A Season for the Earth
Earth Tips for Individuals and Communities
From the Sustainable World Sourcebook
• Call your local utility company and sign up for renewable energy. If they don't offer it, ask them why not.
• Make your home energy-efficient. This yields dramatic savings in heating and cooling. California building codes have resulted in an energy savings of $30 billion since 1975, more than $2,000 per household. Roll these policies out nationally, and the savings would be immense. Dept of Energy Best Practices Guidelines can be found at www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/building_america.
• Start with caulking and weather-stripping on doorways and windows. Then adjust your thermostat and start saving.
• Ask your utility company to do a free energy audit of your home to show you how to save even more money.
• Many homes and offices are a nightmare of passive energy use. Turn off electronics and unplug appliances when not in use.
• Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which use about a quarter of the electricity and last ten times as long.
• Buy energy-efficient electronics and appliances. Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances or visit www.energystar.gov to find the most energy-efficient products.
Sierra Club’s Green Transportation initiative promotes actions everyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint. The good news is that you can take many small steps on a daily basis to do your part in the fight against global warming:
• If you’re in the market for a new car, buy the most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs. Better fuel economy = a better environment.
• Check tire pressure frequently and keep tires fully inflated; this can improve your fuel economy up to 10%. Also keep your car tuned up.
• Use a GPS—using a navigational device can reduce miles traveled up to 16%.
• Sell your car and join a car sharing company instead. See www.carsharing.net.
• Find out your car’s optimal speed for fuel economy and set your cruise control.
• Choose an efficient route for your errand-running and combine errands to avoid multiple short trips. If you plan to make multiple stops at a shopping center, park your car in the middle and walk to your individual destinations. Cars emit more pollution in the first mile than the next 10 miles!
• Roughly 44% of car trips taken are fewer than 2 miles. Burn calories instead of gasoline—walk or ride a bike. Commit to taking public transit, walking, or riding a bicycle at least one day a week.
• Telecommute a number of days per week.
• Carpool with co-workers. If a daily carpool won’t work, try one or two days per week.
• If you have two cars and are taking a trip, choose the more fuel-efficient car.
• If you’re driving a standard, save gasoline by downshifting instead of braking in neutral.
• Don’t drive with windows down at high speeds—it creates drag and reduces your fuel economy.
• Actively support public transportation in your community! Increased use and demand for public transportation can improve the level of service.
• After the headlines, the second most widely read part of the newspaper is the Letters to the Editor. Write, write, write. Raise awareness on some aspect of the transportation issue; perhaps include a short vignette from your life.
• Express yourself to your legislators! Keep a page in your schedule book where you write the names, phones, emails, and addresses of state and national officials and your local Board of Supervisors. It takes only a couple of minutes to register your views.
• Contact your federal legislators to allocate more funds for public transit than for highway construction.
• Express your support for raising taxes on gasoline as a stimulus to get people into alternative modes of transportation.
• Advocate and work for meeting the needs of all strata of society, addressing issues of income, age, and disability disparity.
• If your public transit system excludes bikes from rush hour, write or call and ask them to accommodate bicycles. This is when the most automobile trips and pollution could be saved!
• The Surface Transportation Policy Project promotes “location-efficient incentives,” targeted subsidies to employers that locate in transit-accessible places, and sprawl- prevention measures so that people who cannot afford (or choose not to own) a car can still access jobs.
• Check out the Low Carbon Diet for even more suggestions!
• Rainwater harvesting can take place any- where there is a roof by gathering rainwater in do-it-yourself systems (such as plastic barrels) or commercial systems (for irrigation and livestock). This traditional practice is just as appropriate today, if not more so!
• Water is a public trust. It is time for a water trust fund, a long-term solution to provide all US communities safe and affordable water for the future- not just those that can afford sharp rate increases. Support clean and safe tap water- tell Congress to make clean water a priority and to increase funding for it.
• Host a movie screening of FLOW, Blue Gold, or The Water Front, powerful documentaries sure to get the message across. See our Resources Page for more great film suggestions.
