Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day

I haven't been the cause of a car accident in over 20 years, but in the last two months, I've smashed up my SUV twice. I would say that's a sign. Within the next month, I'm trading it in for a hybrid -- most likely a Prius.

I am an excellent reduce/reuse/recycler, but owning this gas-guzzler makes me feel like a hypocrite. Change must start with me.

Here's some good tips from John & Teresa Heinz Kerry's new book, This Moment on Earth:
  • Keep your car in good condition: Get your engine tuned up regularly, change the oil, and keep your tires properly inflated -- proper maintenance can increase your car's fuel efficiency by 10 percent and reduce emissions.

  • Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs: Change the three bulbs you use most in your house to compact fluorescents. Each compact fluorescent will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime. And while they may be slightly more expensive than the incandescent bulbs you're used to using, compact fluorescents last ten times as long and can save $30 per year in electricity costs.

  • Buy energy efficient products: When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for the yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star label as the most efficient in its class.

  • Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you're not using them: This is a very simple step, but it's surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers when you can.

  • Choose PVC-free building products: this can reduce the exposure of your family to toxins in your home environment. Steer clear of vinyl windows and doors and choose wood instead. Adhesives, caulk, grout, and sealants may also contain phthalates. You can check for phthalate ingredients in these products using the National Institutes of Health's Household Products Database:

  • Choose toys carefully: this is another important step to reduce your children's exposure to toxins. Look for toys and feeding products for babies and young children that are labeled "PVC free."

(Images from Northern Sun Merchandising )


Damien said...

Damned straight Lizzy, hell i've even been thinking about my carbon footprint if ever i get rich and feel the need to buy a helicopter, guess I'll have to plant a small jungle first.... darn.

Hey whens the US signing up to Kyoto.

Jim Marquis said...

Good stuff, Lizzy. I heard Laurie David say that if everybody in America just switched over 5 of their lightbulbs it would be the equivalent of taking 8 million cars off the road. Little things make a big difference!

Anonymous said...

Great recommendations Lizzy!

Having just returned home from Marin county, it is refreshing to hear someone discuss things we can do to clean up our environment in my home town!

A few ideas you can share with our fellow Minnesotans, since we are becoming more personally health-conscious like my northern California friends, though we lag behind in environmental concerns.

Wood burning fireplaces are less energy efficient than gas (actually banned in new construction in some areas of northern cal), but also much healthier and less likely to predispose to cancer.

Turning off lights may help reduce the risk of breast cancer while it helps our environment. Completely blind women have a very low risk of breast cancer, whereas women who work night shifts have a higher risk. It is thought that melatonin, manufactured by the brain in total darkness reduces estrogen levels.

Thanks as well for supplying your readers with the Website for the household data base. My brother, in California, has it easy knowing if he should avoid certain household products such as adhesives, or at least practice extra caution. Those of us living in this beautiful land of 10,000 lakes will not find such labels on our products, and it is up to us to check them out on a source such as this to know if they may possibly cause cancer in ourselves or our children. Thanks!

Lynne Eldridge M.D.
Co-author, "Avoiding Cancer One Day At A Time: Practical Advice for Preventing Cancer"

Lizzy said...

Damien, My best guess for when the US will sign the Kyoto accord is when we elect a Democrat as President.

Little things do make a huge difference, J. There are a ton of great tips out there.
a really good one about unplugging appliances when not in use.

Thank you for all the great info, Lynne. Welcome to my blog!

Snave said...

I love Northern Sun, and I like to plug their products when I can. Good job getting their name into your Earty Day post! They definitely deserve the mention.

Good tips from the Kerry book, too. I am seriously beginning to think I may need to get a copy of that and read it.

If those odd-looking curly lightbulbs are the ones being mentioned here, our most commonly used lamps and our bathroom lights have those. I find they don't seem to last as long as advertised, but I am beginning to think that may be due to the bad old wiring in our old moneytrap house.

Time to go check out the household database site now. Thanks!!

Tom Harper said...

It's amazing how many little things (like the things you guys have already mentioned) we can all do to make a difference.

Great quote by Ansel Adams.

Who Hijacked Our Country

M said...

I'm still hoping to do a vegetable oil diesel car when I'm working full time again. We were thinking of getting a used Dodge Ram Turbo Cummins Diesel and running it on french fry grease. The other option is an old Mercedes Diesel, which would be a little cheaper.

I also want to look into installing solar panels since it's sunny here almost all the time.

And, if I didn't have young children, I'd be back on my motorcycle every day. Great way to beat the gas blues out here in CA and you get to use the diamond lanes.

Glad to hear you're getting the Prius! They are quite spiffy.


Lizzy said...

You're welcome, Snave-aroo. Slowly, but surely, I have replaced most of the bulbs, where I can, in my house.

Northern Sun rules. I'm lucky enough to live somewhat nearby their actual store.

That is a great Ansel Adams quote, Tom. It's so true, unfortunately.

Moto, those converted cars that run on vegetable oil are awesome. You should try to do it.

I'll keep you updated on the Prius. They are quite spiffy, indeed.

M said...

My favorite Northern Sun shirt that I had back in the early 1980s had a picture of Ghandi with the slogan "Another Skinhead for Peace."