Earth-friendly Living
The United Nations recently released a report called GEO-2000, "The State of the Environment." I will be pulling some interesting statistics from this report for you from time to time. Here are a few: - Losses from natural disasters over the decade 1986-1995 were eight times higher than in the 1960s. Many believe that these are the early signs of the effects of global warming. - If present consumption patterns continue, two of every three persons on Earth will live in "water-stressed" conditions. - In 1996, 25% of the world's 4,630 mammal species were at significant risk of total extinction.
There are many Web sites today that will not only provide you with a site to purchase products, but will donate a percentage of their gross revenue to nonprofit organizations. These sites offer you the opportunity to donate to many charities, (not just environmental ones). These organizations allow you to shop at popular sites, such as, so you don't have to sacrifice your shopping preferences. Why not do it? (You should read the fine print at these sites to understand how they work.) Here is a small list of your options: Most of these sites will allow you to choose your charity and will then make the donation without any charge to you. When you get to the site, read about how they work. Some sites require you to pay a bit extra. CHANGING DIAPERS Many of us choose to use disposable diapers. In fact, we throw away enough diapers each year to fill a barge half a city block long, every six hours. Or, if you prefer the classic moon example, we throw away enough diapers, that if piled upon each other, they'd stretch to the moon and back (240,000 miles). Well, just be glad that you don't have to change all of them. Now the bad news: In the September/October issue of Archives of Environmental Health, a study was released that showed childhood respiratory problems, including asthma, may be linked to the inhalation of the mixture of chemicals emitted from disposable diapers. As stated in the article, "...chemical emissions of some disposable diapers have immediate health effects in animals breathing the diluted chemical mixtures." The chemicals include, "...several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity." What to do? Use cloth diapers. They can be used anywhere from 80 to 200 times, and when they wear out, they take only six months to decompose. It saves money too! According to Consumer Reports, you can save $12 to $50 a month by switching to a diaper service or washing them yourself. CHOOSING APPLIANCES Are you considering new appliances for around the home? This choice can have a tremendous amount of impact on the environment. For example, an efficient washing machine (usually front loading) can save about 100,000 gallons of water during its lifetime. Further, replacing a 15 year old refrigerator with a new efficient one will cut up to a ton of carbon dioxide emission from your local utility each year. How do you find out what the most efficient appliances are? Go to the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings' Web site at >From here you can download information such as the top rated refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers and so on. This site is kept up to date, so it doesn't matter if you don't look at it for months; just keep it in mind. It also has lots of other information on how to save energy around the home. CHRISTMAS TREES This Christmas why not give something to the earth as well as to your family? Did you know that each year the number of trees cut down for Christmas would fill the entire state of Rhode Island? And we only enjoy these trees for a few weeks at most. Here is a great way to give your kids some wonderful memories from Christmas as well as to do some good for the planet. Why not purchase a live pine tree in a pot? You can get a nice large tree that will smell fresh, won't drop needles and will do the job very well. What's better, after Christmas, you can take the tree out and plant it. The kids will love the adventure and feel attached to the trees as the years go on. These trees will give you wonderful Christmas memories for years to come. Happy holidays! CLEANING FLOORS Floor cleaners can be quite toxic and quite unnecessarily so. For example, Pine Sol which has a high percentage of pine oil, can cause nausea, vomiting, bleeding and chemical pneumonia if swallowed. Why have this stuff around the house if you don't need it? Keep this in mind: a no-wax floor and a shiny polyurethane-finished wood floor don't need to be polished. A little vinegar or soap and water will work just fine. The same holds true for ceramic tile, brick, or stone flooring. Here is a good alternative floor cleaning recipe: You'll need white distilled vinegar, water, and an oil for fragrance (optional). Fill your container with equal amounts of water and vinegar. Add 15 drops of peppermint oil. If the floor is in particularly bad shape, use some baking soda in the mix. DRY CLEANING Dry cleaning is not actually a dry process. It uses a detergent and solvent that is not absorbed into the fiber. This prevents shrinking, stretching, and fading. Unfortunately, the most commonly used solvent is perchloroethylene. Fumes from this can cause cancer, liver damage, depression of the central nervous system, light-headedness, dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, loss of appetite, and disorientation. Many items labeled "dry clean" can actually be washed at home if you are careful. Here are a few hints: - Silk: Can be washed by hand in a sink of cold water. Use a mild soap; swish the fabric gently - don't rub. Rinse in cold water and don't wring dry. Roll the garment in a towel to remove excess moisture and allow it to drip dry. Press with a warm iron. - Wool: Can be hand-washed in cool water with a mild soap or vinegar. Reshape on a towel while still damp. Allow to dry. - Down jackets: Can be washed in