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Climate Change: 25 Things You Can Do
Start with one thing and convince one other person to do it, too. Start with your friends and family. Then reach out to people who don’t agree with you. Talk to that relative you always fight with at Thanksgiving dinner. (In my house, we barely make it past the soup course before the debates begin.)
1. Bring your own reusable cup to Starbucks.
2. Forward an article to ten people ... they forward it to their ten friends, and the next thing you know you’ve seriously helped to get the word out and influenced public opinion along the way. Just because something is printed in the newspaper doesn’t mean anyone sees it. Often, really critical articles are buried inside the paper.
3. Pull chargers from the wall and turn off computers (wasted energy or "phantom loads" are 10 percent of your energy bill). If your cell phone, iPod, or digital camera is unplugged from the charger, but the charger is still in the wall, it is draining energy. Turning on a light uses energy that is likely made in a way that contributes to global warming pollution, so turn the lights off when you leave the room. Teach your kids to do it too.
4. There is now a better light bulb — a compact fluorescent (CFL) — and it uses 66 percent less energy than a regular light bulb and can last up to fifteen times longer. If every household changed five regular light bulbs and started using the compact fluorescents, it would be the equivalent of taking 8 million cars off the road for a year.
5. Bring a garment bag to the dry cleaner so your clothes don’t have to be wrapped in all that plastic and paper. Return all those extra hangers.
6. Buy in bulk [to reduce excess packaging].
7. Buy appliances that have an Energy Star label. This signifies the most energy-efficient brand — and the difference between these and the less-efficient ones is enormous. For instance, if you buy one of today’s most energy-efficient refrigerators, it will use less than half the energy of a model that’s twelve years old or older. Defrost your freezer. When ice builds up, it actually requires more energy to keep it cold.
8. Run your dishwasher only if it’s full. Don’t pre-rinse dishes.
9. Think about where things come from, how they get made, and where they end up when thrown away. Let’s start with something basic, such as toilet paper — an item found in every home in America — that is still made today mostly from virgin trees cut down from rare 100- or 150-year-old trees in northern Canada. A virgin tree is from a forest untouched by man. Trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, can no longer do that job if they’re cut down. Is it really necessary to destroy endangered forests for toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels?
If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin toilet paper with one roll of recycled post-consumer waste recycled toilet paper, 424,000 trees would still be standing. Kleenex (facial tissue), Puffs (facial tissue), Bounty (paper towels), Scott (paper towels), Viva (paper towels), Cottonelle (toilet paper), and Charmin (toilet paper) are all still made from virgin trees — some of which come from virgin forests. Did you know that? Will you make a different choice now that you do know? Would these companies make a different choice if their customers refused to buy them?
10. Pass your magazines on to a friend, hospital, library, or nursing home. Make your office recycle and buy paper products that are made from post-consumer waste. The paper industry is the third-largest contributor to global warming pollution.
11. Opt for reusable bags instead of plastic bags. Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags a year; less than 1 percent of these are recycled. Plastic bags come from petroleum, and the manufacturing of just fourteen of those plastic bags uses the same amount of oil that it would take to drive a car one mile. Paper bags are even worse. Producing paper bags uses four times the energy as making plastic ones, as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency. Right now, only about 20 percent of the paper bags in use are recycled. And most of that plastic and paper ends up in landfills, which — you guessed it — emit global warming pollution.
12. Recycle your newspaper. Sixty-three million newspapers are printed each day in the United States; 44 million of these will be thrown away.
13. Start a mug movement in your office. We throw away some 25 billion polystyrene cups every year, most of which end up in landfills too.
14. Start a water-glass movement in your office. The Container Recycling Institute reports that Americans buy about 25 billion single-serve plastic water bottles each year — requiring more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 100,000 U.S. cars for a year, according to the Earth Policy Institute. More than 80 percent of these bottles are thrown away or become litter. Buried in a landfill, a plastic bottle can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. As the permanent weekly soccer-snack mom, I bought twenty reusable plastic cups for the kids to use on water breaks.
15. Get your office to employ reusable coffee filters (metal mesh or unbleached cloth) — and use them at home — instead of paper ones; use organically grown coffee. White-paper coffee filters bleached with chlorine are not only bad for the environment (the paper mills that bleach the filters dump wastewater containing dioxins into waterways), but some of the chlorine and dioxins can end up in your coffee.
16. Plant trees and stop using leaf blowers. (Rakes work fine, and gas-powered leaf blowers can generate as much emissions in one hour as driving a car 350 miles.) Buy an electric or push mower; gas mowers are among the dirtiest of our modern machines.
18. Get mad. Write letters to your local newspapers.
19. Run for local offices — start small and climb the ladder. Every position is important, including those on school boards, town and county boards, and library boards, as well as parks and recreation commissioner, auditor, treasurer, and planning and zoning councils. Apply all you know to everything you do.
20. Start a no-idling rule at your school carpool lane. Ten percent of all our fuel use is wasted in idling. The myth that it uses more gas to turn your car on and off is just that — a myth. After only ten seconds, you use less gas to turn the ignition off. Parents and caregivers are often lined up for carpools anywhere from five to twenty minutes. Crossroads school in Los Angeles posted a no-idle sign in its carpool lane and it has made a huge difference.
21. Pay attention to the efforts of companies doing good things and support them. If you own stock in public companies (or plan to), become active in developing shareholder resolutions, and vote your shares to move companies in the right direction. Companies do listen to these criticisms from their shareholders, even before they gain majority support.
22. Choose products with the least packaging and complain to companies that overpackage items.
23. Reuse everything — take paper clips off of letters you receive and reuse them; reuse envelopes and write on the front, "This envelope is being used again." Print and copy on both sides of paper.
24. Suggest to your bosses or employees incentives for carpoolers and hybrid-car drivers. Offer premium parking spaces or early happy-hour Fridays for employees who increase their carpool hours. Bank of America offers its employees a cash rebate of $3,000 for a new hybrid purchase. Google employees get a $5,000 rebate for buying hybrid cars. What green changes can you set in motion at your office or school?
25. Calculate your own carbon footprint at stopglobalwarming.org or climatecrisis.net. Your estimated annual CO2 footprint is the total CO2 produced by your daily lifestyle. You can offset your personal or business carbon emissions by supporting organizations that build new wind farms, plant trees, and develop solar energy.
What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint and climate-change impact? Share your thoughts, ideas and examples in our Green Living discussion board
From “Stop Global Warming: The Solution Is You!” by Laurie David. © 2006 Fulcrum Publishing. Republished with permission.