Go green - it's easier than you think

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 -- the same year the Environmental Protection Agency was formed by President Richard Nixon.

Since then, the use of lead-based paint in residences, cribs and toys has been restricted, the cancer-causing pesticide DDT -- widely blamed for depleting the bald eagle population -- has been banned, Congress has passed Clean Water and Clean Air acts and dozens of other restrictions and regulations were enacted in efforts to reduce pollution and help the planet.

Now, the green fever has trickled down into a local effort with organizations imploring individuals to make a difference and cut down on environmentally damaging practices. The National Geographic Green Guide offered these tips on going green without making major changes.


Go paperless. It saves paper and time checking the mail. Pay bills online with the click of a button or an automatic debit. About one billion trees' worth of paper are trashed each year in the U.S., and hard-copy bills alone generate almost 700,000 tons of waste and almost two million tons of carbon dioxide. You also won't feel guilty not recycling what you aren't getting.


Enjoy a certified wildlife habitat just by stepping out the back door. The National Wildlife Federation certifies yards, community gardens, school grounds and business sites through the "Garden for Wildlife" program, which looks for animal shelters and resources, the use of least-toxic pesticides and water conservation. Start creating a backyard where native species take haven. See nwf.org for details.


Talk to your office manager about greening the workplace and, for starters, print on both sides of the paper. Sending a memo or news release? Update your contact list asking if they have a preferred e-mail address and send it the electronic way.


Get your choo-choo on. Check out the train schedule before you plan your summer vacation. According to the Nature Conservancy, on a cross-country trip, a train emits only about 4 to 15 percent of the carbon dioxide that a plane does (and an automobile is not much better). May 10 marks the first National Train Day, so it's a good opportunity to give the rails a try.


Use every last drop. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, Americans use an average of 170 gallons of water per day, and at least 36 states are anticipating local, regional or statewide water shortages by 2013. Conserve water by using an egg timer to shave time off your daily shower. If you listen to the radio while you lather, cut your routine down to one song. Put a cup or bucket down while you wait through the "warm-up" water to use on your garden or house plants.


Reuse plastic bottles or invest in one of dozens of different brands of reusable water bottles like Nalgene, Lexan or SIGG. They come in different sizes, colors and patterns and are all "virtually indestructible."


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