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10/10/2006 12:00:00 AM

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Last Thursday, just as Martha Stewart was winding down her 'Going Green Week', the New York Times ran an article on the front page of its “House & Home” section that left me feeling both triumphant and a little bit blue. In 'The Energy Diet: A lazy man’s guide to belt-tightening at home', Andrew Postman discovers that he can waylay some of his eco-guilt over buying himself an energy-sucking 37-inch flat-screen TV by making small changes in his daily life, things that (he emphasized) would take minimal effort. So Andrew washed his clothes in cold water, reprogrammed his thermostat and turned off his computer when he left his office. His little fixes meant about 1,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere—one small step backward for global warming.

Of course I was thrilled to see a paper with the reach of the Times picking up on this concept of small steps toward major change. At the same time, the four-year-old kid inside me just can’t help but wail, “But what about us?” We at Natural Home have been preaching this gospel for years.

And so I decided, in my very best four-year-old “we were here first!” way, to re-post a speech I delivered at the Renewable Energy Roundup in Fredericksburg, Texas, on September 21, 2002. (Four years ago. I just had to point that out.) The speech contains a message we all believed in way back then—and one we still adhere to. I figured it was high time to get this back up on our website. (Oh, and just for good measure, I’m including the handout that goes with the speech. I used to make copies on recycled paper. The beauty of the web is that now I don’t have to.)

“Where the Heart Is: Daily Sustainability at Home”

One of my first on-location assignments for Natural Home was to shoot a hobbit-like little cottage on Lake Travis outside of Austin, Texas. Gary built the house himself using cob, a mixture of clay, straw, and sand.

I fell madly in love with that house.

And I went home to my husband, and I said, “Matt, we need to move down to Austin and build ourselves a house of cob.”

And Matt got kind of nervous. And he pointed out that we have good jobs in Colorado and our kids have many friends in the neighborhood and we’d just refinanced our perfectly good house in Boulder.

The next month I traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, where I spent a couple of days in a two-story straw bale and timberframe house in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The house was serene and nurturing and opened up to idyllic views of surrounding fields.

And I went home to my husband, and I said, “Matt, we need to move to Charlottesville, and build ourselves a straw bale house.”

And Matt reminded me again about the great jobs and the neighbor kids and the great mortgage rate.

And that was the end of that discussion.

And so the next trip I took was to Prescott, Arizona, up in the mountains above Phoenix.

There I discovered a rather cutting-edge building technique called cast earth, in which an earthen slurry is poured into forms to create walls.

And I thought Matt, who’s an architect, would be pretty excited about this stuff.

So I went home, and I said, “Matt, have you ever heard of cast earth?”

And he just rolled his eyes, and walked away.

And I realized that we’re not moving into an alternative construction house any time soon.

And for a long time, this really bothered me.

Because my job not only puts me in direct touch with all these inspiring, environmentally friendly ways to build.

It also puts me in touch with all the bad news that’s out there about the state of our planet.

I’m fed a steady diet of it by email, through the stack of magazines by my bed, and even in the mainstream media. And sometimes it’s just completely overwhelming. That sense that it’s all just so much bigger than me can make me feel powerless.

I’ve learned more than I really want to know about global warming—and it scares me.

I’ve learned that the earth’s temperature is changing faster than ever before in recorded climate history—largely because of our human activity.

When we drive our cars, heat our homes, and run our factories, we mess with the earth’s temperature by producing more carbon dioxide than the earth’s atmosphere needs to stay in balance.

At the same time, we are systematically removing the brilliant natural systems that our planet uses to sequester and absorb that very same CO2.

Cutting down our forests for building products, furnishings and shipping pallets removes the very lungs our planetary ecosystem uses to convert carbon dioxide back into benign carbon and oxygen.

To date, we’ve cut down nearly half the world’s forests—significantly decreasing our ecosystem’s ability to absorb CO2.

