A Bus with Legs
Remember the good ol’ days when kids walked to school? Those treks weren’t as rough as some people recall them—five miles through the snow, uphill both ways!—but they did burn calories instead of fossil fuels. Today kids need more opportunities for exercise, but many parents feel it’s not safe for them to walk alone. One simple solution is to organize a “walking school bus” or “bicycle train” for your neighborhood, with one or more adults supervising a group of children traveling together. It’s a good way to build muscles and communities. For details on how to get started, see www.walkingschoolbus.org.
Click Click Click
An estimated 147 million gallons of gasoline evaporates into the atmosphere in the U.S. every year because of loose, damaged or missing caps on vehicle fuel tanks. Keep gas in your tank by checking the cap occasionally for cracks. In older vehicles, you can prevent evaporation by making sure the cap is tightly secured. For most newer vehicles, turn the cap until you hear it click three times. That will not only keep gas where it belongs but will also help avoid the dreaded “check engine” warning light that appears when your vehicle’s emission sensors detect a leak.
Cancel the Catalogues
The average American household receives 88 printed catalogues a year. All that paper adds up to millions of dead trees. Recycling ensures that catalogues don’t end up in landfills, but an even better solution is to eliminate unwanted catalogues before they are printed. To do so, sign up for a free account and set your preferences at www.catalogchoice.org, an online service sponsored by the California-based Ecology Center.
Shrink Your “Cookprint”
Many foods don’t need sustained boiling to cook. For example, hard “boiled” eggs can be made by placing the eggs in a covered pot of water, bringing it to a full boil, then turning off the burner. In 20 minutes the eggs will be done. Known as passive cooking, this on-and-off technique not only saves energy but can also help avoid overcooking vegetables such as corn on the cob. For more tips see the new book Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen by Kate Heyhoe (Da Capo Press, 2009), or visit www.globalgourmet.com.
From Bambi’s perspective, there may be no such thing as an environmentally friendly bullet. But for hunters who are determined to take a shot, lead-free bullets are the “greenest” choice. They can cost twice as much as bullets containing lead but perform better because they don’t break apart on impact. That helps keep toxic metal out of forests, fields and waterways—and the digestive systems of humans who eat game animals. Last year, in an effort to protect endangered condors from lead poisoning, California banned lead bullets in areas of the state where the birds live. Most of the major ammunition manufacturers, such as Winchester and Remington, now offer copper bullets as an alternative.
Process of Elimination
Low-flow toilets can save a lot of water. They use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush, compared with five gallons or more for an older toilet. Another option is a dual-flush toilet operated by two buttons: Push the No. 1 button, and the toilet dispenses less than a gallon of water to whisk away liquid waste. Push No. 2 and the toilet releases the full 1.6 gallons to flush solid waste. Widely used in Europe and Australia, dual-flush toilets are catching on in the U.S.
Make Your Own Toys
Why buy Silly Putty, Chia Pets or sidewalk chalk when you can make your own toys for less than $1—and recycle a few toilet paper tubes, nylons and plastic bottles in the process? A mom and dad in Ohio, John and Danita Thomas, have created recipes for hundreds of environmentally friendly and safe toys that can be made from common household ingredients such as cornstarch, rock salt and coffee grinds. Check out The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions (The Kid Concoctions Company, 1998) or go to http://kidconcoctions.com.
PowerMeter software from Google Foundation can be paired with “smart” electric meters to give homeowners direct access to information about their energy use. For example, PowerMeter can reveal which appliances in your home are consuming the most electricity. Google predicts that having this kind of information will prompt people to reduce energy use by 5 to 15 percent. Only 200,000 U.S. homes have smart meters now, but the Obama Administration has called for another 40 million to be installed over the next three years.
Plasma versus LCD
The energy characteristics of TVs can vary as much as picture quality. For dark scenes, energy usage may not vary much between comparably sized plasma and LCD screens. But for most of the shows people watch, LCD screens use significantly less electricity. For both technologies, size matters; the bigger the screen, the greater its energy consumption. The largest sets have gotten so gluttonous that California state legislators are planning to ban the least efficient models beginning in 2011—which they say could reduce electricity consumption by an amount equivalent to that of 86,400 homes. For screens that are 50 inches or larger, a rear-projection TV is much more energy-efficient than either an LCD or plasma TV, but the picture is not as bright.
Think Globally, Date Locally
If you’re single, think twice about a long-distance relationship. All that commuting makes for a mighty big carbon footprint, according to “loca-sexuals” who are taking a more climate-friendly approach to dating. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but loca-sexuals say that the benefits of dating people who live nearby include a smaller travel budget, a greater sense of community, and more sex.
A Bus with Legs