Living Green in the New Year

January 3, 2012

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Tips for Living Green in the New YearAt the start of this new year, it would be gratifying for all of us to stop for a second and consider what simple steps we can take – in our homes and in our everyday lives – to leave a smaller footprint on our planet.

If each one of us does only one of these activities every once in a while, the accumulated benefit to our environment would be enormous.

Here is a list of possible New Year’s resolutions for living green this year:

  • If you set a programmable thermostat in your home and let it adjust the heat or air-conditioning to the needs of your daily life, you will save money and energy. For even more savings, lower your thermostat 2% in winter and increase it 2% in summer – you alone will prevent close to 880 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Wash your clothes less often than you are used to doing and try saving at least one load per week. Average American washing machines use 40 gallons of water per load, so when you do your laundry make sure your washer is full, and wash in cold water.  Washing one less load and washing in cold water could save enough water to fill more than 7 million swimming pools, or 3,400 gallons of water per year.
  • Average American household spends around $135 a year in energy costs on clothes drying and more if the lint filter is not cleaned – 30% more! Try drying your clothes on the clothes line outdoors when the weather is good and you will save money, energy and delight in the fresh smell of the wind and sun.
  • If you need a new computer, consider buying a laptop – it uses half the energy of a desktop computer. Look for a laptop that has been given Energy Star rating by the federal government and you will save 70% more energy than you would with a model that is  not certified.
  • If you need to replace your old appliances, choose new ones with the Energy Star rating. If you have energy efficient appliances already, repair them if they break, maintain them well, and they will last a long time.
  • Sign up to prevent receiving unsolicited junk mail and you will help save trees, water, and lower fuel emissions – 100 million trees could be saved each year in the US if everyone opted to stop receiving junk mail. Go to to stop automatically receiving pre-approved credit card offers;  on you can select to receive only those catalogs that interest you.
  • Many energy utility companies offer customers the opportunity to purchase renewable energy for a slightly higher monthly price. To find out more, visit the Green Power Network’s U.S. map at
  • Be mindful on how your use water – an average bathroom faucet in a US home releases about three gallons of water per minute.
  • Stop using bottled water – it is not cleaner, is less regulated and is not better for the health of your family. A water-filter pitcher or an in-sink faucet filter will clean the water better and save money, energy and lower fuel emissions.
  • An efficient shower head will save between 1,000 – 8,000 gallons of water per year, per household.
  • Have you heard of meatless Mondays? If you were the only person in the US to give up beef only once per week, 840 gallons of fresh water that it takes to produce a single serving of beef would be saved. It takes over seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef and cattle uses up 70% of grain produced in the US.
  • Use biodegradable and plant-based dishwasher detergents – they contain no bleach and phosphates that threaten river and marine life as well as leave traces of chemicals on your dishes.
  • Use smaller home appliances whenever possible. An electric crock-pot cooks food with less wattage than a stove; electric kettles consume less energy than boiling water on the stove-top; and conventional electric ovens use twice as much energy as toaster ovens.
  • US consumers discard 130 million cell phones per year, creating 65,000 tons of waste. Many cell phones contain hazardous materials, such as lead and mercury, that can seep into the ground and pollute our water supplies. Recycle your cell phone by visiting to find a location near you or visit, a clearinghouse for nonprofit phone-recycling that contributes to groups such as the American Red Cross.
  • Americans are good recyclers – we recycle about a third of our trash, more than double of what was recycled in 1990, but more needs to be done. Visit for useful information on which items you can leave out for curbside pickup, and how to recycle items that you need to dispose of yourself.
  • Think resourcefully and reuse everything you have – again and again. Plastic shopping bags can hold garbage; children’s clothes can be given to younger kids; old furniture can have new uses.
  • 3.3 million plastic bottles are purchased in the US every hour – only one bottle in five is recycled. Carry your own reusable water bottle and refill with fresh water.
  • Never idle your car engine, turn the engine off instead. Idling your engine burns more fuel than it takes to restart the car, even if it’s just for a short time.
  • Maintain your car well and give it a regular tune-up, usually every 30,000 miles, and you will increase fuel efficiency from 4 – 40%. Drive your car smoothly because accelerating quickly, breaking suddenly and speeding, all waste gas. Visit for more details.
  • Buy recycled products (napkins, paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, etc.) whenever possible. If every US family bought a single package of 100% recycled napkins, one million trees would be saved per year.
  • Buy organic cotton t-shirts – conventional cotton is, after corn, the most chemically sprayed crop in the US. It requires about a third of a pound of synthetic fertilizers to produce one t-shirt.
  • Take your own canvas bags to stores and supermarkets, instead of using either plastic or paper bags given out at the store. American households use about 100 billion plastic bags – 99 percent of which are not recycled – in just one average year.

This is a long list, and you don’t have to follow every piece of advice all the time. But knowing that following some of these practices some of the time, might empower us all to do more.

Happy New – Green – Year!

Information Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

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