Annual carbon emissions have more than quadrupled since 1950, contributing to the rising threat of global climate change.

And our appetite here in the Western hemisphere shows no signs of being satiated.

In fact, according to a report released last year by the World Health Organization, 3 million people each year die from the effects of air pollution—three times as many as die in car accidents.

This pollution comes primarily from car exhaust and coal-fired power plants.

So how can I stand living in a traditional stick-built home, polluting the air every time I turn on a light or draw my kids a hot bath, knowing what I know about how it affects the earth?

And I can get really neurotic about this, and think, well, I should just go live in a cave somewhere, become a hermit.

But I’m a city girl; I’ve just never been all that enamored of camping. I like my creature comforts. Does that make me a bad environmentalist? Or not an environmentalist at all?

That’s the question I struggle with on a daily basis.

And recently, I’ve been coming to terms with it.

I’ve come to realize that all this green building stuff is really incredible—and definitely something to build my dreams of a dream home on.

But my husband and I have good jobs in Colorado, where land is too expensive to build a new house, and our kids have good friends in the neighborhood, and we’re pretty well settled in to our not-very-earth-friendly 1950s house for the time being.

And I’ve also come to realize that if all of us left the houses we’re in and ran out to build ourselves straw bale houses in the country—well, it would be one of the worst things that could happen, environmentally.

We lessen our impact the most by working with the existing urban environment as much as we can.

Rejecting a home site in a place where driving becomes necessity, in favor of a place where you can walk the kids to school, bike to the grocery store, and bus to work is a truly responsible choice.

And so I’ve settled down and come to accept my 50s house and my semi-urban neighborhood.

And in that settling, I’ve decided that if I can’t build a solar or passive solar rammed earth home—well, then, I’ll do everything I can to live as eco-consciously and as lightly as possible in the home I’m in.

And I’ve found there’s really a heck of a lot I can do.

Last year, in the November/December issue, Natural Home featured a story about the Tidwells, a family in Takoma Park, Maryland, that has managed to convert their early 20th century home to solar power and cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent for just $7,500.

The Tidwells cut their energy use by replacing incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents, bought a high-efficiency refrigerator, and began drying their clothes on a line instead of in the dryer.

They applied for—and got—a state grant of $3,600 toward the purchase of solar panels and also learned that they could deduct 15 percent of the systems’ cost from their state income tax.

So they installed 36 solar panels themselves, converting 70 percent of their electricity to solar—free energy, directly from the sun.

Unfortunatley, I haven't yet managed to convince my husband to crawl up on the roof and start installing solar panels yet—and so, I’ve taken my inspiration from the Tidwells’ energy reduction methods.

As a typical family, my husband and two kids and I generate about 2,145 pound of carbon dioxide per year.

We spend $120 per year just illuminating our space.

Those incandescent light bulbs we’ve all come to rely on—the very ones used to symbolize a brilliant idea—are actually nothing but little toasters.

The cakes my daughter’s Easy Bake oven churns out rely on the heat generated from one 75 watt bulb.

Only 10 percent of the consumed energy produces light, the stuff we actually want.

Compact fluorescents, on the other hand, use three-quarters less electricity to generate the same light output—and last 7,000 to 10,000 hours.

We replaced six of our most-used bulbs—in the living room, kitchen, dining area, and hallways—and took 566 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in one sweep.

Installing one single compact fluorescent light bulb will keep a power plant from emitting three-quarters of a ton of CO2 and fifteen pounds of SO2, which causes acid rain.

During its long life, it will require 400 fewer pounds of coal, 32 fewer gallons or oil, or 4,300 fewer cubic feet of natural gas than a conventional bulb.

Yes, these bulbs do cost more than the standard bulbs—although the price is dropping rapidly as demand increases—you can even find them at Home Depot and the grocery store these days.

But those bulbs are actually a really good long-term investment: They’ll pay for themselves in reduced energy bills and bulb replacement costs in less than two years.

