Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for 2010

As we begin a new decade, we can all resolve to make our planet a healthier place. Below are a few small changes that can result in big dividends for the earth – as well as our checking accounts – in 2010 and beyond:

• Reduce phantom energy loss – Many of us don’t know that energy is wasted by electronics and power chargers that are plugged in but not in use. That cell phone charger and laptop suck energy from the outlet continuously, so try to use a power strip and flip the switch to off when the items are not in use.

• Use reusable shopping bags – Twelve million barrels of oil were used to make the 88.5 billion plastic bags consumed in the United States last year. These petroleum-based plastic bags never biodegrade and often end up in our oceans. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car and try to remember to use them.

• Buy local foods when possible – Support local agriculture and purchase foods from sources as close to home as possible. Consider how many miles your food has traveled, how many chemicals are used, and how much pollution and waste have been generated in the production of the food you buy and your family consumes.

• Drink tap water instead of bottled water – Instead of buying bottled H2o, pour tap water into reusable water bottles made from stainless steel or aluminum. Tap water is just as safe as bottled water, and no plastic is needed.

• Wash laundry in cold water –Ninety percent of the energy used to wash a load of clothing comes from heating the water, but most clothes will get just as clean in cooler temperatures. For heavily soiled clothing, use warm instead of hot water.

• Use the dryer more efficiently – This appliance is second only to the refrigerator in terms of energy usage. To help it do its job more efficiently, clean the lint filter after each load and dry only full loads, drying heavy fabrics separately. Of course, hanging clothes outside in the sun or inside on a drying rack whenever possible is always a good option.

• Check toilets for leaks – A leaky toilet can waste between 30 and 500 gallons of water every day, but often such leaks go unnoticed. To find a leak, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait about 15 minutes to see if the dye ends up in the bowl. Leaking is usually caused by an old or poorly fitting flapper valve, which can inexpensively and easily be replaced without a plumber.

• Use the dishwasher – Forego pre-rinsing and simply scrape off large pieces of food from plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Running a fully loaded dishwasher (without pre-rinsing) can use a third less water than washing the dishes by hand, saving up to 10 to 20 gallons of water a day. Save even more by using the air dry setting, which consumes half the amount of electricity than the heated dry.

• Adjust the thermostat – In the winter months set your thermostat to 68 degrees or less during the day, and lower it even more at bedtime or while out of the house. In the summer set thermostat to 78 degrees or higher. For a small investment, a programmable thermostat will change the settings automatically.

• Maintain the correct tire pressure – According the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than a quarter of all cars and nearly one-third of all SUVs, vans and pickups have underinflated tires, which leads to lower gas mileage. Keeping tires properly inflated can save 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline a year in the U. S alone.

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