Resolve to be green
Good for you.
Did you know you can achieve all that while preserving resources and reducing your weekly trash load?
Here are 10 things you can do to "go green" in the new year:
1. Bring your own cloth or mesh bag when you shop.
Why: Americans use 88 billion plastic bags per year, according to Delicious Living magazine. Those bags take 12 million barrels of oil to produce. And get this: They take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Paper bags require even more energy to produce and transport than plastic.
Where to buy: Basics Cooperative, a Janesville health food store, sells mesh and cloth bags for $5-$20.
2. Ease yourself out of the bottled-water habit.
Why: Last year, Americans spent nearly $11 billion on more than 8 billion gallons of bottled water. More than 22 billion empty plastic bottles were tossed in the trash, according to www.thegreenguide.com.
The more than 70 million bottles of water consumed each day in the United States drain 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, the Web site claims.
What to do: Switch to tap water. Or you can visit the Sentry store at 2501 W. Court St. and fill up jugs with spring water from the produce department.
3. Buy a package of Energy Star light bulbs (the cool spiral ones).
Why: If 100 people replaced just one bulb, they would save 28,200 kilowatt hours of energy and prevent 44,600 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, says Tiffany Green, a 1991 Craig High School grad who writes a green blog at www.achievegreen.com.
Green doesn't recommend replacing a bulb until the old one burns out. If you replace enough of them, you'll notice the difference on your energy bill.
Where to buy: Most big-box stores and hardware stores carry them.
4. Shop locally.
Why: "The typical meal travels 22,000 miles to get to your plate," says Megin Crandall of Basics Cooperative, a Janesville health food store.
Locally grown food and other products don't require transportation, and that reduces carbon emissions. Buying local also keeps money in the community.
Brodhead-area farmer Tony Ends recently killed two birds with one stone: He started installing Energy Star windows on his two farmhouses, and he bought them from an Amish craftsman who lives nearby in western Rock County.
Where to buy: Basics sells locally grown products. They're also available at farmers markets and through community-supported agriculture programs.
5. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop.
Why: A mug will be used 3,000 times over its lifespan, Green says, meaning 30 times less solid waste and 60 times less air pollution than cardboard cups. That even accounts for the water used to wash the mug.
6. Use low-flow showerheads.
Why: Older showerheads spray 4 to 6 gallons of water per minute. Look for one that is 2.4 gpm or less, advises Tiffany Green in her blog at www.achievegreen.com. After a year of 5-minute showers, a family of four will save up to 20,000 gallons of water, plus the energy needed to run the hot water heater. That reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 300-plus pounds per year.
Where to buy: Online retailers such as www.gaiam.com sell them, or you can visit your neighborhood hardware store. They usually cost less than $30 and take about 10 minutes to install.
7. Check your toilet for leaks.
Why: Your toilet uses more water than even your washing machine, says Tiffany Green in her blog at www.achievegreen.com, and a silent leak can waste 30 to 500 gallons a day. The Web site www.h2ouse.org gives tips on how to find and repair leaks.
Another tip: Try using recycled paper toilet paper, such as Green Forest or Seventh Generation, instead of the big-name brands.
8. Wash your clothes in cold water.
Why: Hot water uses more energy. Unless you're washing heavily soiled clothes or diapers, most clothes do not need warm water to get clean, says Tiffany Green in her blog at www.achievegreen.com. The average household can save $61 and 1,281 pounds of carbon dioxide annually by washing with cold water, she says.
Another tip: Clothes often can be worn more than once between washings. Learn to use your eyes and nose to determine what needs to hit the machine.
9. If you got a new cell phone, recycle your old one.
Why: Cell phones contain dangerous chemicals that can leach into soil and groundwater from the landfill.
The same idea applies to any electronic gadget or computer equipment. Check with favorite local charities and churches to see if they need used equipment, advises Tiffany Green in her blog at www.achievegreen.com. Or visit www.mygreenelectronics.org to find a list of places you can drop off your old equipment for recycling. CRT Processing, 2535 Beloit Ave., Janesville, also recycles all kinds of discarded electronics.
More information: Recycling information also is available online at www.wirelessrecycling.com or www.charitablerecycling.com.
10. Vote according to your ideals.
Why: 2008 is an election year. Megin Crandall of Basics Cooperative advises that you choose candidates who support your environmental philosophy.
The suggestions in this story were offered by Megin Crandall of Basics Cooperative in Janesville; Tony Ends, a Brodhead-area farmer; and Tiffany Green—formerly Gooden—a 1991 Craig High School graduate now living in Baton Rouge, La.
For more "go green" tips, visit Green’s blog at www.achievegreen.com.
Tips also are available in Delicious Living magazine and "The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook: 77 Essential Skills To Stop Climate Change" by David de Rothschild.
To check your carbon footprint and find ways of reducing it, visit www.carbonfootprint.com.