Volume 12, Issue 17 ~ April 22-28, 2004
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Got an Envionmental Question? Send it to: EARTH TALK, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881. Or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com. Or e-mail us at: earthtalk@emagazine.com.
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Steps for a Better Earth Day Every Day

Insulate and Caulk Your Home
Insulation keeps warm air warm and cool air cool. Caulking and weather stripping are a good start. Insulating your attic, walls and crawl spaces will also make a huge difference. Window-mounted air conditioning units may also be leaking out of poorly insulated windows. Check for drafts by wetting your finger and running it around the window edges.

Set Your Water Heater Lower and Insulate it. Replace Showerheads
Insulating your water heater decreases the energy needed to heat it up. Jackets are sold at hardware stores and sometimes given away free with a new water heater. Also, you should keep the heater on “low,” or at no more 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is adequate to meet all home needs. And replace your showerheads with energy-efficient models. A recent study showed that making the switch could save 27 cents a day on water and 51 cents on electricity. They’ll pay for themselves in just two months.

Turn off Lights, Replace Incandescent Bulbs with Compact Fluorescents and Use Timers
It’s elementary to say “turn off lights and appliances when you leave a room.” Indeed, lighting accounts for 25 percent of home energy use. Another no-brainer way to cut lighting use and costs is to use compact fluorescent light bulbs in place of traditional incandescent bulbs. Not to be mistaken for the harsh white lights still found in many offices, compact fluorescents emit pleasing warm light. Although they are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they will last ages longer and slash your energy bill. Also, invest in timers or motion-sensitive switches for both inside and outside lights. You’ll never walk into a dark house and your power bills will drop.

Wash Bigger Loads in the Clothes Washer; Turn the Refrigerator Down
To save energy in the laundry, wash only full loads in short cycles. In the dishwasher, use the air-dry setting or turn it off after the final rinse and open the door.

Your refrigerator also uses a great deal of energy, as much as 25 percent of a home energy bill in some cities. The temperature should be 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit, and the freezer should be between zero and five degrees. Check the seals for cracks, and keep the condenser coils clean. If you’re in the market for a new one, consider whether a smaller fridge might suit your needs.

In shopping for any major appliance, look for the Energy Star label, awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to products that are ahead of the curve on energy efficiency.

Close Blinds and Drapes in Warm Weather, and Turn off the AC
A little air conditioning can go a long way during the day if you close the blinds or drapes so that the sun can’t get in and warm up the house. If you’re going to be gone for a while, turn the AC off. Do the same as soon as the temperature cools down outside, and open the windows so you get a cross breeze. Also air conditioners work better when they are cool themselves, so if your air conditioner is outside under any direct sun, build a screen. While you’re at it, check the filter. An air conditioner with a clogged filter will use five percent more energy than one with a clean filter.

Tune Up your Car
A tune-up on your car will improve its fuel economy by six to nine percent and save you repair costs in the long run. Don’t be a speed demon: For every mile per hour slower you drive than 65, you improve your car’s fuel efficiency by about two percent. Keep your tires filled to capacity: Soft tires make the engine work harder, making your car more wasteful.

When shopping for a new car, don’t forget to factor in fuel efficiency. You’ll reduce your gasoline costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the damage being done to the atmosphere. If everyone in the U.S. bought the most efficient vehicle in the class they’d ordinarily buy, the total savings would be 1.47 billion gallons of gasoline every year.

Curb Your Car, Carpool and Take Public Transit
Take public or mass transit as much as you can. When you do, your energy use is 25 times less than if you had used your car. If you absolutely need your car, see if you can give someone else a lift, too. Think of ways you can cut down on the use of your car: Make fewer trips, carpool or bus it once a week. Try riding your bike to the grocery store or to work if its not too far. Every little bit counts.

Work at Home
Employers are becoming more flexible about what defines a workday. By working four 10-hour days or working from home one day a week, you commute less and become part of the pollution solution. Over a year, that’s 50 fewer days you waste in traffic.

At the Office …
Computer monitors use the same amount of electricity as a 60-watt light bulb. So rest your screen when you rest your eyes. Don’t wait for your screen saver to kick in — if you are going to be away from your computer for more than 10 minutes, turn the monitor off. You can also reduce the energy consumption of your copier: Look for a stand-by button or mode and make sure that it gets used. Copiers consume a lot of energy sitting there running during times of non-use.

Resources
Alliance to Save Energy • www.ase.org/checkup/home
Energy Star • www.energystar.gov/

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Last updated April 22, 2004 @ 1:20am.