In fact, they’ll pay for themselves almost four times over their lifetimes.

A lot of you might remember what compact fluorescents used to be like—giving off a sort of gray, sickly light—or imagine yourself buzzing around in a flickering fluorescent haze.

Give these compact fluorescents another chance, though…they’ve improved pretty drastically.

The flicker effect is long gone, and CFL manufacturers have improved the color from zombie gray to warmer tones.

As a result, sales of these better bulbs have skyrocketed. There are now 1.8 billion CFLs in use worldwide.

And compact fluorescent sales have increased thirteen-fold since 1988, growing by 15 percent in 2001 alone.

Still not convinced? Then check out the range of Energy Star-rated lightbulbs.

They have that little star logo on them, and you can find a range of them at topbulb.com.

Here’s an astonishing fact from Energy Star: If every household in the United States replaced their next bulb with an Energy Star model, it would be equivalent to removing 1 million cars from the road.

Let’s take that just one small step further.

If every one of us—every household in the United States—switched to energy efficient light fixtures, we could keep 100 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year.

That’s the same as taking 10 million cars off the road.

Makes you wonder how many light bulbs it would take to change the world…

The most beautiful part of this simple “fix” is that I can do it myself—without ever having to nag my husband to swing a hammer—which he continually reminds me is something they don’t teach you in architecture school.

I know a lot of you aren’t going to replace your standard bulbs before they’re burned out. And that’s OK. But did you know that giving your bulbs a good dusting every once in a while can increase their light output by 10 percent? That can make all the difference when you’re choosing between a 75-watt and 100-watt bulb.

Dusting. That’s pretty simple. So what else can I do that doesn’t involve asking the family to give up a Saturday morning soccer game in order to tackle home renovations?

I can lower my heat this winter by just 1 degree—paring my furnace’s energy use by as much as 7 percent.

Let’s take that one a step further. Let’s say every American household lowers its heating temperature by 2 degrees when they’re home and awake, and 8 degree when they’re at work or asleep—easy enough to do with a simple $50 programmable thermostat.

We could save the equivalent of 500,000 barrels of oil every day.

We could never buy another barrel from the Middle East.

But that’s a global issue. Let’s bring it back to me. I can also lower the temperature of my water heater to 120 degrees, wash my family’s clothes in full loads with cold water, and hang them out to dry on a clothesline.

I can simply turn off the lights and appliances I’m not using when I leave a room.

I work at home—like millions of Americans—and I can turn off my computer when the workday is done.

Nearly 3 million homeowners in the U.S. leave their computers on 24/7, emitting 1,460 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Now combine my turn-off tendency with my switch from a desktop computer to a laptop—which uses 15 watts of electricity as compared to the 140 watts I was using before.

I can pay attention to those little blinking green lights that seem to have wormed themselves into just about every room in my house—the TV, VCR, and answering machine, to name a few.

These carry “phantom loads” of electricity, wasting 587 kilowatts per year and emitting 840 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Here’s another phantom load a lot of you might not have thought about.If you keep an extra fridge out in the garage, unplugging it will keep nearly 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Might make a difference in that not-so-phantom load around the middle as well…

And in that refrigerator you keep in the kitchen…here are a few things to think about.

Keeping it full, but not crammed to the gills, means that less cold air drains onto the floor when you open the door, using less energy because the compressor doesn’t have to work so hard.

Vacuuming the coils in back every six months or so goes a long way toward improving its heat transfer.

And how many of you do this—or have spouses or kids who do this?

You open the door and stand there looking around, wondering what you might want to eat.

Or my son’s favorite trick: He opens the door and stands there while he takes a few swigs of milk out of the bottle. All the while letting all the cold air drain out around him.

This is a kid who picks up litter off the streets and chides me for driving anywhere because of the pollution it causes.

So we’re talking, these days, about these little things we can do at home as well.

