Monday, March 31, 2008


It's been an interesting week for the topic of climate change... a topic that has not boosted me on a soapbox in awhile... so, ahem...

- First was the call of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, that Global climate change is actually an "act of aggression" by rich countries against poor countries.
- Then was an article in Good Magazine about how the super predictable weather in Africa is no longer so predictable.
- Then there was all the Earth Hour press.

Finally, I saw this article by my beloved Gene Weingarten.

Most of you know that I'm already pretty green. I don't own a car. Most of the time I don't even have to take public transportation. I have reduced my consumption of most environmentally unfriendly products. I recycle as much as Philadelphia will allow.

But clearly its still not enough. So, here I am with words of encouragement from the EPA. Here are some ways to make changes at home - I've also included my own little audit of how I'm doing, so you all don't think I'm not including myself in this:
Change 5 lights
Change a light, and you help change the world. Replace the conventional bulbs in your 5 most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR and you will help the environment while saving money on energy bills. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars. I don't even have 5 lights in my home. But it is time to reexamine my fixtures and see what I can do.

Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products
When buying new products, such as appliances for your home, get the features and performance you want AND help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products in more than 50 product categories, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances. When I moved into my new place, I took great pains to find the most energy efficient air conditioner I could. But I wonder what my fridge is like? I know that my energy bill is about $11 a month, so I think I'm doing okay.

Heat and cool smartly
Simple steps like cleaning air filters regularly and having your heating and cooling equipment tuned annually by a licensed contractor can save energy and increase comfort at home, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When it's time to replace your old equipment, choose a high efficiency model, and make sure it is properly sized and installed. I'm okay here.

Seal and insulate your home
Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home is a great do-it-yourself project. The biggest leaks are usually found in the attic and basement. If you are planning to replace windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified windows for better performance. Forced air ducts that run through unconditioned spaces are often big energy wasters. Seal and insulate any ducts in attics and crawlspaces to improve the efficiency of your home. Not sure where to begin? A home energy auditor can also help you find air leaks, areas with poor insulation, and evaluate the over-all energy efficiency of your home. By taking these steps, you can eliminate drafts, keep your home more comfortable year round, save energy that would otherwise be wasted, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I made my own window insulator this winter for my apartment, but I should try to find a better long-term option for this summer to keep my cool-air from leaking into the warm neighborhood.

Use green power
Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. There are two ways to use green power: you can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. Buying green power is easy, it offers a number of environmental and economic benefits over conventional electricity, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, and it helps increase clean energy supply. If you are interested, there are a number of steps you can take to create a greener home , including installing solar panels and researching incentives for renewable energy in your state . I wonder if they have solar powered fans? Or maybe I'll try a solar-powered laptop case. I could probably do quite a bit more on this one.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
If there is a recycling program in your community, recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. In addition, support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materials. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal. Here is a problem. Philadelphia really needs a better recycling program. So until they have one, I MUST get better about choosing products with less packaging. I should have a Brita filter. I should buy less processed food. I should say I don't need a bag more often. I should drink less Starbucks. I will come up with a plan and report back.

Be green in your yard
Use a push mower, which, unlike a gas or electric mower, consumes no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. If you do use a power mower, make sure it is a mulching mower to reduce grass clippings (PDF, 8 pp., 1.59 MB, About PDF). Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. See EPA’s GreenScapes program for tips on how to improve your lawn or garden while also benefiting the environment. Smart Landscaping can save energy, save you money and reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions. I don't have a yard - no problem here. But, I do feel like I should invest in some land at some point to ensure that I help prevent deforestation. My grandmother did this. She bought 40 acres of mostly wetland and turned it into a nature conservancy. If she could do it at 80, then I can do it at my age!

Use water efficiently
Saving water around the home is simple. Municipal water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households, and saving water, especially hot water, can lower greenhouse gas emissions. Look for products with EPA's WaterSense label; these products save water and perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts. There are also simple actions you can take to save water: Be smart when irrigating your lawn or landscape; only water when needed and do it during the coolest part of the day, early morning is best. Turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth. Do not use your toilet as a waste basket - water is wasted with each flush. And did you know a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day? Repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away. See EPA's WaterSense site for more water saving tips. I'm pretty good here too. I'm helped along by the smallest shower in the world. I have to turn the water off to soap because there is not enough room to step out of the stream. So being poor really does help with conservation! I also cringe when I see people "watering" the sidewalk. I think I'll start a preemptive campaign this year. Maybe a flyer about water conservation.

Spread the Word
Tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and good for the environment because it lowers greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Tell 5 people and together we can help our homes help us all. Oh wow, look at me, blogging about conservation. So each of you can simply link to this post and spread the word that way... how easy! How fun for everyone!

So help keep my imaginary, future African home from destruction by doing a little better, okay. Please? I promise to have a comfortable room for you to stay in if you do.

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