10 easy tips to help the earth; save $$$

Okay, so I’m a little behind but I just saw An Inconvenient Truth in March and I’m still thinking about it. I am glad that, with the help of Al Gore’s movie, the environment is finally coming out of the closet as a semi-mainstream issue. It is not the sole province of dirty hippies with jam-bands in drum circles with dreadlocks. (No offense to my friends who like jam-bands and dreadlocks, but you know how I feel about hippies.)

Former Vice President Al Gore says in the film that he was moved to learn more and get active on the issue when he took a class from a seminal environmental scientist in college. I, too, had similar feelings as I learned more about the earth and the climate crisis throughout college, and especially when I took a physics of the environment class.

The earth is changing because of humans. Dramatically. There’s no question. Just ask the more than 600 scientists who put together the UN’s climate report, released in January.

There’s little left for rational debate except, how much can I do?

And what an elitist, Industrialized World problem it is! We have an embarrasement of riches and we have so often chosen the wrong path over the right one at the expense of so many other cultures and places on the earth. It is like Gore says in the film, (and I paraphrase), so many people jump straight from denial to despair. But how could we not when faced with the unwavering culpability of our ancestors and ourselves!

I believe every little bit does count. Will it save the world, I’m not sure it can. Maybe it’s worth it if only to ease my conscience. I don’t know. But I refuse to believe that extravagant excesses of my Industrialized World economy can’t afford a tune-up.

Perhaps we don’t all need to go to extreme measures, but I do find the No Impact Man blog captivating. You may have heard of him. He’s the guy who’s trying to have no ecological impact on the earth for a whole year. And he lives in Manhattan. (Yes. The one in New York.)

Here is my humble list of easy things anybody can do that really do help. So what are you waiting for? Stop being a douchebag:

1. You’ve heard it once. You’ve heard it a million times. So why aren’t you switching as many of your light bulbs from incandecent to CFL aka compact fluorescent lights? The formula for how much energy it saves (which translates into how much money you save on your power bill) was the first thing I learned back in that college enviro physics class! It’s a no-brainer. CFL’s use 65-75 percent less energy and last 10 percent longer than regular bulbs (which so cancels out the 30 percent higher sticker shock). Just do it already!

2. This one is a choose-your-own adventure but any part of this helps … Get a more fuel efficient car. Drive less by combining trips whenever possible (Tip: use online maps to plot your errands before you go to pick the most efficient path!). Take mass-transit when you can. (Get over your xenophobia and classist elitism about it. In Europe, that’s how everyone does it.) Bike to work (that’s a two-fer because you get a little exercise too).

3. Recycle. I don’t care what blow-hard convinced you it doesn’t work or it’s stupid or it makes you look like a homeless person. Get over yourself and do it. It takes less energy to re-manufacture many plastics, tin, glass and aluminum products into new products than it does to mine ores and produce new chemicals. (For instance, it takes 20 times more energy to create a new can than to make one from recycled aluminum. And glass is even better. You can reclaim almost the entire glass product when making a new one!) If it seems too onerous, create a system that works for you! At least do the bare minimum: paper (especially all that junk mail), cans and glass.

4. Speaking of junk mail … get yourself removed from different lists by contacting your credit card companies and magazine companies. Tell them they can’t sell your name and info to other companies. Contact junk mail distributors who are particularly bothersome. Be annoying back. Eventually we all win.

5. Stop getting plastic shopping bags! This is SO easy to do! You may be surprised at how easy, even when you grocery shop. Buy or make yourself a few re-usable canvas shopping bags. Take them with you or keep them in your car/bike/whatever. That’s what I do. When you get to the register ask to have it bagged in your bag. Here in Las Vegas people balk. But I don’t give a crap. I’m the customer. I’m right. The thing is that plastic bags don’t biodegrade in landfills so if you throw them away (either on their own or as garbage bags for those little canisters), they just sit there. Plus, 14 plastic grocery bags have enough petroleum to fuel a car for a mile! And plastic bags may end up doing more harm in developing countries where some nations are chosing to ban them, just like San Francisco recently did.

6. Get green about cleaners. There are all sorts of good recipes on the Internet. You don’t need all those harsh ingredients and neither does the environment.

7. Adjust your thermostat. Again, SO EASY! A few degrees warmer in summer. A few degrees colder in winter. This one saves you money, too!

8. Conserve water. Here in the Las Vegas desert I’m totally against people having grass. It’s not native to here and it costs the enviro and your wallet way too much to maintain the illusion! But anywhere you live, you can do the small stuff. Don’t run the water while you’re brushing your teeth, for instance.

9. Unplug electronics you’re not using. As much as 75 percent of power used for electronics is while they are just sitting there idly! I read in Real Simple that you can save as much as 5 percent off your yearly electric bill by just unplugging things not in use.

10. Make sure you’re home is well-insulated. This could cost you in the beginning but it will save you money for years down the road on heating and cooling. Also consider getting low-emission windows, which can save you a lot of money in sunny spots like Las Vegas. Another tip is using insulating drapes/curtains/shutters. It can keep the heat out in the summer and the warmth in during winter months.

Got any more good tips? Post ’em as a comment or send me a message!

7 thoughts on “10 easy tips to help the earth; save $$$

  1. Number 3: Recycle. And how in heaven’s Sin City are we supposed to recycle our cans, bottles and plastics when Republic Services of Southern Nevada has no source reduction and reuse program? I have never lived in a city in the US before where the refuse company didn’t at least pickup recyclables a couple of times a month. The lack of consciousness here is ludicrous!

  2. LadyHawk, I hear you. I lived in apartments my first five years in Las Vegas. It was apalling to me to learn that Republic Services was let off the hook when it came to recycling in apartments thanks to a technical loophole with their contract and the law. It isn’t easy to recycle in Las Vegas no matter where you live.

    However, just because something is hard to do doesn’t mean it’s not worth while. I believe the only way to make things better is to encourage change. As a customer I complained to Republic Service and at CityLife I wrote a story about our bad recycling system (http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/articles/2005/02/03/cover_story/cover.txt).

    But my voice all by itself isn’t going to do the trick. As much as I wish I alone could change things, I know I can’t. But if enough people complained to Republic Services. And enough people complained to the malls and stores and casinos who don’t provide adequate recycling options. And if enough people complained to the City Council and their Legislators (hey, it’s in session right now!), THEN you might get somewhere.

    Perhaps that’s still a bit optimistic. If nothing else, I do what I am capable of doing because no company or lawmaker is going to bully me out of doing what I know is right when it comes to the earth.

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