I’ve explained to my kids that for every kilowatt hour of electricity we save, we keep 1.34 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

In the morning, when I boil water for my kids’ hot cereal, I can put a lid on the pot—simple as that, the water boils faster and uses less energy.

I can make sure the burner pans underneath that pot are clean and shiny.

Not because I have a Martha Stewart complex, but because they’ll reflect more heat—again, saving energy.

I can transfer my coffee from the coffeemaker to a Thermos, so I can keep the coffee hot but turn Mr. Coffee off.

These steps seem so simple, so negligible, really.

They cost me nothing, and they’re not inconvenient.

And this doesn’t seem quite right.

Don’t I have to suffer, sweat, and chain myself to trees to save the environment?

Maybe. But I can also just stay home.

By taking these hassle-free steps, I’ve already kept 3,605 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year—that’s the equivalent of not driving an average-size car more than 3,600 miles.

Not bad, for doing nothing.

So I’m doing everything I can to minimize my energy use.

And I can also make sure that the energy I buy is greener and cleaner.

I’m spending a little bit more each month to buy wind-generated power—a step as simple as marking a little box on my energy bill to sign up. Here in Austin, you have that windtricity option as well.

In Boulder, I pay an extra $2.50 per 100 kilowatt hours, and I get a substantial bang for that buck.

That $2.50 buys me the environmental equivalent of not driving my car for 2,400 miles or planting half an acre of trees.

And besides, I’ve more than made up for that cost with the simple energy-saving steps I’ve already described.

Across the country, wind power use is growing by 20 percent every month, making it the world’s fastest growing energy source.

Here in Texas, you’re still getting most of your electricity from coal, natural gas, and oil, but you’re also leading the way in the use of wind energy, replacing many of those oil fields with wind farms.

Your state passed the first green certificate trading program in the nation, requiring Texas utilities to buy Renewable Energy Certificates that offset the amount of conventionally generated power sold to homeowners and businesses.

As a result, more than 900 megawatts of wind power generation have been built in Texas in the past three years—enough to power about 500,000 homes.

Officials predict that 10,000-plus megawatts can be generated by wind power in the next five to eight years.

I’d also urge you to look into your local utility’s Wise Use program, which offers no- and low-cost energy efficiency solutions. These make a difference. Voluntary participation in these programs helped the electric power industry eliminate some 237 million tons of CO2 in the year 2000 alone.

So what about water? That’s a big issue these days.

We Americans are actually using less water per capita than we did in 1980—we’ve learned to conserve—but overall demand is growing because there are simply more of us.

You all know about population growth here in Texas—yours will double by 2050. And already, the fabled Rio Grande—the river that’s sustained this area for so many centuries—is running dry by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

The average American uses 1,600 gallons of water each day.

Every day, we Americans take 3,600 billion gallons of water from the earth—enough to fill a line of Olympic-size swimming pools reaching around the earth.

And yet, one-sixth of the world’s population—1 billion people—lacks access to clean water—and that number is expected to triple in the next 30 years.

By 2025, global demand for water will exceed supply by 56 percent. The gloomy prospect for the next century is that its wars will be fought over water.

That sure makes me want to pay attention to my water use.

My kids already know we never let the water run when we brush our teeth—Barney told them that.

But Barney does have an awfully good point about never letting the water run.

In my house, we’re simply hyper-conscious about the water we use.

We save the water we boiled spaghetti in and use it to water the plants.

We’ve installed low-flow showerheads and toilets—and yes, they work just fine. They really do.

Here’s another thing I do.

I wrote about it in my editor’s letter in the magazine last year, and my mother was horrified.

And she’d be even more horrified to know that I’m going to stand up here and tell you all this.

My family doesn’t flush the toilet every time we use it.

We do this because the toilets are the biggest water guzzlers in our house.

They use up half our clean water supply.

So we have a poem in our house that many of you have heard. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

I’m trying to imagine Barney singing that one.

We can take a lesson from the Californians—and I know, I know, we Coloradoans hate taking any lessons from Californians as much as you Texans do.

