Earth Day - What You Can Do

Earth Day - What You Can Do

Earth Day is the perfect time to think outside the box. What are the consequences of our choices? What products are better for the earth? What should we avoid?

Just as you might suspect, there's more to saving the earth than putting newspapers in a recycling container once a week.

Our product choices, packaging, reusing, and recycling are all areas that affect our homes. Some of the things we can do will take very little time. Other choices will require research, persistence, and conscious effort.

When building or remodeling our homes, for example, we can use earth friendly products including flooring made of cork or bamboo -- both renewable resources.

Knowledge is power when learning to save the earth, so here are some of the things all of us can do...

A Dim Bulb - Your local hardware store probably sells a regular incandescent bulb for $2 or $3. Compare that to a compact flourescent bulb that sells for about $15.00. No contest you say? Think again. Experts say you may buy 10 or more of the cheaper bulbs over ten years, compared to only one of the more expensive type. Now which looks better? 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth recommends using compact flourescent bulbs with solid state ballasts that fit into a regular light bulb socket, using 1/4 of the energy of an incandescent bulb while generating the same amount of light.

The Running Faucet - Do you leave the water running while you brush your teeth for 2 minutes? Then nearly ten gallons of water just slid down the drain. Remember, you PAY for that! Now, think about saving water when you shave, wash dishes, do laundry, water the lawn, wash the car, hose off the sidewalks.... avoid sending water and $$$ down the drain.

Idle Time - Ever wonder if you should leave the car running while you wait for the kids to be dismissed from school? Leave it on if you'll be there less than a minute, otherwise it's more efficient to turn it off and restart it when you're ready to go.

Turn Down the Heat - Not just the furnace, but the water heater too -- set it at 130 to 140 degrees. Turn the setting to low or off when you leave for the weekend or for a long vacation, then put a note on your bathroom mirror so you'll remember to turn it up when you return.

Keeping It Clean - Washers can use more than 50 gallons of water per load, so avoid washing a lot of small loads whenever possible. Also, be sure to choose the lowest level of water needed for each load, use warm water instead of hot, and set the rinse cycle to use cold water.

Cold Food - Refrigerator temperatures should be set at about 40 degrees, give or take a degree or two. Freezer temps between 0 and 5 degrees are just right. Colder settings waste energy and won't help food.

Snip Six-Pack Rings - Those innocent looking soft plasting holders for soft drink cans and other products can entangle birds, fish, and small animals. Snip apart each ring before throwing it in the trash, or inquire whether they can be recycled locally.

Get a Charge out of It - Never throw spent batteries in the trash. They contain mercury, a hazardous substance that will leak into groundwater or be burned and released into the air. Don't go there. Either switch to rechargeable batteries or collect used batteries in a shoebox out in the garage, clearly marked. Then take them to a recycling facility once or twice a year.

Styrofoam Lasts a Really, Really, REALLY long time - Try 500 years. Or more. Think about millions of burger boxes, packing peanuts, and take-out containers, sitting in landfills, not biodegrading. Then buy eggs in cardboard, rather than styrofoam, containers.

Office Paper - Does your office recycle? Chances are it generates a vast amount of clean paper waste. Ask your building management about recycling programs. If none are in place, then put boxes (marked "Recycled Paper Only") under every desk and next to copiers. Arrange to have a recycler pick them up or take them to a recycling facility periodically.

Sticker Shock - As fuel prices increase it will be even smarter to own fuel-efficient vehicles. Check the mileage ratings when you buy a car and compare the efficiency of your favorite models before you purchase. If gas goes up to $6.00 a gallon, which one will you want to have in your garage?

Use Cloth Instead - Carry cloth shopping bags. Use rags or towels instead of paper towels for cleaning. And yes -- consider using cloth diapers for your baby at least some of the time. Not conviced? Read this diaper essay from About's Environmental Guide.

Reuseable and Unbleached - Store food in bowls or Tupperware that can be reused endlessly. Use unbleached coffee filters (not bleached). Use more waxed paper that is biodegradable (instead of foil and plastic wrap).

Recycle Paper - Newspapers, junk mail, office papers, corrugated boxes, and paper bags are just a few of the items that can be recycled. Use local recycling facilities or call local authorities to learn about recycling options.

Recycle Glass, Plastic, and Cans - Get your local recycling requirements for these items and recycle every them every day. Collect cans and bottles when you travel, when you picnic, or eat a drive-ins. Recycle what you can.

Paint Tips - Oil based paints are toxic. They cannot be thrown out in the trash, but require special "hazardous waste" handling available at most recycling facilities. Call for instructions and collection dates. Use latex paint instead. To dispose of excess latex paint, leave the can uncovered to allow evaporation, then pull out the hardened paint and recycle the can. Never pour paint on the ground or wash brushes outside, as the runoff can contaminate groundwater.

Bag Lady - Recycle both paper and plastic shopping bags. Decline bags for smaller purchases such as stamps, greeting cards, etc. Or, better still, carry a lightweight cloth or string bag.

Arbor Day - Here's the best idea of all: Plant a tree, or two, or even three. They're beautiful, they provide shade, consume CO2 (that's good), and they produce oxygen. Breathe it in. Then go plant a tree.

Is recycling, conserving, and being environmentally conscious a smart thing to do?

Just ask you children.

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