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Archive for Monday, January 1, 2007

Going green

Ten simple things you can do to help the planet

January 1, 2007

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There's a lot of New Year's resolutions that are tough to follow through on. Dieting. Gym workouts. Self-organization. But if you're vowed to have a more environmentally friendly 2007, there's good news.

It's easy being green.

Laurie David, who produced Al Gore's documentary about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," says saving the planet isn't about everyone doing everything.

"It's about everyone doing something," said David, who also is the author of "Stop Global Warming: The Solution is You" and founder of the StopGlobalWarming.org Web site. "The impact of small actions by millions of people will be huge."

Some scientists and climate models are predicting that unchecked human-caused global warming over the next century is expected to raise sea levels and cause extremes in temperatures.

"The public is finally starting to get that if you drive a car, or do many other things, you're a carbon emitter - and you're contributing to the problem," David said. "The upside is that there's something that we can all do about it."

David helps get her point across by talking about the way everyday household products harm the environment. "When I talk about toilet paper and paper towels, which are made of virgin wood, people gasp," David said. "I tell them, when a 100-year-old tree is cut down ... so that we can have disposable paper products, is this acceptable? Should we still be using virgin trees for this?"

The green solution: "If every American household changed just one roll of paper made with virgin wood to one recyclable post-consumer roll, half a million trees would still be standing."

She's made the switch to post-consumer paper - products made of paper previously used by consumers, then recycled - in her own home despite initial complaints about the toilet tissue's not-so-squeezable texture from her husband, Larry David, creator of "Seinfeld," and his own HBO comedy series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

"My family is adapting," said David, noting that her kids recycle and take shorter showers. "Besides, they are making softer toilet paper now, so I think we're O.K."

Here are 10 things you can do in the new year to do your part for the environment, including some "go green" tips from David's Web site, http://www.StopGlobalWarming.org.

¢ Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Replace three frequently used light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide and about $60 a year. The Council on the Environment and Jewish Life is organizing a campaign called "How Many Jews Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?" to encourage synagogues and other Jewish groups to replace conventional bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which last four times longer but use 25 percent of the energy.

¢ Save the water bottle. Sick of watching your recycle bin fill up with water bottles? Time to buy a reusable water bottle. REI, the outdoor equipment store, carries a 16-ounce Nalgene bottle, $7.95, in five colors, made from polycarbonate plastic; it has a wide mouth and is easily washed. Eastern Mountain Sports carries SIGG bottles from Switzerland, including an 0.6-liter lightweight stainless steel model that is a replica of a 1941 Swiss Army bottle, $20, in blue or red.

¢ Pull the plug on electronics and chargers. Mobile phones, BlackBerry devices, iPods, digital cameras and other electronics use energy, even if they are turned off, if the charger is still going.

¢ Take shorter showers. Water for bathing accounts for two-thirds of all water-heating costs.

¢ Buy a hybrid car. Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz have glamorized them; David even convinced her husband's HBO comedy series to have his character drive one on the show.

¢ Create idle-free zones. Schools, churches, synagogues, libraries, shopping malls and anywhere that accommodates a large number of vehicles are prime spots for signs requiring vehicle engines to be turned off to help cut fuel emissions and improve air quality. David helped institute a no-idle rule in the parking lot of her children's school in Southern California to cut down on the "carbon dioxide haze" created by parents' idling vehicles. "You can do the same at your school, temple or church," David said. "Ask that a sign be posted outside that says, 'Turn off your vehicle."'

¢ Buy local food products. You may pay a bit more in the grocery store, but buying locally grown products helps the earth because less fuel is required to transport your products to market. Additionally, buying goods that require less packaging may help reduce your garbage.

¢ Bring cloth bags to the market. Tote your own cloth bags to the store instead of plastic and paper bags, reducing waste and requiring no additional energy. David also suggests carrying your own garment bag to the drycleaners to avoid bringing home plastic bags and wire hangers.

¢ Put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat in your home.

¢ Use recycled paper. Switch your home and business paper products to 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, saving countless trees and 5 pounds of carbon dioxide per ream of paper.

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