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.