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Archive for Sunday, April 22, 2007

Want to save the Earth? Here are 10 ways to start

April 22, 2007

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Happy Earth Day. Here are 10 things ordinary people can do to make a difference.

1. Turn off your computer.

It's using more electricity than you think when it's running in screensaver mode. In fact, energy experts say 75 percent of all the electricity a home uses flows to computers, TVs and other electronics that are running in standby.

You can also replace old appliances with new, more efficient ones to save power.

Not only does the power company burn fossil fuels to run those machines but you'll do yourself a favor - electric rates are not going down.

2. Get a programmable thermostat.

They cost from $30 to more than $100.

3. Use compact fluorescent bulbs.

You've been hearing a lot about them lately, and there's a reason for that: They emit the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs, yet they use a third or less of the energy and last 10 times longer. Energy Star, a government-backed initiative, says if every household changed out five bulbs, not only could it save $60 a year, but that would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to 8 million cars.

4. Go solar.

It's not cheap but it's cheaper than it once was. A solar panel on the south side of your home can suck cold air from inside the house, heat it and send it back in to reduce heating costs and the use of fossil fuels. Panels range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

5. Turn off the faucet.

Running the tap while you're standing at the sink can send two gallons a minute down the drain.

And a low-flow shower head along with faucet aerators can save nearly 8,000 gallons of water and prevent 450 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

6. Check your tires.

Keeping your tires at the proper inflation can improve gas mileage by 3 percent or more.

7. Shop smart.

Plan ahead so your trips are fewer. Avoid plastic bags: Americans throw away hundreds of billions of them a year, and they can take 10 centuries to biodegrade. If you do use them, at least save and recycle them. Paper bags aren't great, either, so try to bring your own canvas totes to the store.

8. Eat less meat.

A United Nations report says internationally the meat industry generates about 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Basically, that's a lot of methane and nitrous oxide from manure - worse than carbon. Eating meat also requires fertilizers and pesticides to grow animal food.

9. Watch the packaging.

Avoid products with unnecessary packaging such as shrink-wrapped vegetables or juice boxes. As for disposable products, they're convenient but wasteful.

Other ideas: Buy paper products based on their recycled content. Recycle cans and newspapers instead of throwing them in the trash.

10. Eat local.

Produce from Latin America looks good, but it takes a lot of energy to ship it here. If the source isn't labeled, ask. Go to a farmers market and you generally won't have to worry about it.

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