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: http://www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/.
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 )