The Tissue Issue
“Ultra” brands of toilet paper such as Charmin, Cottonelle and Quilted Northern may feel soft on your bum, but they’re hard on the environment because they’re made from virgin fiber and bleached with chlorine. Virgin fiber typically comes from trees grown for pulp production or from sawmill leftovers after trees are cut into lumber. The alternative: brands made from 100 percent recycled fiber, preferably with at least 80 percent postconsumer content. You can download a wallet-size buyer’s guide from Greenpeace (www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/forests/tissueguide) or the Natural Resources Defense Council (www.nrdc.org/land/forests/gtissue.asp).
Save energy by putting a lid on the pot whenever you boil water. If every U.S. household did this just once, we’d save up to $2,212,175.
SOURCE: Bill Nye the Science Guy/NOVA (www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/energy/lid.html)
Really Local Food
Planting a vegetable garden is an inexpensive way to obtain fresh, pesticide-free food that hasn’t traveled hundreds of miles to reach your plate. For novice gardeners, seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co. has created a “Money Garden” seed pack that costs $10 and can produce $650 worth of easy-to-grow carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, beans, peas and peppers. It’s only available online at www.burpee.com/product/id/112011.do. If your space is limited, consider the Kitchen Garden Planner from Gardener’s Supply Co. (www.gardeners.com/Kitchen-Garden-Planner/kgp_home,default,pg.html) to learn how to get 50 pounds of produce from a three-by-six-foot garden.
Sending a kid outside to play can improve his or her concentration and fight climate change. A study published in 2008 by researchers at the University of Illinois found that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder who took walks outdoors raised their attentiveness scores and that kids who walked in natural settings did better than those who walked city streets. A dose of nature was just as effective as a dose of Ritalin. Of course, the more time kids spend playing outdoors the less time they’ll spend at video-game consoles—which consume an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, about four times the output of Hoover Dam.
Not So Extreme Home Makeover
Building or remodeling a house? Consider buying used flooring, doors, indoor and outdoor fixtures, and other salvaged construction materials. You’ll keep these items out of the landfill and reduce your consumption of raw materials. To find nearby sources of items from disassembled buildings, try the Building Materials Reuse Association’s directory (www.bmra.org/listings) or Habitat for Humanity’s chain of retail ReStores (www.habitat.org/env/restores.aspx). Most of these groups will also accept donations of your own used building materials if they are still in good condition.
Handy Energy Savers
Cut down on electricity use by replacing these common kitchen appliances with hand-powered tools:
- Can opener
- Coffee grinder
- Stick blender
- Electric knife
Read the label on your shampoo or skin cream bottle and you’re very likely to find all sorts of mysterious chemicals lurking in the fine print. Is polyquaternium-10 safe for you and everything that lives downstream from your shower drain? And why do toothpastes and toilet bowl cleaners share some ingredients? For answers about the thousands of chemicals that appear in household products and cosmetics, consult the Green Media Toolshed’s Scorecard (www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/), the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database (www.cosmeticsdatabase.com) and the National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network (http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov).