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Walk Your Talk: The Fifteen Most Important Things You Can Do to Green Your Life

3/4/2009 2:36:00 PM

Tags: energy efficiency, Dan Chiras

Years ago, a friend told me a story of an acquaintance with strong environmental leanings who hoped to teach his children the importance of nature and environmental protection. One day, while riding in the car with his children, her friend was giving a friendly lecture to his children on the value of recycling. When he had finished, his son asked, “Dad, if recycling’s so good, why don’t we do it?”

Over the past decade, I’ve spoken to hundreds of audiences about environmental protection, many of which were populated by environmental educations and environmental enthusiasts. Numerous people in my audiences have admitted to me in private that they don’t do enough — or don’t do much at all. They talk a good talk, but don’t seem to be able really to walk their talk.

Leo Tolstoy may have said it best, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” A cynical friend once remarked, “Environmentalists are people who want to tell others how to live.”

While I know many dedicated environmentalists who really walk their talk, I know a fair number who “think globally, but act vocally.” They complain and provide advice for others, but don’t do much to help make a better world. To them, knowing the answer is not always living the answer.

If you’re one of those individuals whose sentiments and actions are out of alignment, here are fifteen steps you can take to dramatically reduce your impact and help create a truly sustainable future.

1. Install compact fluorescent light bulbs in the most commonly used light fixtures in your house.

2. Hire a professional to perform an energy audit on your home, then weatherize your home and beef up the insulation.

3. Install and use a programmable thermostat. It will cut your heating and cooling bills by 10 percent or more.

4. Plant shade trees to keep your house cooler in the summer.

5. Install water-conserving fixtures such as water-efficient showerheads and water-efficient toilets.

6. Replace worn out appliances such as clothes washers, dishwashers, furnaces and air conditioners with energy and water-efficient models. Buy Energy Star qualified models.

7. If you water your lawn, water early or late in the day and replace water-hungry grasses with low-water grasses, and remove sections of lawn that are hard to water and wasteful of water.

8. Recycle all household waste from newspapers to cardboard to aluminum to glass.

9. Compost all kitchen scraps (except meat and bones) and yard waste. Compost in your backyard and use the compost to enrich the soils in your flower and vegetable gardens.

10. Eat more vegetables and less meat. Buy organic vegetables whenever possible.

11. Carpool, ride a bike, walk, or take the bus whenever possible.

12. Replace gas-guzzling vehicles with fuel-efficient models getting 40 miles per gallon or more.

13. Curb consumption. Learn to live more simply. Buy less. Buy used goods. Practice green gift giving.

14. Reduce the number of pets you keep. Hard as it is to swallow, our pets have a huge impact on the environment, one rarely discussed these days for fear of offending pet lovers. Cats, for instance, kill several hundred million songbirds each year. Pets such as cats and dogs produce mountains of solid waste that may wash into nearby streams during heavy storms. Feeding cats, dogs, parakeets, cockatiels, and other pets also requires enormous acreage, land that was once wildlife habitat, and energy for processing and shipping food.

15. Drop those extra pounds. Weight loss is another important environmental strategy, though never mentioned. Today, over 60 percent of all American adults and 15 percent of all children are overweight. They take in more calories than the need. In fact, the average American requires 2,200 calories per day, but consumes 3,200 — 1,000 calories extra, which accounts for the extra poundage that leads to late-onset diabetes, heart attacks, and other medical problems.

Consuming calorie-rich food in excess, which has become something of an American pastime, is not only unhealthy it requires more resources. The more food we eat, the more land is required, the more energy and materials are used, the more fertilizer that’s needed, the more pesticides are applied to our land, and the more pollution is produced. Taking care of health problems also requires massive amounts of money and resources.

By eating less and maintaining health, we can lower our environmental impact — and quite dramatically.

These steps can dramatically reduce your impact on the environment, the first step in building a sustainable future.

Most of the steps are easy. If you put your mind to them, change your priorities, refocus on your values and commit to living by your ideals, well, anything is possible.

And if hundreds of thousands of people in each state follow suit, we can make huge inroads into current problems and help steer our society back onto a sustainable path.


Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on .



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Taoshum
12/14/2009 12:07:05 PM
I didn't read all the comments but I saw a few that mentioned the human population explosion that continues to grow exponentially. Lots of us 'live' on $2/day and quite a few 'live' on $2,000,000 per day... guess who generates the most CO2? But, the bottom line, is that the planet can sustainable support about 2 billion and we have 7 billion, soon to be 14 bilion and then 28 billion. Something has to give, there are limits, no matter how many CFL's we buy, but it doesn't even make the list of the top 15...???? I can only hope that when "cap and trade" hits the streets that your children count against your carbon footprint until they die. Whether I drive a bicycle or a SUV doesn't begin to compare to whether I have a child or not, especially over a lifespan of 80 years. And moreover, I'll never take the "walk the talk" seriously until the climate change attendees don't use 140 private jets and 1200 iimos to atttend the conference. Give us a break.

NonGMOTalk
7/30/2009 12:05:35 PM
Eat non-GMO to safeguard your health and stop unrecallable ecosystem pollution.

Jana Hayes
4/8/2009 9:27:46 PM
I am happy to at last find an article about living sustainably that highlights the importance of a vegetarian diet and living simply. I would probably be scorned by many environmentalists because I have not been recycling. I figure the gas it takes me to drive to the recycling center is just about a wash with what is saved at this point in my life. However, I live within a mile of my job and grocery stores and rarely have to travel more than 3 miles. I am vegetarian, which conserves approximately 2500 gallons of water for every pound of beef consumed as well as the energy equivalent of driving about 150 miles. I set my thermostat high in summer to minimize air conditioning and rarely have a television set on. If one lives simply to begin with, one may be as environmentally responsible as someone who invests in a lot of expensive technology.

Diane_6
4/6/2009 9:59:08 AM
Wow, I have been trying to go greener everyday. I have NEVER heard anyone tell me my pets are causing global warming?? NEVER.... Sadly some of the very things that would make my home greener, I cannot afford. We have a well insulated tiny ranch home. We keep the house at 62 in the winter, unless we have the woodstove stoked, and 72 in the summer, using the air. Sorry, can't give up my air, but we do turn it off if its not humid and only hot. I compost, raise my own chickens for meat and eggs. Have a few rabbits for fertilizer in my garden. Have a huge wonderful garden and preserve food for the winter. I don't have an economy car, a mini van, but I don't go out on 'empty runs' I route myself to be efficient. I clean up after my pets, who eat natural dog food but don't get how their waste is causing the planet to melt??? I won't give up my dogs, ever. OR my horse, OR my birds...I won't go vegan either. I do eat less beef, have meatless meals but I enjoy my pork, beef and ham, sorry, vegan life ain't for me. I HATE fish, can't help it. I would prefer to see more practical articles on saving the enviroment, something all of us can afford. I am still looking into some grants, some how to get solar panels on our house, I am even trying to get a greenhouse attached to the west end of the house for added heat (through vents) but dang, the dogs ARE staying!

Scott V
4/6/2009 9:41:49 AM
Talk about getting cat owners excited! Hah! Now if you have one or two cats you love and keep home, fine. I personnaly have two dogs and no breakins, we also have a burried composter for pet waste in our small city lot. However, recently our "neighborhood watch" counted over 300 wandering felines in the middle of the night (one night. Our neighborhood is only 6 blocks by 6 blocks. Our local ordinance says "if they are off you property they are strays, and subject to ticketing or collection by the local services"." We had such a problem we had to remove the childrens sandbox, and I constantly have to repair damage to our garden and flower beds. We were permitted to trap as long as they were on our property... however the city and local refuges are so full they will not take any in, and/or will charge 45$ for you to drop them off. Even if they are not yours. I don't believe there is anything wrong with "responsible pet ownership".... however, you do have a responsibilty when you have a pet that it is not a problem to those around you. As to those of you who blew up over the posting I can only guess that maybe you are missing the point...

dmpfahl
4/5/2009 10:38:18 PM
I find this article to be as preachy as they come, sadly. I really do like living 'greener', and have done some things to help out (some out of necessity, like wearing secondhand clothing because we can't afford new). However, we don't have the money for things like a home audit - we don't even have a home! Those of us living in apartments sometimes aren't even allowed to touch the leaky faucets, let alone replace entire appliances with better models. We can't re-insulate, we can't compost (no room and no garden) and we can't afford a better car, and we have to commute for work because this is the only place we can afford to stay in. And no, I will not get rid of the cats. They're both rescues and I'd much rather see them well cared for and not reproducing in the streets, thanks much. I understand that some people are extremely wasteful concerning the care of their pets or how many they own but I hardly think that pet ownership is going to cause the extinction of songbirds (seriously?) or ruin our carbon footprint. I don't put much stock in ideas that only work if you're a well-settled homeowner. Give us some ideas that will work for all of us, rich or poor, with or without a house. Reusing containers, avoiding overpackaged items, buying local when you can... those are things we can all do. 40mpg cars weren't available last time people were forced to live frugally and remove all that waste... why do we need them now to live green?

Penny_1
4/5/2009 8:17:31 AM
The ideas put forth by so many of these "think green" folks are mostly too expensive to implement for many of us. However since 'we' are in the "below the poverty" level, we also have been doing things that are Green from necessity. Gardens flourish, as we need the veggies and herbs to feed and comfort our families. Many have free range chickens for fertilizer, eggs, and in the end "a chicken in every pot". We can't buy fuel efficient vehicles, so we try to do only one trip for a multitude of tasks and chores. We've handed down, handed over, and reused every piece of clothing until it's rags. Recently I was given 2 garbage bags full of "holy" jeans. Those will be converted to shopping, library book, towel bags. Possibly will be used to house other home made gifts. We reuse old comforters by making Crazy Quilt patterns on them with patches of "decent" used materials. My surrounding woods are left as is, wild, with the wild herbs, nuts, fruits and wild life giving us pleasure and food. We cannot install solar panels or wind turbines as the cost is astronomical. So we bundle up and keep the thermostats as low as possible in the winter (NW Minnesota) and use the "open windows on shady side" system for those hot summer days and nights. Recycling everything has been a way of life for so long, not just with recycle bins, but a neighborly "can you make anything with..." or "can you use..." network. We've used old plastic milk containers for clothespin holders (and, of course, we hang the clothes we wash by hand), for leak watering in the garden, for the toilet brush holder, etc. The Complete Frugal Gazette is my favorite idea book. Frugal and Green can be the same thing. another book is Country Living (a complete instruction manual for everything from planting to livestock to homesteading) by Emery. We consider 'becoming green' to be old news

Becka Schexnayder
4/4/2009 7:29:30 PM
I agree with the other pet owners. No way I am getting rid of my three dogs. Expectly when someone drives up in front of my house at 3:30 am. As for cats...didn't Europe, during the Middle Ages, have a black plague due to rodents? And the reason they were over-run with mice and rats? They thought cats were the animals of the devil and did their best to wipe them out...same as you are asking us to do. I guess I should go hunt down the mountain lions living near me and tell them they put out too much waste and sorry boys but you gotta go. And I know what will happen if I tell my neighbor that their herd of cows are ruining the ground water. Don't think I will see another tomorrow if I tell them they got to get rid of their 80 or so cows. Nope...my dogs are good protecter, and also let me know if there is a poision snake near the house. And last I agree with Sarah and others that have posted. We the people are the only animal on Mother Earth that has over populated. We are the only animal that has cause global warming.

Jan_2
4/4/2009 5:23:10 PM
I have read some wonderful ideas in these posts. Many new ones that I had not thought of. My family is trying to do our part in helping to reduce our carbon footprint. How ever, I do disagree with the persons who say not to have pets. Pets improve the quality of our lives in more ways than one. It is the pet owner who must take responsibility and have their dogs/cats, spayed and neutered and clean up after their animals waste. My animals are all rescued from the humane society, we don't do puppy mills or "registered" animals. I do use feline pine scoopable litter and flush the solid waste and add the remaining pine to the compost pile. I do pick up after my dog in my yard and on walks, bring the poop home and flush it. Some may say this is not enough, but I refuse to euthanize my animals. My belief system is not only do we need to reduce, reuse and recycle, but we need to show compassion to the fellow creatures we share this earth with. In my opinion, that does not include killing them.

