excellent option that also includes federal tax credits.

Finally, providing community and public education is essential to building a greener future for Louisiana. Youth and early childhood programs like the Louisiana Green Schools Program teach children to develop sustainable, environmentally friendly habits and values from an early age. They also encourage schools “to reduce resource consumption and costs, improve the health and wellness of students and staff, and provide environmental and sustainability education opportunities.” When children and families understand their impact on their local environment, they are inspired to make everyday changes.

Similarly, local environmental organizations such as the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy are always looking for volunteers to plant trees, pick up trash and campaign for green legislation. On that note, voting in local and federal elections are incredibly important to the future of city, state, country, and global communities. Supporting legislation that encourages renewable energy, conservation areas, habitat restoration, clean water acts, emission taxes, and many other sustainable endeavors will help pave the way for a greener Louisiana.

Haley Kieserassists O2E Brands in research and writing. O2E Brands consists of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me, Wow 1 Day Painting, and Shack Shine. She can be reached at [email protected].