Friday, April 25, 2008

The Arbor Day Thirteen

Three holidays in one week--Patriots' Day, Earth Day, and now Arbor Day.

In honor of both Earth Day and Arbor Day, I'm posting a list of thirteen easy suggestions for greening up your world:

1. If you're looking at cars, consider a hybrid. Not only do they save gas, they have much lower emissions, which means better air quality for everyone. (I'm proud to say that both my husband and I drive hybrid cars, and we do it as much to keep the air clean as we do to save $$ on fill-ups.) In the short term a hybrid might be more expensive. However, if more people drove hybrid cars, the costs of production would go down, and so would the price of hybrid cars. And if you're like me and keep your cars for years and years and years, you'll certainly save $$ in the long run since you'll save on gas.

2. When you're running errands, combine trips to cut down on your total driving. Walk or ride a bicycle when you can, or use public transportation. (I ride the T in Boston, the light rail in Denver, and the subway in New York--the three cities I'm in most often.)

3. Use cloth grocery bags. I keep mine in the back of my car and use them all the time. Try them and I bet you'll prefer them. They're stronger than paper or plastic, so they hold more and don't rip. If you don't use cloth grocery bags, go for paper--they're easier to recycle and re-use. Re-use any plastic grocery bags, and any Ziploc-type bags. (Especially those thick, gallon-sized bags. They wash out easily and can be re-used for all kinds of things.)

4. Put a filter on your kitchen sink instead of buying bottled water to cut down on your use of plastic. Ditto on buying economy sizes of the items you use most often (one big bottle is less plastic than two or three smaller bottles.) Then recycle those bottles you do use.

5. If you must dry clean clothes, search out an eco-friendly dry cleaner. When you're shopping, go for washable clothes, linens, curtains, pillows, and rugs rather than those that must be dry-cleaned. Then use an eco-friendly detergent, like Seventh Generation or Method (tip: you can get great prices on all Method cleaning products at your local Target.)

6. Save on air-conditioning by being smart about shade. I had UV film put on the windows of my house, and it stays much cooler in the summer. I also placed my patio umbrella to keep the morning sun from heating up my house. If you live in a house where you can plant trees, consider planting for optimum shade on the house. (Arbor Day's the perfect time to plant a tree, you know!)

7. Save on heating bills by insulating your house or apartment as best you can. Check windows for leakage and get weather-stripping (it can make a huge difference!) for drafty doors and windows. There are some great tips for insulating your house at this government website.

8. Recycle your batteries. Many cities and towns have a place you can drop off batteries. My local Whole Foods has a bin right by the exit where I take all of mine.

9. Recycle your computers and electronics instead of tossing them. If there's not a local organization that can use them (a school, day care, or senior center, for instance), contact the company from which you purchased the item. Hewlett-Packard and Apple both have recycling programs. (I've written all my books on Apple computers and I love their recycling program. Thanks, Apple!)

10. If you're shopping for new electronics or appliances--whether it's a dehumidifier, a laptop computer, or even a fridge--look for the Energy Star label and/or check the Energy Star site before you buy. These products are the most energy-efficient, so they'll save you money, too.

11. Don't put paint, stripper, or other chemicals in the trash. Ditto fluorescent lightbulbs, thermometers, or anything that contains mercury. Check with your local community recycling center--most have special days where they take these items so they don't end up in trash dumps (which may allow those chemicals into our air and into the water supply.) If your community doesn't offer this service, ask them to do so. Get your friends and neighbors to ask, as well. Letters do matter.

12. If you have a lawn, try to use the most eco-friendly products you can. Don't overwater (lawns really don't need as much water as you think!) If you have an automatic sprinkler system, consider installing a rain gauge that will shut off the sprinklers if you've gotten rain in recent days.

And finally, a lucky number thirteen: When you do your spring cleaning and come across items you no longer use, don't dump them at the curb. Instead, check out Freecycle. Most communities in the U.S have Freecycle lists, and they're also in certain places in Canada and Europe. Freecycle is an easy way to give those items you no longer need a new life so they don't end up in a dump. Clothes, books, toys, electronics, old furniture, plants, you name it, you can Freecycle it. You list the item, and someone local who can really use it comes and picks it up. (You can usually leave items on your porch, etc.) If you find Freecycle's not for you, remember that groups like the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Salvation Army, Goodwill and local senior centers and homeless shelters may be able to use your items, too. It's far better than throwing them in the trash.

These thirteen aren't expensive suggestions--they may actually save you money. And they'll certainly help save the planet. Happy Arbor Day!


Little Willow said...

Hurrah for the eco-conscious! Passing this link on to the readergirlz . . .

Niki Burnham said...

Thanks, Little Willow!