a bathtub with warm water and a mild soap or baking soda. Dry in your dryer on a cool setting. - Linen: Machine wash with natural soap or baking soda with hot water for whites and cold for colors. Dry on a medium to low heat and remove from dryer while still damp. Press. GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD No, I'm not going to discuss the evils of so-called "Frankenstein food," I'm simply going to give you a sampling of common foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. You can decide if this bothers you or not. Ready? Frito-Lay Fritos Corn Chips, Bravos Tortilla Chips, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Total Corn Flakes, Heinz 2 Baby Cereal, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, Snackwell Granola Bars, Ball Park Franks, Ultra Slim Fast, Duncan Hines Cake Mix, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, Alpo, Gardenburger, Boca Burger, Betty Crocker Bac-Os, Old El Paso Taco Shells. Also, these whole foods: Canola, Corn, Papaya, Potato, Soybean, Squash, Tomato. Remember organic foods are not genetically engineered. For more information contact Turning Point Project at 1-800-249-8712 or GLASS CLEANER Here is a terrific way to clean your windows that leaves a nice, crisp lemon scent and cuts through grease and grime very well: All you need is the juice of one small lemon and water. Add the lemon juice (remember to strain it - try an old fashioned tea strainer or squeeze it through a coffee filter) to 16 ounces of water; place in a spray bottle. Once you get a whiff of the fresh lemon scent, you won't want to go back to that chemical cleaner again. Remember that lemon juice will spoil, so you'll have to leave it in the fridge. But don't worry, it's not toxic. KINKO'S AND THE ENVIRONMENT A while back, I wrote about the establishment of a power plant that is entirely solar powered. The plant is run by Green Mountain Energy, a leading residential retailer of electricity from renewable sources. In early November, Kinko's signed on to have Green Mountain be its energy service provider for locations in California and Pennsylvania. This means that nearly 100 stores will switch to Green Mountain's cleaner electricity brands. It turns out that Kinko's is environmentally friendly in other ways too. Among its many environmental commitments, it does not purchase wood and paper that come from the harvesting of old-growth forests. MORE HOLIDAY CHEER Aside from the relentless consumerism found during the holidays, there is also a tremendous amount of waste that can be avoided. It turns out that the many social, cultural and religious occasions celebrated in this country produce an estimated $300 million in trash. What's worse, much of this trash is not recyclable. Here's what you can do. Be careful when you unwrap your presents and save the wrap, bows, ribbons, and so on for next year. The wrapping paper can be reused at least one time for same sized packages and many times for ever smaller packages. It seems like my family has been using the same bows and ribbons as long as I can remember. Find alternatives for wrapping paper. You can use left over fabric, for example, and for the kids, the Sunday comics work quite well. Be creative; this can be a lot of fun. Finally, give gifts people want. I keep gift ideas in a folder during the year for everyone on my Christmas list. If I see an article on a book or product, I just tear it out and stuff it in the folder. This way I avoid the last minute rush purchase that more often than not is received with less appreciation than the accompanying receipt. Also, you'll end up buying less stuff because you won't feel guilty about your purchase! PARKS AND RECREATION IS BIG MONEY There has been a push in Congress to stop all new land-preservation projects. Seems our congressional representatives think that unused land is a waste of money. Sounds to me like they have the developers' interests in mind here. Consider: - Colorado's economy gets $50 million a year from river-rafting and kayaking activities. - Outdoor activities add $1.5 billion to the economy of Arkansas. - Americans spent $99.1 million on canoes and kayaks in 1996 and spent $374 million on hiking footwear. - Sport fishing gives the California economy $7.1 billion, while US Forest Service lands yield $1.2 billion for the same activities. - 27.7 million people visited wildlife refuges in 1995 contributing $401 million to the local economies and yielding 10,000 jobs with a total income of $162.9 million. If these lands were simply new housing developments, they would not yield this kind of income, and as we said in the previous tip, they would cost the local economies large amounts of money. PARKS AND RECREATION IS BIG MONEY There has been a push in Congress to stop all new land-preservation projects. Seems our congressional representatives think that unused land is a waste of money. Sounds to me like they have the developers' interests in mind here. Consider: - Colorado's economy gets $50 million a year from river-rafting and kayaking activities. - Outdoor activities add $1.5 billion to the economy of Arkansas. - Americans spent $99.1 million on canoes and kayaks in 1996 and spent $374 million on hiking footwear. - Sport fishing gives the California economy $7.1 billion, while US Forest Service lands yield $1.2 billion for the same activities. - 27.7 million people visited wildlife refuges in 1995 contributing $401 million to the local economies and yielding 10,000 jobs with a total income of $162.9 million. If these lands were simply new housing developments, they would not yield this kind of income, and as we said in the previous tip, they would cost the local economies large amounts of money. PERSONAL HYGIENE Some ideas for common personal hygiene items: Disposable contact lenses: Avoid them. The lenses may be small, but the box and plastic wrap they come in are not. According to the New York Times, a