In her book It's Easy Being Green (Gibbs Smith, 2006), Crissy Trask shows busy people that they can make a difference today and help the planet by making small adjustments in their daily lives. Try these 23 easy tips for changes at work and at home.
1. Ask your employer to consider implementing a policy for compressed work weeks and/or telecommuting. Working four ten-hour days or working from home one or more days a week reduces commuting and traffic, leading to fewer automobile emissions.
2. Consider buying a laptop. Laptops use 50 percent of the energy used by a typical desktop PC when plugged in and just 1 percent of the energy when running on batteries.
3. If your copier, printer and fax have a sleep or stand-by mode, make sure it is selected. From the sleep mode, it will automatically wake up when you go to use it.
4. When using the copier at work, always make two-sided copies. If your printer also has a double-sided feature, use it.
5. If your office provides disposable cups for beverages, eliminate the need for them by bringing in extra glasses and mugs from home. Post a note in the lunch/break room requesting that your coworkers do the same. Keep the mugs in the lunchroom for anyone to use.
6. Use suppliers who will take back their recyclable or reusable products at the end of their life for proper disposal, recycling or remanufacturing.
7. If you have a nonconserving toilet (a 3.5 gallon flush or greater), retrofit it with a water-saving device. Fill a one-quart plastic bottle with water for each nonconserving toilet in your home, and submerge one bottle in each toilet tank. You will save one quart of water per flush and thousands of gallons a year.
8. Fix all leaks. To check for leaks, turn off all water in the house. Next, read your water meter, wait one hour (make sure no water is turned on during this period), and read the meter again. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.
9. Take short showers. With water flowing up to five gallons per minute from a nonconserving showerhead, showers consume about one-fifth of water used indoors.
10. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Fill a cup with water and use it instead of running water. This applies to shaving as well. Partially fill the sink bowl to rinse your razor instead of running the water.
11. Buy a shower curtain that will far outlast cheap plastic ones; a shower curtain made of hemp will naturally resist mildew and is machine washable.
12. Use a strainer on all drains to catch hair and prevent drain clogs. If you do get a clog, use a metal snake to work the clog loose, not toxic drain cleaners.
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Building and home improvement
13. Carefully dismantle rooms and buildings during a renovation to salvage reusable materials and fixtures. To donate or sell what you salvage, check your phone book under "Building Materials-Used" or "Salvage."
14. If you are building or renovating a home, check out salvage yards and antiques stores for used building materials and fixtures. They can be a great source of inexpensive and vintage items.
15. If you live in a cold climate, paint your house a dark color. Dark colors reflect as little as 3 percent of sunlight, thus absorbing more heat. If you live in a warm climate, paint your house a light color that will reflect up to 90 percent of sunlight and keep your house cooler.
16. Before discarding empty latex paint cans, leave the top off and allow the remaining paint to dry completely. Latex paint is not hazardous once it is solidified.
17. Use wool floor coverings instead of synthetic alternatives; they are more durable and easier to clean.
18. Clean refrigerator gaskets and vacuum the condenser coils twice a year. Your refrigerator will operate more efficiently and use less electricity.
19. Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket if it is located in an unheated space such as a basement or garage.
20. Use your microwave. Cooking and reheating with a microwave is faster and more efficient than using the stovetop or oven, thus reducing up to 70 percent of energy use.
21. Use a toaster oven for small jobs. It will use a third to half as much energy as a full-size oven.
22. Arrange furniture to take advantage of natural light from windows. Place desks and reading chairs next to windows to cut down on the need and use of supplemental, artificial light during the day.
23. Switch to fluorescent bulbs in areas where extended lighting is required. Though the initial price is higher than for incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lights produce four times as much light per watt, last up to ten times as long and therefore cost one-third as much to operate.
Excerpted from It's Easy Being Green by Crissy Trask. Copyright 2006 by Crissy Trask. Excerpted with permission by Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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