PWR TIP: What is your carbon footprint? Do you know how your daily choices are affecting the planet and your own health? By now, we’ve all heard the directive: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Between 1960 and 2007 the amount of waste each person creates has almost doubled from 2.7 to 4.6 pounds per day. According to recent government estimates, the average carbon footprint — the CO2 emissions associated with a particular lifestyle — for a two-person household is about 42,000 pounds (22 tons) each year. However, that same family, by making energy efficient choices, can decrease production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by thousands of pounds each year and save money at the same time. According to ENERGY STAR, Americans saved enough energy in 2007 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars — all while saving $16 billion on their utility bills. Small changes can make a huge difference to our planet and your own bottom-line. Here are few tips to get started:
Park the car. The average person drives about 3,000 miles to and from work every year. Not driving just one day a week can save you money on gas, as well as reduce CO2 emissions by about 8 pounds per week. That adds up to about 400 pounds of CO2 per year. Instead, walk, bike, carpool, take public transportation or telecommute. On the weekends, consolidate your errands to minimize driving.
Conserve at home. You can reduce your bills by becoming more energy efficient. Turn off the lights and computers when not in use. Seal air leaks and insulate your home. Regulate the thermostat, as well as the water heater. Conserve water by doing only full loads of laundry and use cold water instead of warm or hot. Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth, and install a low-water-consumption toilet.
Look for ENERGY STAR products. Replace the bulbs in 5 of your more frequently used light fixtures with compact fluorescents and you will save approximately $40 and reduce CO2 emissions by 500 pounds. If you change to ENERGY STAR appliances, you can save $75 a year in energy costs, while saving the environment.
Install water filters. One in five Americans drinks only bottled water, spending as much as $50 a week. Plastic water bottles are clogging our landfills and have been shown to be a source of phthalates which can disrupt hormones. Save money by using a sink-top filter in your kitchen and filling up a glass bottle. You will reduce the toxic load in your body as well as the environment. While you’re at it, install a carbon filter for your shower water.
Use Green Cleaners. From laundry products to glass cleaners, most of the typical household cleaners are loaded with toxins. Save the planet and your health by switching to non-toxic, biodegradable products. You can even make your own all-purpose cleaner with water and either vinegar or baking soda.
Recycle. The EPA estimates that our current recycling efforts saves 1.4 quadrillion BTU, equivalent to 11.3 billion gallons of gas. That is good, but we can do better. Americans generate more than 1 billion pounds of trash a day and more than 70% of the waste is buried in landfills. Before you buy a product, consider its recyclability. Most municipalities offer recycling now so make use of it. Call your local department of sanitation if you have toxic or unusual items to dispose of.
Buy organic. Organic food not only tastes better and is healthier for your body, its consumption can also reduce pesticide and herbicide use over time. Check out your local CSA for inexpensive organic food. Wearing organic clothing and sleeping on an organic mattress can also lessen the toxic load for you and the environment.
Practice composting. Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 24 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream, according to the EPA. Composting offers the obvious benefits of resource efficiency and creating a useful product from organic waste that would otherwise have been landfilled.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – The Climate Change part of the site provides over 25 easy steps you can take to not only reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce air pollution, increase the nation’s energy independence and save money.
Consumer Reports’ GreenerChoices.org – This site offers a variety of ways to reduce global warming emissions at home and on the road.
U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – This site offers options for saving energy and using renewable energy at home, at work, in your community, and while driving.
EnergyStar – ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
Earth911 – Earth911 (and 1-800-CLEANUP) delivers actionable local information on recycling and product stewardship that empowers consumers to act locally, live responsibly and contribute to sustainability with listings for more than 400,000 services.
Natural Resources Defense Council – The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth. The site has wonderful sections on green living and climate change, among other things.
EcoLabels – Brought to you by Consumer Reports, this part of their GreenerChoices site allows you to find out what the labels (e.g. “organic,” “natural,” “free-range,” “Fair Trade Certified”) on your favorite products really mean. You can search by product, category, or certifier, and easily compare labels using the Consumer Reports report cards.
Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Ph.D., MBA. Part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series. Learn more about toxins in your life and how to detox with the Seven-Day PWR Detox program.
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