Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Tips

Happy Earth Day, All!


Today we present a special post from my friend Ted, who has come up with this list of ways to help the environment. Enjoy!

Very easy


  1. We'll start with a no-brainer: Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

  2. This one should've been drilled into your heads by now: Replace most of your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. I buy them online, at efi.org/store. While you're at it, replace your halogen torchieres with compact fluorescent torchieres on that site.

  3. If you have a notebook computer and a desktop, use your notebook computer unless you're beating someone up in an FPS or editing your next feature film. Notebook computers use less energy.

  4. Check the pressure in your car tires. Improper pressure can cause bad fuel economy. If you're too lazy to do it yourself, have your mechanic check the next time you get your oil changed.

  5. During the summer, close the blinds in rooms you're not using.

  6. Clean your dryer's lint trap before every use. Your clothes will dry faster and you'll be at a lower risk for fire. ...of course, it's better to dry your clothes outside, but that's not always an option.

  7. Watch An Inconvenient Truth. Even if you've seen it before, see it again. Bring your friends. This movie started a green revolution, and now, years later, I feel that people are lapsing back into apathy. So I think it's important that people keep this on the forefront of their minds.


Easy


  1. Run the dishwasher and washing machine at night. It puts less strain on the electrical grid.

  2. Turn off/suspend/hibernate your computer when you're not using it for more than two hours. Personally, I think you're fine turning it off even if you're gone for even 30 minutes, but since I don't do that, I can't beat anyone else up for that, either.

  3. Stop drinking bottled water. Let's face it: this is really sh*tty for the environment. Brita's doing great advertising on this, right now, showing you that a bottle ends up in a landfill forever. But we're talking more than just landfills: as a New Jerseyan, if I drank water from a certain company in Maine, every bottle has to travel a minimum of 350 miles to make it to me. And that's just the final product: imagine where the plastic has to come from. <Insert favorite deity here> forbid if I wanted to drink water from the French Alps or the South Pacific.

  4. Here's another good rule of thumb: Buy produce that's in season. That's really a corollary to my last point, but a rather important one. Stuff that's not in season will probably have to travel from some place where it is in season. (See what's in season right now.)

  5. Buy locally-grown food. Why? Same reason as the bottled water. Food that travels less uses less. It's a little more complicated than that, but that's generally a good rule of thumb.

  6. Buy organic produce. Why? Besides the fact that you put fewer pesticides and fertilizers in you, it also means less contamination of groundwater, better energy efficiency (don't ask me why, but organic farms tend to use less energy), better water efficiency, and lower soil erosion.


Medium


  1. Get yourself a programmable thermostat. Set your heat and A/C lower whenever you're not home. They'll cost you $40 but save you a lot of money in the long run.

  2. Lump your driving chores together. Unless you drive a plug-in car connected to a solar panel, you're not doing the planet any favors by driving to the grocery store every day. Spend a few minutes to plan ahead: buy stamps, pick up some milk, and drop off your dry cleaning in the same trip. Help the planet, give yourself more time at home, and put gas money back in your wallet, too.

  3. Offset your carbon emissions. Go to CarbonOffsetList.org for reputable organizations that do this. (I use carbonfund.org.) For $10, you can offset a ton of carbon emissions.

  4. Stop giving out useless gifts. Adult gift-giving can sometimes get out of hand. Around the holidays, people feel compelled to give the proverbial fruitcakes and meaningless tchotchkes that get tossed or thrown in the basement. If I can't think of something tangible to give my friends, I donate to charity on their behalf or offset their carbon emissions. In fact, for this Earth Day, I offset five of my friends' carbon emissions. You may be receiving a card from me in the next day or two.

  5. Replace old showerheads with low-flow showerheads. Also, get faucet aerators, and if you have an old toilet, get one of these.


Hardcore


  1. Buy a front-loading washing machine. They typically use less water and energy than their top-loading counterparts.

  2. Buy LED lights. LED bulbs are way more efficient than compact fluorescents. Not to mention they last tens of thousands of hours (effectively, years and years) and don't contain mercury. Only thing is that they cost a lot up front (a single 60W bulb replacement can cost $120). That price will come down, eventually. But right now, LED night lights are relatively cheap. I own several of these and love them. They emit a bluish light, but they're bright and last for years. Also good are LED Christmas lights. These Christmas lights look like regular Christmas lights but cost pennies for the whole season and last for years without burning out.

  3. Write your Congressman (or -woman) and tell them that you're a constituent who cares about global warming, who wants to see investments in renewable energy and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of our last president, I don't believe that environmentalism has to be a partisan issue. If you don't know who your three representatives are in Congress, look here (and also: shame on you! You probably voted for or against them at some point! :P).

  4. This may be "hardcore" but it may be one of the best investments you ever make: Get an energy audit done for your home. They may suggest that you weather-strip your home, replace old appliances, replace old windows with high-performing, triple-paned, inert gas-filled windows, or replace your insulation with blown-in cellulose insulation. Check out the tax credits you can get for doing all this.

  5. Put your money where your mouth is and invest in environmentally- (and socially-) responsible stocks and mutual funds. I'm no financial advice giver, but just to let you know, I used to invest in Pax World mutual funds before the stock market took a nose dive.

  6. Broaden your focus from reusable shopping bags to the big picture. Recycling is good, but understand that if you use your SUV to drive aluminum cans to the recycling center, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Think of the broader picture: how does your behavior impact the world? Where do you buy gasoline? What kind of home products do you use, like toilet paper? When you're waiting for a train at a graded crossing, do you idle your car? Here's a hard one: do you buy clothes, gadgets, and other stuff to fill a void in your life? I'm afraid the list goes on. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

2 comments:

Art said...

Wonderful tips. Some of those I knew about (and had implemented). Some I hadn't. Thanks for the great ideas. When my wife and I updated our appliances last year, we got them from www.totalkitchenstore.com/appliances

Jason, one of the owners, was great and took great care of us. Ask for him.

They've recently posted a new page focusing on their green materials. Check it out: www.totalkitchenstore.com/green

Susan said...

Thanks so much, Ted, for writing this column for us! I was feeling really badly about not posting on Earth Day, but I had two sick kiddoes. I feel much better now after reading your post, and noting that I'm "hardcore...", which really wasn't that hard (except for swallowing the pinch of buying a new Energy Star washing machine, but I needed one anyway. The hand-me-down my mom had given finally died and leaked all over my basement).