But southern California faced a pretty severe seven-year drought in the early 1990s, and they made some changes that made a big difference.

Californians made a massive and widespread switch to low-flush toilets and water-saving showerheads, and the region cut its water use by almost 20 percent.

That means the state didn’t have to build another reservoir or dam another river.

In the San Diego area alone, the use of low-flow toilets saved enough water to supply a town of 80,000 people for one year.

There are other areas where I can make a difference—and again, it doesn’t involve throwing myself in front of bulldozers or marching on Washington.

Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop—who does throw herself in front of bulldozers and march on Washington—has said, “Never underestimate the power of the vigilante consumer.”We wield a huge amount of influence with every cleaning product we buy and every morsel of food we put on our tables.

The products we’ve used—and our mothers have used—to clean our homes are among the most toxic substances we encounter daily.

The chlorine in bleach and the formaldehyde in room deodorizers seep into our environment and cause massive devastations.

These products also release hydrocarbons, which contribute to the greenhouse effect.

And they’re poisoning our families.

Every year, these products are the cause of 5 to 10 million accidental poisonings—most of them children.

The solution is again so simple.

A slew of chemical-free cleaning products are now available at your local grocery store.

And yes, they do cost a bit more.

So if you’d rather not spend the extra dollar or two, take a lesson from your grandmothers—who knew a thing or two about frugality.

Baking soda will clean and deodorize, borax will disinfect, and vinegar will cut grease, and clean windows. You can find some great cleaning recipes using these common household ingredients at our website, Natural Home magazine.

Simple wisdom. Makes a huge impact.

And that milk my son loves to chug while holding the refrigerator door open?

That’s organic milk, and I buy it from the local dairy in reusable glass bottles.

It’s free of extra chemicals and hormones—and it wasn’t shipped halfway across the country.

It comes from cows that live in my town.

My son can taste the difference. He makes a big point about asking for the “fresh milk” with his dinner.

Did you all know that most foods in the United States travel an average of 1,300 miles before they land in your local supermarket?

Approximately $1 of every $3 you spend on food is spent on the massive amounts of fossil fuels use to transport it.

So another simple piece of advice that our grandmothers gave us—but somehow we’ve forgotten—buy food that’s local and in season.

Industrial, high-tech farming is responsible for 7 percent of the carbon in the atmosphere.

Organic farming, on the other hand, uses 50 percent less energy than conventional farming methods.

We can support our local farmers—and put more nutritious, delicious food on our family’s tables—by stopping at local farm stands, frequenting the local farmer’s market, and joining a Community-Supported Agriculture farm.

Are all of you familiar with CSAs?

All you do is sign up, pay a fee, and work a few hours each month, and you get a share of their harvest.

Right now you could be eating fresh, hand-picked eggplant, okra, pumpkins, and tomatoes.

And as my favorite Texas songwriter Guy Clark reminds us, “There’s only two things that money can’t buy. That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”

t’s say you’re not ready to do all of your buying through the local network.

Picking up just 25 percent—one quarter—of your produce from local and organic sources will keep more than 150 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Closer to home, it reduces your family’s exposure to herbicides and insecticides—possible carcinogens.

It’s a sound investment in the long run.

And buying produce that hasn’t been shipped in cardboard and plastic reduces the amount of garbage we generate.

Did you know that each of us generates 3.2 pounds of garbage every day?

We Americans spend more annually to buy garbage bags than the combined GDP of 90 of the world’s developing nations.

So first and foremost we do everything we can to reduce the amount of garbage we make. Then, we pay attention to what can be recycled—and make sure we recycle it—so that we lessen our share of space in the landfills, which release methane gas that also contributes to global warming.

If we recycled all our newspapers on one Sunday alone, we would save 550,000 trees. If that happened every Sunday, we’d save 26 million trees per year.

Recycling also minimizes our need for non-renewable resources.

In fact, I just ran into another amazing fact.

