Reduce carbon footprints one step at a time

Global warming,air pollution and fuel-efficiency are phrases familiar to the average American but just how much do people know about “going green”? With Earth Day approaching on April 22, there are minor changes everyone can make to benefit the environment. Some of those are:

• Change your light bulbs: If every household in the U.S. replaced one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.

• Turn off computers at night: By turning off your computer instead of leaving it in sleep mode, you can save 40 watt-hours per day. That adds up to 4 cents a day, or $14 per year. If you don’t want to wait for your computer to start up, set it to turn on automatically a few minutes before you get to work.

• Use both sides of paper: American businesses throw away 21 million tons of paper every year, equal to 175 pounds per office worker. For a quick and easy way to halve this, set your printer’s default option to print double-sided (duplex printing). And when you’re finished with your documents, don’t forget to take them to the recycling bin.

• Wrap creatively: You can reuse gift bags, bows and event paper but you can also make something unique by using old maps, cloth or even newspaper. Flip a paper grocery bag inside out and give your child stamps or markers to create their own wrapping paper that’s environmentally friendly and extra special for the recipient.

• Brush without water running: Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. You’ll conserve up to five gallons per day if you stop. Daily savings in the U.S. alone could add up to 1.5 billion gallons — more water than folks use in the Big Apple.

• Take a shorter shower: Every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than 10 gallons of water. If everyone in the country saved just one gallon from their daily shower, over the course of the year it would equal twice the amount of freshwater withdrawn from the Great Lakes every day. • Buy second-hand: Consider buying items from a second-hand store. Toys, bicycles, roller blades and other age and size-specific items are quickly outgrown. Second-hand stores often sell these items in excellent condition since they are used for such a short period of time, and will generally buy them back when you no longer need them.

• Buy local: Consider the amount of pollution created to get your food from the farm to your table.

Whenever possible, buy from local farmers or farmers’ markets, supporting your local economy and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in.

• Recycle old cell phones: The average cell phone lasts around 18 months, which means 130 million phones will be retired each year. If they go into landfills, the phones and their batteries introduce toxic substances into our environment. There are plenty of reputable programs where you can recycle your phone, many of which benefit noble causes.

• Turn off lights: Always turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Fluorescent bulbs are more affected by the number of times it is switched on and off, so turn them off when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. You’ll save energy on the bulb itself, but also on cooling costs, as lights contribute heat to a room.

• Greener lawn care: If you must water your lawn, do it early in the morning before any moisture is lost to evaporation. Have a few weeds? Spot treat them with vinegar. Not sure if you should rake? Normal clippings act as a natural fertilizer, let them be. If you’ve waited too long, rake by hand — it’s excellent exercise.

• Choose matches over lighters: Most lighters are made of plastic and filled with butane fuel, both petroleum products. Since most lighters are considered “disposable,” more than 1.5 billion end up in landfills each year. When choosing matches, pick cardboard over wood. Wood matches come from trees, whereas most cardboard matches are made from recycled paper.


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