1. Tofu or not tofu? That is the question.
As one of India's holiest cities, Varanasi is not only a great place to die, it's also a great place to be a cow. The benevolent bovine is considered holy in India, and in Varanasi, cows (literally) have the run of the city's narrow streets. And because they're holy, they don't have to worry about being served up as beef curry.
Vegetarianism dates back millennia in India and was even popularized in the West for its spiritual qualities by India's Mahatma Gandhi. Today, there are at least two more reasons to go vegetarian, or at least become more vegetarian: the selfish argument and the big picture argument.
We'll start with the big picture. Producing meat for the world's growing billions of mouths is taking a big toll on the Earth. A Cornell study showed that producing meat protein is eight times more energy intensive than producing vegetable protein. And a University of Chicago study showed that six per cent of U.S. greenhouse emissions come from the extra energy used to produce meat.
Now, the selfish argument: your health can be improved by eating a more vegetarian diet. There's one caveat, though. A strict vegetarian diet requires careful planning in order to get all the iron, vitamin B12, and other nutrients your body needs. Still, even part-time vegetarianism pays off for the environment, your body, and the cows. So, take a little time today to come up with a one-day vegetarian menu. Bon appétit!
2. Hand tool wisdom
Attention, all you green thumbs out there! It's time to get even greener.
Gardening might be calming, rewarding, and even fun, but cut out the gas-guzzling power tools, and your garden hobby just became actual work. And as a famous frog once sang: "It ain't easy being..." well, you know.
If you're already enthusiastic about better lawns and gardens, you may not mind burning calories and building up muscles in an effort to spare the air. But if machine-free gardening still sounds like onerous toiling in the fields, check out these factoids. Most gasoline-powered lawn and garden tools, such as lawn mowers, weed whackers, and leaf blowers, are extremely eco-unfriendly, spewing an incredible amount of CO2 into the air, even considering their small stature. In fact, a single lawn mower can put out more pollution than 73 new cars. That adds up to as much as five per cent of urban air pollution. In a single day, southern California's lawn tools do more to pollute the air than every airplane in Los Angeles.
Fortunately, there are tools available that are more environmentally friendly, more ergonomic, and even more efficient. Push mowers aren't nearly as unruly and cumbersome as the one that earned you your childhood allowance. This goes for pretty much all necessary lawn and garden tools. You can dispense with the leaf blower by using a simple broom and rake. Or, you can ditch the power hedger and get intimate with your plants by using a pair of pruning scissors. One final bonus is that it's easier on the ears for you and your neighbours.
And remember, ye shall reap what ye shall sow. So sow some peace and quiet, and a little fresh air this weekend.
3. Give me shower or give me death
If you're like most people, the shower is the single greatest indulgence you can't do without. It's not just about cleanliness. It's about having one moment a day when everything is guaranteed to be wonderful. You may tolerate shortfalls in other parts of life, but damn it, you'll never go without that shower!
Unfortunately, erasing all those worries relies on a lot of power from the local power plant, and that leads to something called global warming. If your household is like most, heating water accounts for 20 per cent of your electric bill each month. But you don't have to ruin your life with shorter showers or cold plunges. Below are some baby steps to curb your water heater's appetite for electricity.
• Have a look to see if your water heater bears the "Energy Star" label. If not, it's probably time for a new one. Don't worry about cost -- an energy-efficient water heater will pay for itself within two years.
• If your residence is equipped with an automatic electric dishwasher, set the temperature of your water heater to no higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 C). If you hand-wash your dishes, you can afford to turn it down to 120 F (50 C).
• If your water heater is located in an unheated area, insulate the heater and the surrounding pipes. Of course, consult your safety manual before doing this.
• You can set the water heater on a timer so that it operates only when you need it.
4. Living green in the paper-full age
A memo generated on untold reams of paper in the 1970s heralded the Age of the Paperless Society. Only the contemporaneous American changeover to the metric system matched the folly of the "paperless office" concept. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, paper consumption has increased about 13 per cent since 1970.
Let's face it, until alternatives are adopted, paper is here to stay. Of course, our use of paper has a great impact on the health of our forests and on our planet. One way to reduce that impact is to conserve printing paper at home and at the office by trying the following:
• Keep two piles of paper near your printer. One is fresh paper for important, final printing. Another consists of paper already printed on one side. Use the blank side for printing drafts and unofficial documents.
• You can also use the blank side of the printed paper for notes and scratch paper.
• Try your own hand at the paperless office. Get in the habit of saving information on disk rather than printing everything.
• Recycle all paper when it has lived a full and useful life.
Another way you can conserve paper is by buying recycled paper products. The next time you're browsing for a new read, be sure to seek out titles printed on recycled paper.
5. Spidey to the rescue!
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know there's something wrong with the air, but it did take one to discover a solution -- Dr. Bill Wolverton of NASA, to be exact. And now you can execute that solution in your own home...and make a new, green friend.
Your home may be your castle, but it can also be your poison gas chamber. In newer structures, walls, furniture and sealants are out-gassing nasty stuff like benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde. These gases cause rashes, allergies and even cancer.
Hit the nursery or drugstore and buy yourself a shade-loving houseplant. The effort you expend will be nothing compared with that of your new flora companion, who will filter out many gases (not tobacco smoke or dust, alas) in just a few hours. A single spider plant can absorb 85 per cent of a room's formaldehyde in just six hours! And plants help keep your house cool, reducing the need for air conditioning.
Here's a short list of plants to consider:
• Dwarf banana plants
• Golden pathos (Scindapsus aureus)
• Chinese evergreens
• Peace lilies
• Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria)
• Nephthytis (Sungonium podophyllum)
• Popular indoor ferns (Nephrolepsis)
• Pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
• Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea)
• Spider plants (Chlorophytum elatum)
|Excerpted from The Ten Minute Activist: Easy Ways to Take Back the Planet by the Mission Collective. Copyright 2007 by the Mission Collective. Excerpted by arrangement with Thunder's Mouth Press, an Imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc., distributed by Publishers Group Canada. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.|