Being eco-friendly doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Just ask Nadine Bouler.
The Jericho High School English teacher has been committed to a sustainable lifestyle — in and out of the classroom — for years. Bouler says it’s all about maintaining use rather than expanding it.
“It’s not that you have to live an uncomfortable life,” says the Islip native. It’s as easy as stepping back and asking, "What makes my quality of life better?”
She’s just one of a growing number of locals proving that living an environmentally conscious lifestyle may not be as difficult as it seems.
ALL AROUND ECO
From her classroom to her kitchen table, Bouler has managed to bring her eco-forward attitude to just about any setting.
While teaching, she tries not to produce as many handouts for her students and asks them to submit their essays online to save paper. She also prohibits students from writing on packets so she can reuse them.
“I am far from perfect, but I do try to keep in mind that every little bit counts,” says Bouler.
In her home, “everything is on a power strip.” This way she can “shut the whole area down” before leaving. “All appliances, if they can be, are unplugged so they aren’t using too much energy,” she adds. That includes her one TV. She says that cable boxes are the No. 1 energy suckers because they use the same amount of energy whether on or off. In 2010, set-top boxes in the United States consumed about 27 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, equivalent to the annual output of nine average (500 MW) coal-fired power plants, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
She also eats less meat, uses her air conditioner less, avoids single-use plastics and shops at church thrift stores where she purchases recycled clothing.
She even keeps tabs on fashionable budget finds on her Instagram page with the hashtags #whatiworetoday and #secondhand. “You start to realize, you don’t need multiples,” she says referring to the number of white blouses she keeps in her closet.
She also tries to lower waste by composting, which she’s been doing since 2010. “It’s an easy way to keep food out of sewage,” Bouler says. Eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags and fruit and vegetable clippings are just a few of the items she composts in her backyard for about a year before tilling it into her soil for nutrients.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when food goes to the landfill, the nutrients in the food never return to the soil. Instead, the food rots and produces methane gas, which traps heat in the atmosphere.
Bouler stopped dining out at certain restaurants because Styrofoam—or polystyrene foam—containers used to hold food are slow to biodegrade and release pollutants into the air. The plastics used to make forks and soy sauce packets are also harmful to the environment.
ON-TAP AND UPCYCLED
Two years ago, when Jeanine Schappert-Longo opened O’beehave Naturals, a green salon in Babylon, she was surprised by how many retailers offered to sell her shampoo.
“You’re selling me poison and plastic,” she says about shampoo bottles, many of which are piling up at landfills, contributing to carbon emissions, if they aren’t recycled properly. When it comes to the salon industry, she says “the whole system is broken.”
In hopes of restoring it, she’s vowed to never put another disposable plastic bottle on a shelf. Instead, she keeps products on-tap. Her refill bar offers customers hair and body wash, conditioners and laundry detergents, free of synthetic fragrances, petroleum and dyes, dispensed by the push of a pump into refillable containers. She thinks of her salon as “a cross between apothecary and pharmacy” and is hoping that “more salons on the Island will use our refill bars and products to help reduce waste.” According to the EPA, recycling 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours. She’s been refilling and reusing the same bottles in her bath and kitchen since 2010.
And if that’s not enough, she said she upcycles, or creatively reuses, as much as she can. “We shred all of our paper goods and use it to pack our products when we ship them,” she says. According to the EPA, recycling a stack of newspaper just 3 feet high saves one tree. For things that can’t be reused, she donates them to local farms and schools.
“O’beehave is not only a storefront,” says Schappert-Longo. “It’s a resource to educate our Island about how we can become as green as possible.”
Nancy Miller has an “an interesting little hobby” to which she’s been dedicated for six years, and counting -- beekeeping.
She got involved when a group of her landscaper friends invited her to a wax-making class at the Cornell Cooperative Extension, a nonprofit community education agency in Riverhead.
“Once I got started, there was no stopping,” says Miller, who recreationally makes lip and body balms for herself from the honey. Although she admits that tending to a hive or two was “costly,” running her hundreds of dollars, the reward is sweet.
She says, “the first thing in starting a hive is education.” She keeps three hives on her 3-acre property in Southampton. The pollinators help support a healthy garden and ecosystem.
When she’s not busy with bees, she’s cruising around town in her Prius Prime, shopping organic and gardening. “I grow most of what we eat in the summer,” says Miller. Her electric-powered car cuts down on emissions, helping to reduce the carbon footprint.
She also has solar panels atop her home, line-dries clothes when it’s sunny and turns the hot water heater off during the day. When it comes to being more aware of the environment, Miller says it helps to “think about your energy use on a daily basis.”
Simple ways to help the environment
1. Wrap gifts in fabric and tie with a ribbon instead of using gift wrap.
2. Use your dishwasher and washing machine efficiently by washing only full loads and choosing shorter wash cycles.
3. Avoid excessive idling — letting your car warm up in the morning wastes fuel and creates unnecessary emissions.
4. Fill your home with plants. They help cut pollution.
5. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs to save energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
6. Dine by candlelight to save electricity.
7. Drive according to the speed limit. Speeding wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15 percent to 30 percent at highway speeds and 10 percent to 40 percent in stop-and-go traffic, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.