• Don't drink bottled water- switch to tap. Production, transportation, and disposal of bottled water consume large quantities of water and energy. National Geographic estimates that more than 85 million plastic water bottles are used every three minutes.
• Download and share the Smart Water Guide from Food and Water Watch, filled with facts and helpful tips.
• Curb your own water use! Calculate your water footprint using an online water calculator: www.h2oconserve.org.
Practical ways to lower your consumption and spare the Earth
• Power down! This includes shutting down your computer at work and at home. Also, wash your clothes in cold water. About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water.
• Unplug (the TV and internet) and plug in (the community).
• Consume less, waste less.
• Bring a reusable bag wherever you go (not just the grocery store). Excess bags add to the landfill and you don’t need them.
• Ditch the processed food, the energy it takes to produce it, and its tons of packaging.
• Make your own cleaning products (see “Home Sweet Nontoxic Home” page 67 of the Sourcebook).
• Pass up the fast food joint.
• Skip the franchised coffee conglomerate and brew your own.
• Skip the store- bought cereal and make your own granola instead.
• Become a vegetarian.
• Grow some of your own food. This way you don’t have to buy it and it’s about as local as it gets.
• Consider the “embodied energy” of every article you use and consume, meaning its cost to be made, stored, and carried to where you are.
• Get clarity on your wants vs. your needs. (Try this fun activity with kids).
• Park your car and walk, and when necessary MARCH!
• Change your lightbulbs...and then, change your paradigm.
• Recycle your trash.
• Talk to everyone about these issues. Watch the Story of Stuff, and hold a screening to start a discussion.
• Buy green, buy fair, buy local, buy used, and most importantly, buy less—voluntary simplicity is the new cool.
• Pay cash and shop at local independent stores; buy locally made/grown items.
• Join a cooperative and shop there; support worker-owned companies.
• Support local currency, timeshares, barter, and other local economic innovations.
• Use a local community development bank or credit union.
• Invest well:
- Become a micro-lending investor.
- See Green America’s Investing in Communities guide.
- Find a mutual fund through the Social Investment Forum’s directory.
• Choose Sustainable Fish or Farmed Seafood.
For information on ocean-friendly seafood, visit the Seafood Choices Alliance at www.seafoodchoices.org.
• Be Trash-Conscious. If you can’t recycle it, be knowledgeable about what you throw away. For instance, flushing non-biodegradable products can damage the sewage treatment process and end up littering beaches and waters. For other tips on safe trash disposal, visit www.epa.gov/recyclecity/ or www.obviously.com/recycle.
• Be Considerate of Ocean Wildlife. Our trash can damage or kill ocean wildlife. Never dispose of fishing line or nets in the water. Don’t release helium balloons outside. Minimize or reject use of styrofoam. Cut open plastic six-pack rings that can entangle ocean life.
• Reduce Household Toxins. By using natural fertilizer, phosphate- free detergents, and non-toxic cleaning products, you can ensure a healthier ocean and a cleaner overall environment.
• Reduce Run-Off. Avoid contributing to nonpoint source pollution. Use soap sparingly if you must wash your car. Don’t use toxic chemicals on your lawn. And scoop pet waste—an estimated 15 tons flows into ocean waters every day! Other ways to reduce your run-off can be found at www.epa.gov/owow/nps/whatudo.html. Don’t dispose of hazardous substance down storm drains.
• Support or Volunteer for the Oceans. Find a local nonprofit organization
working to save the oceans and ocean life, and get involved. For
international volunteer opportunities, see www.oceanicsociety.org.
• Join or organize a beach clean-up. Since 1986, the Ocean Conservancy organizes shoreline cleanups each fall. To date, 6.2 million volunteers in International Coastal Clean-ups have removed 49 million kilograms of debris from nearly 288,000 kilometers of coasts in 127 nations. http://www.oceanconservancy.org
Get longer lists of tips from:
- Global to Local: What You Can Do—www.IFG.org.
- YES! Magazine.
- Better World Handbook.
- The Small-Mart Revolution.
- Sierra Club’s Green Life tips.
- Earth Day tips: Earth911.com.
- National Geographic’s Green Guide.