Steps to a Greener 2012

by Amanda Miller Allen

You don’t have to take drastic steps to lessen your “carbon footprint,” that evil-sounding measure of the impact you and your household have on the environment. Use Earth Day – this year April 22 – as an incentive to change your ways. With just a few small adjustments, your family can transform from dastardly villains to eco-heroes.

 

Around the House

  • Limit household chemicals; use green products or substitute natural cleaners where possible (olive oil as a wood polisher, baking soda as a scouring powder).
  • Set up designated bins to recycle packaging and paper, plastic, cans, glass and newspapers.
  • Pledge to do “an act of green” – Xeriscaping, limiting electricity use, recycling – or measure your carbon footprint at earthday.org.
  • To save electricity and gas, adjust the thermostat; turn off lights not in use; replace old appliances with energy-efficient ones; unplug electronics when not in use; keep your freezer full (or fill milk jugs with water) so the freezer doesn’t work so hard to maintain temperature; insulate your house; when the roof needs replacing, consider a metal roof made of recycled aluminum cans.

At the Dinner Table

  • Avoid over-packaged foods. Do you really need every slice of cheese individually wrapped?
  • Use recyclable totes to haul groceries. If you must use plastic bags, recycle them at your supermarket.
  • Consider a meatless day – it takes less energy to raise vegetables than livestock.
  • Choose locally grown vegetables to lower transportation costs and save energy.

 

Outside Your Home

  • Plant a garden for fresh vegetables and to save on transportation costs.
  • Say “no” to pesticides on lawn or garden; control pests organically.
  • Compost vegetable scraps and eggshells – the rich soil will help your garden grow.
  • Set up rain barrels to harvest water for your lawn and garden.

 

As a Consumer

  • Minimize paper use by paying bills online.
  • Opt out of mail solicitations and avoid killing trees for junk mail (optoutprescreen.com or 888-567-8688).
  • Borrow books from the library or pass on books you’ve purchased to another reader.
  • Donate clothing, household items and furniture to charity or consider Freecycle (freecycle.org), which connects people who want to give away an item with people who need the item.
  • Recycle or donate old electronics when you buy new ones; turn in old computer printer cartridges to office supply stores for a discount.
  • Contact your community’s Keep America Beautiful affiliate for information on recycling centers or special collections.
  • When you can, shop at resale or thrift stores for gently used fashions, household items or furniture.

As You Travel

  • Replace old gas-guzzlers with fuel-efficient vehicles or alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Carpool with other parents to transport the kids, or put them on the bus.
  • Use public transportation when possible or carpool with a friend or coworker.
  • Combine errands to limit car trips and gas usage.
  • Avoid long lines at fast-food restaurants, drive-through banks or the cleaners where your car might idle for a long period.