If all of us in the United States could increase our recycling by 60 percent, we could save the equivalent of 315 million barrels of oil per year.

So of course my family recycles—and it’s pretty easy in Boulder, where we live. They pick up cans and bottles and junk mail and magazines right at my curb.

But we also know that recycling is only one step up from throwing things away. So we try to go just one step further, and take even more effective, simple steps.

We’re simply a little bit more conscious in the grocery store, selecting products with minimal packaging and buying products that utilize recycled materials and come in containers that can be recycled locally.

I bring my own bags and my own containers for oil and other bulk products.

Hey, I even save money with this one—five cents a bag at most stores.

These are all the little things that my family and I do on a daily basis—things we hardly even think about.

And before I close, I’d also like to share a couple of inspirational stories about people who’ve taken this a step further.

First is the story of Ann Forsthoefel, a woman who—like me—can’t afford to build her dream home in Colorado and so decided to settle into an admittedly ugly 1970s ranch in Longmont.

But Ann didn’t just settle—she took that house apart and made it green—creating a nurturing, eco-friendly home in the ‘burbs.

She installed wool carpeting, which acts as a natural insulator and takes in up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture—helping to stabilize humidity levels in her house. Increasing the indoor comfort level this way translated into substantial energy savings.

She replaced most of the old, drafty single-pane windows in her house with double-glazed, low-E windows.

According to the government, if all of us followed this example, the nation would save $7 billion in energy costs over the next 15 years.

On those windows that Ann couldn’t afford to replace, she simply hung insulated shades that can reduce heat loss by more than 80 percent in the winter and reduce solar heat gain by up to 79 percent in the summer.

Ann replaced her old energy-hog appliances with Energy Star models and installed programmable thermostats, which can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling bills.

She also insulated her water heater and hired a professional to seal and insulate her duct systems, reducing pollution and wasted energy.

Ann and her husband, Neal, spent a lot of time and money—$18,000, to be exact—on this green renovation.

And what did they gain from all this hard work and expense?

How about $142 a month in energy costs—and 35,938 fewer pounds of CO2 released into the atmosphere?

Not a bad payoff.

And here’s another inspiring example, right here in Austin.

Last year, in the March/April issue of Natural Home, we featured a story about Susan Brooks and John Salzman, who managed to renovate their 1930s cottage in a green and healthy way—against heavy odds.

The couple expanded their home’s size from 650 square feet to 1,700 square feet without removing any of the lot’s existing trees.

They provided water-based construction glue to the subcontractors and used local natural stone and native hard woods from a local mill for flooring and cabinetry.

Susan and John spent their weekends diving into their own dumpster, to recover the paper, cardboard, and aluminum that the construction crew had thrown out. Those materials were taken to the recycling center instead of the landfill, where they’d been headed.

The wood scraps were chipped and mulched, then used to protect the antique roses.

Energy efficiency measures include an on-demand whole-house water heater, a whole-house attic fan, and solar tubes in the bathrooms.

What both the Forsthoefels and the Brooks understand is that home—no matter what kind of home it is or where it’s located—should be a healthy, nurturing sanctuary—both for its inhabitants and for the land it sits on.

Their motives are not completely altruistic, nor completely selfish.

Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, the founder of Naropa University up in Boulder, pointed out that “The only way to implement our vision for society is to bring it down to the situation of a single household.”

Our quest for a clean, healthy planet begins at home.

And once we’ve done all we can in a place where we have control, I believe we will feel empowered to go out and start lobbying for bigger, community-wide, systemic change.

I’d like to end with a couple of quotes that inspire me—both professionally and personally—on a daily basis.

The first is from one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, who was also one of the earliest green builders.

“The happiest moments of my life,” he said, “have a been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.”

In his book, Thinking Architecture, Swiss architect Peter Zumthor describes home “an envelope and background for life … a sensitive container for the rhythm of footsteps on the floor, for the concentration of work, for the silence of sleep.”