pair of soft lenses that lasts a year costs ten times less than the cost of a three-month supply of twenty-four disposable lenses! Disposable razors: Each year we throw away 2 billion razors. Razors made of plastic not only don't degrade, but they consume high quantities of energy and toxic chemicals during their manufacture. Try to use a long lasting metal razor or an electric razor. The power needed to run an electric razor is negligible compared to the energy needed to manufacture plastic disposable razors. Hair Spray: Whenever possible, try to use cream mousses and gels instead of hair sprays. The aerosol spray (usually used in closed quarters like the bathroom) can easily be inhaled. Further, the majority of the spray will go everywhere but on your hair. PESTICIDES AND YOU Although some polls show that as many as 75% of Americans believe there should be tighter restrictions on agricultural pesticides, Congress is working toward blocking new EPA restrictions on pesticide use. The new restrictions are on two pesticides: methyl parathion and azenphos methyl. Both of these chemicals are organophosphates that are chemically related to nerve gas and can be dangerous or deadly to humans in sufficient quantities. The EPA is afraid that small amounts remaining on foods might be harmful to children. The restrictions concern only those pesticides used on food, not those used on other crops such as cotton. This raises questions for water runoff, but that unfortunately is still not on the EPA's radar. Recently, Senators Blanch Lincoln (D-La.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Representative Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) have introduced legislation that would restrict the EPA's ability to review and ban pesticides. Please contact your congressperson and urge him or her not to vote for the Regulatory Openness and Fairness Act (S.1464 or H.R.1592). SAFE WATER Worried about the water you are drinking, the fish you are eating, or the lakes you are swimming in? The Oregon State University Extension Service has produced a video titled "After the Rain: Urban Runoff" that is designed to help you answer these questions. After viewing the video, you should be able to feel confident about the water in your life. To order, send your request and a check ($19.95 payable to Oregon State University) to: Publication Orders Extension & Experiment Station Communications Oregon State University 422 Kerr Administration Building Corvallis Oregon 97331-2119 SOLAR CELLS What's up with solar cells? We haven't heard much about them since Ronald Reagan removed them from the White House, effectively (and symbolically) bringing the industry to the brink of death. But they're still around and powering much more than calculators and watches (which account for 20% of their use). Half of today's solar cells are also used to power remote nonresidential items such as highway signals, radios, water pumps and purification systems. Finally about 30% are used to power individual buildings. The technology continues to improve, and there are now many options to use solar power in your home and elsewhere. With the help of governments around the world (Japan and European Union in particular), solar power has grown at a rate of 16 percent a year during the 1990s. In Japan, 12,000 customers took advantage of their government's program and installed cells on their roofs from 1994 to 1998. Unfortunately, the United States, while being the largest producer of cells by far, ships more than 70 percent of the cells we make abroad. But that may change soon. In the works is a 15% tax credit for the cost of installing a system in the US. What can you do? Go to the Real Goods Web site, at and learn about installing a system at your home. Also, contact your congressperson and urge him or her to push for more legislation encouraging the adoption of solar energy. SOME BRIGHT IDEAS Did you know that it takes about 395 pounds of coal to keep a single 100-watt incandescent light bulb burning for twelve hours each day for one year? This creates about 935 pounds of acid-rain-causing carbon dioxide and about 7.8 pounds of sulfur dioxide. Cheery stuff huh? There are many things you can do to reduce this. First, why not use some fluorescent bulbs in your lamps? I know what you're thinking, "that ghostly light that makes me look pale and sunken?" Improvements have been made, and the new bulbs offer excellent light and burn significantly less energy. Here are a few other ideas: - Try to use the outside, natural light whenever possible. - Put one larger bulb in a fixture that takes two bulbs (a 100 watt bulb gives off 20% more light than two 60 watt bulbs). - Don't over-light a room--pay attention to how many lights you have on at one time. - Dust your light fixtures. SOME MORE WATER AT HOME THOUGHTS It's a good idea to use flow controls or aerators in your faucets and shower heads. I know, I saw the Seinfeld episode too, but the fact is, low flow showerheads work fine. They are especially important when you consider that about 4 gallons of water pass through the average faucet each minute. You'll find that for most uses, a rate of half a gallon or 1 gallon per minute (gpm) is quite adequate. Aerators are the simplest to install of the choices. They limit the flow of your tap to between .5 and 1 gpm and cost less than $10. They are those little screen devises you seen on the end of a tap. Here are some other water saving thoughts: Wash your hands in the basin instead of under a running faucet. Turn the water off when you brush your teeth (it saves about 1 to 2 gallons of water each time you brush). Finally, please fix those leaky faucets as soon as you can. SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE IN LA The effects of sprawl have begun to show in Houston, one of the fastest growing cities in the country over the last few years. Houston will soon take Los Angeles's position