Cartoon copyright 1990, Jim Bergman, Cincinnati Enquirer

This list assumes you already recycle, turn off unnecessary lights and do other obvious things, and also assumes you don’t have a lot of extra time or money to do some of the environment-friendly things that appear on most lists like this. In other words, these are all simple , inexpensive, non-obvious and non-time-consuming ways to make a difference. See if you can make these “Second Nature “:

  1. Buy things that last, even if they cost more: Long-life lightbulbs, stuff that Consumer Reports says is durable and reliable, products with meaningful warrantees that don’t cost extra, stuff that isn’t made in China (sorry to pick on one country, but the reputation for shoddiness is merited).
  2. Buy things that have already been recycled: Recycled, not recyclable, it’ll say right there on the label, especially computer paper, toner, latex paint (available recycled and a huge saver of toxic landfill), paper towels, garbage bags, even styrofoam if you have to use it at all. And while you’re looking for the ‘recycled’ logo, look for the ‘not tested on animals’ one as well.
  3. Buy energy-efficient lights, insulation and appliances : All of these things are rated, and a little comparison shopping could save you more than the cost of what you’re buying in energy savings. Or call your utility and have them do an energy audit of your home – it’s inexpensive and guaranteed to provide ideas that will save you money as well as energy.
  4. Turn off the tap: While you’re lathering in the shower, brushing your teeth, rinsing the dishes, turn the water off. You’ll save an amazing amount of water, and I promise it won’t get cold that fast. Likewise don’t turn the tap of your dishwasher or clothes washer on until you have a full load. And for God’s sake don’t hose down your driveway , use a @%#$ broom.
  5. Buy non-fossil fuel energy: In many areas you can choose to purchase clean energy alternatives (like wind, solar, and biomass energy) for modestly more than fossil-fuel-produced energy, and the proceeds are used to build more windmills etc. Here’s more info.
  6. Vote green, and lobby green: Not necessarily for the Green Party, but for candidates who stand for environmental protection and conservation.  There’s lots of resources on the Web to help you identify them.  And while you’re at it, research the worst polluters in your area, and e-mail them and your politicians to tell them to clean up their act.
  7. Try less toxic cleaners, herbicides and pesticides: Before you buy the line that environmentally-friendly alternatives aren’t as effective, try them. Bet you can cut the number of cans in your home with toxic warning labels on them in half without anyone noticing.
  8. Don’t buy overpackaged goods: Not only are minimally-packaged premium no-name and bulk products more environmentally friendly without sacrificing quality, they’re cheaper as well.  Awkward bulky packages can be repackaged at home into smaller, resealable containers.
  9. Keep your car tuned, tires inflated and don’t fill the tank completely full: Take your car in regularly (make a note in your diary to remind yourself) for maintenance. If you don’t know how to properly check and maintain tire inflation (80% of drivers don’t), go to a non-self-serve gas bar and have them show you once, and then do it yourself first fill-up every month. 
  10. Plant trees. Figure how much your home energy use impacts global warming (and get your employer to do the same) using this calculator: http://www.americanforests.org/resources/ccc/ and then plant enough trees (set aside a couple of weekend days a year to do so) to neutralize the impact (the calculator tells you how many).
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  1. Charly Z says:

    Uh-oh. The image is too big and is hiding the text behind it. Try making a whole paragraph for itself (wrap <p&g;…</p> tags around it).

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Fixed, I think. Thanks for the note. Anyone else notices anything wonky, please let me know. That’s what comes from letting newbies play with HTML fire.

  3. Martin Wisse says:

    Planting trees to stop global warming? I thought trees were effectively neutral, CO2 wise?

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Martin, I don’t claim to be an expert, but the americanforests.org site looks legit (they’ve been around 125 years) and that’s what they say. I’ve read about carbon sinks, and though I don’t think planting trees should mitigate a country’s responsibilities re: Kyoto (fortunately Canada gave up trying to do that) the underlying science seemed credible to me. Any global warming experts weigh in?

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