Home is where our lives unfold—the place for escape, rejuvenation, and family togetherness.

It’s also a place where we can make a huge difference in the quality of life—and perhaps the quantity of life—on this planet we all share.

So I ask all of you today, if you will, to go home and just do one thing.

Change a light bulb. Together, we can change the world.

“Simple Steps Toward Living Wisely”

“Time is speeding up beyond the point of any one person or any one government’s ability to comprehend the rate of change. No one knows what’s going on in the world. The rate of change is overwhelming us. How we come out the other end is going to be determined by what we do in our daily lives in small ways, how each of us contributes to the uprising and continues to engage locally, support good business, and value our community.”
--Bill McKibben

Measure Your Impact

Each of these quick, simple lifestyle changes has a solid, measurable impact—immediately contributing to a reduction in carbon dioxide production, which contributes to global warming.

  • Turn off computer when not in use (about 20 hours per day): 1,460 pounds
  • Reduce garbage by half of one large trash bag per week: 1,100 pounds
  • Insulate your water heater: 1,000 pounds
  • Unplug unused electronics: 1,000 pounds
  • Install programmable thermostat: 1,071 pounds
  • Eliminate phantom loads: 840 pounds
  • Hang clothes out to dry in summer months: 779 pounds
  • Weatherize windows and doors: 621 pounds
  • Replace six of your most-used lightbulbs with compact fluorescents: 566 pounds
  • Keep water heater themostat no higher than 120 degrees: 550 pounds
  • Unplug extra refrigerator: 448 pounds
  • Lower thermostat in winter by 2 degrees: 353 pounds
  • Increase AC temperature by 3 degrees: 339 pounds
  • Turn off unneeded lights: 376 pounds
  • Wash clothes in cold water: 327 pounds
  • Lower water heater temperature to 120 degrees: 214 pounds
  • Turn off outside light at night: 210 pounds
  • Replace one interior lightbulb with compact fluorescent: 210 pounds
  • Cooking: put a lid on the pot when boiling water, use a Crockpot or microwave whenever possible (instead of oven), clean burners so they reflect more heat, transfer coffee to thermos and turn off coffeepot: 165 pounds
  • Buy 25 percent of produce from local, organic sources: 150 pounds
  • Run dishwasher only with a full load: 100 pounds

Sources: Rocky Mountain Institute, StopGlobalWarming.org



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Post a comment below.

 

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
3/11/2011 3:56:36 PM
I actually gave this speech in 2001, when we were just beginning to understand the need for taking personal responsibility for our environmental mess. While the need for larger collective solutions such as walkable neighborhoods and alternative energy are now more important than ever (and finally being talked about!), I believe people have to first feel empowered before they'll look at the bigger picture. Unplugging my cell phone charger when it's not in use won't change the world--but if I don't do it, who will? I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who have no idea that this could make a difference. You are so correct: the journey of a thousand miles does indeed start with one step. Sadly, even a decade later, I'm not sure enough people understand how crucial that first step really is.

t brandt
3/5/2011 10:22:28 AM
This was written over 4 yrs ago, so I won't even comment on your fears about what you should now realize is the fantasy of co2 & AGW- but we still face the coming crisis of depletion of fossil fuel as a cheap, convenient source of energy. While it's true that a journey of even 1000 miles starts with a single step, some of your energy saving steps are really quite meaningless: saving 500,000 barrels of oil/d? But we use 60 million. Saving 3/4ths of our lighting energy? That's only about 3% of our bill. Equivalent to eliminating 10 million vehicles? But we have 300 million. The only real plan that will significantly help is to change lifestyles: live where we can walk to work, schools & stores. Turn lights off when not in use; fewer & smaller appliances. Less consummerism (but that shoots the economy dead).Etc.etc. Why is this so difficult? Because it means returning to a 19th century lifestyle. That's a tough sell to a society bent on "progress."

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CountryMommyLove
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