as the nation's most polluted city. In 1999, Houston has had 44 days in which ozone levels exceeded health standards as compared with LA's 43. Houston recently also broke LA's record for highest parts per billion of ozone (over 125 is considered unhealthy). LA had a day at 170, but just recently Houston hit 200. SUBURBAN LIFE AND TRAVEL Many people move to the suburbs--or further out than that--in order to have a less hectic, quieter, "back to nature" lifestyle. Unfortunately, the very fact that suburbs are spread out (thus giving us the results we are looking for) means that traveling almost anywhere requires a car. Whenever possible, try to use something other than a car to get to where you're going. This is a good case of what is good for the environment is good for you. Alternate forms of transportation tend to be more relaxing and, of course, provide you with more exercise. What sounds more country-like to you: hopping in your huge Ford Expedition and driving over to your friend's house or taking a leisurely walk to the same house? Which sounds more country-like: driving your child to her friend's house down the road, or sending her out on her bicycle? Next time you head out somewhere, think about a different type of transportation. And don't even get me started on the folks who drive the Expedition to the gym for a workout... TAX LAWS AND THE ENVIRONMENT As you probably know, taxes are often used as a way to encourage certain behavior in a society. A perfect example is the deduction for charitable giving. If you give to a charity, you can deduct that money from your income. Thus, even people not prone to giving to charity do so. Sadly, it is not that way with the environment. Many tax laws actually encourage environmental degradation. Recently, many environmentally positive laws were proposed, but none of them were included in the Republican tax bill that was vetoed. For example, legislation was blocked that would have encouraged the preservation of open space, created energy-efficient building codes, reduced sprawl, and encouraged conservation. Unfortunately the last bill did provide for $600 million in tax breaks over the next five years for the oil and gas industry (rising to $2.2 billion by 2009). There are also $104 million in breaks for the timber industry, as well as a decrease in funding for the Superfund program. What can you do? Call or e-mail your representative and urge him or her to focus on environmentally sound policies. You can also contact the Friends of the Earth at 202-783-7400 or THE LATEST NATIONAL PARK Colorado has just received its third national park (which is amazing considering how vast and beautiful Colorado is): The Black Canyon. It is the smallest national park in the country measuring 30,000 acres, but it is spectacular. The canyon is on the 53-mile long Gunnison River that eventually flows into the Colorado River. The deepest and narrowest 12 miles of the gorge lie within the Black Canyon. The area is called the Black Canyon because sunlight penetrates its dark gray walls for only one hour per day. The park is rugged. It features climbing, hiking and fishing, but getting to these areas is tough. Each rim has three routes to the bottom, but they are not marked or maintained by park staff. To head in, you'll have to get a permit. When you get a chance, head on out and see the Black Canyon. There is camping along the rim, which provides a wonderful view. TURN UP THE HEAT Here's a real potboiler of a political issue: water heater standards. Turns out that one of the most effective strategies for cutting air pollution and greenhouse gases has been governmentally enforced standards for home appliances. The water heater and its standards are currently up for review by the Department of Energy. The current standards are over 10 years old, and as a result, most heaters consume up to 15 percent more energy than they need to. The newer standards will save consumers as much as $10 billion in utility bills by 2030 as well as reduce 238,000 metric tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides, 26,000 metric tons of acid rain causing sulfur dioxide, and 85 metric tons of carbon dioxide (the equivalent of 1.7 million cars). Write to Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and urge him to upgrade the water heater standard at: U.S. Department of Energy 1000 Independence Ave, SW Washington, DC 20585 Or email him at YELLOWSTONE WINTERS I think most of us have heard about the awful traffic and pollution problem in Yellowstone Park during the summer, but did you know that automobiles pale in comparison to another source of pollution? Tourists flock to Yellowstone in the winter months to tour the park on snowmobiles. Unfortunately, snowmobiling has become so popular that the park is overrun by them in the winter. The result? The snowmobiles emit more air pollution (during the winter, obviously) in the park than automobiles emit during the entire year. It has gotten so bad the ranger booths at the west entrance have fresh air pumped into the booths to protect the employees from carbon monoxide levels that are higher than those in Denver or Los Angeles! The park has put together a plan for winter use. Unfortunately it simply calls for the plowing of Yellowstone's most traveled road in order to open it to automobiles. The result will be to simply shift the snowmobile use to the other parts of the park, while adding cars to the mix. This will create even more carbon monoxide pollution. What can you do? Support a citizens' plan that has been developed by many organizations. Unlike the Parks Department's plan, this one will reduce air and noise pollution. Sign and send in the email form letter at or contact the National Parks Service directly and voice your support: Clifford Hawkes, National Park Service Denver Service Center 12795 W. Alameda Parkway Lakewood, CO 80228
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