Suburb Sally
4/4/2009 11:42:16 AM
While I would like to think I "walk the walk" as well as "talk the talk" I'm more often than not irritated by my fellow environmentalists and the selection of "green how to" books. I've found them to be preachy. What people who are not green but want to be is encouragement to make a change in their lifestyle and encouragement to do something different than the neighbors or their family. It is scary to do something different then you always have done, much more so if you're the only one in the neighborhood/family doing it. It took me many years to make the first step with any confidence. I have changed my lifestyle to a certain extent. I have my entire house on a greywater system. I have a compost toilet. I have no air conditioner. I have no heater. In the winter I bundle, in the summer I sit in the shade and to sleep at night wet down my clothes before going to bed. I eat organic. I raise chickens for eggs, rabbits for manure. I'm an ovo lacto vegetarian. Sorry, I just can't go that extra mile to vegan...I love my cheese and milk. I drive a high mileage car and hypermile so I've pushed the average mpg to 41 mpg. I have no TV, electronic appliances or radio other than my laptop and my police scanner. I buy 2nd hand clothes only. I garden and compost and took the 100 mile challenge. This year I hope to go for the 100 foot challenge. I have 15 trees on a fifth of an acre. All but 4 of those trees are fruit trees. I walk as much as possible and since cutting meat and soda from my diet have lost 30 pounds without any diet whatsoever. But, I'm apparently still not green. Why? Because I rescue cats. I have 30+ of them. They are not "outside" in the sense that they have an outdoor space that is roofed and screened off, keeping them from birds (they have decimated the rodent/gopher population in the run area) I feed them as many kitchen scraps as I can...one cat loves cooked oatmeal...and ho

Jenny Rasico
4/3/2009 8:12:00 PM
I would like to thank all of you for what positive ideas have been posted. I am relatively new to this lifestyle and have a young growing family. All of the things I learn I CAN do make FAR more difference in my lifestyle than anything someone can tell me not to do. If I fill my mind up with what is possible, I run out of room in my life for all the negative or not productive things , and no one has to waste breath on a lecture :)

Katie_11
4/3/2009 3:14:55 PM
Pets are not essential.. be responsible in disposing of them.. as in get them euthanized by a veterinarian. Transfer all those emotions to humanity.. I cant believe that someone who is thinking about the planet, will include their various pets' carbon footprints.. the time and money spent on raising the meat for the carnivores, the land taken from wildlife for such purposes.. at least the coyote eats and poops, nature.. recycles..

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:57:10 PM
Well those are all the things I am currently doing to save energy, money and the enviornment. I live in Albuquerque so I am limited in some things I can do. Plus I work from home so my driving is extreemly limited. I have been a conservationist since the 60's. Being a lover of wildlife on top of this has had me looking for ways to reduce waste. Reducing waste led to reducing power usage or using alternative power and reusing and recycling. With the changing of the social awareness, that this planet is our spaceship, these convictions have led to people in my position being called environmentalists or 'Greeners'. Whatever you call me, I am who I am - someone looking for the cheapest (while still having my TV, PC and CD's), easiest way to live with the least amount of money, time and effort into doing so. My advice would be to start simple and it will lead to other ways. Below is a list of items I have done over the years that have become second nature. As you get farther along the list you are moving thru time with some of the newer technological advancements. Basically reduce, reuse, recycle. I do this with just about everything even though my town doesn't even have blue recycle bins yet. Most of my stuff ends up with churches, Goodwill or community centers for their crafts and community services events. The rest usually gets to the recycle centers. I have very little landfill garbage. Many of my little re-use projects end up being donated to various community centers or charities and some I even sell at the local flea markets. I have yet to be turned down for any item.

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:49:11 PM
Continued: - As flowers start to wilt, take a used dryer sheet and wrap the flower heads in it. Then tie a scrap of fabric around it with a ribbon. Makes a great scented sachet for drawers and suitcases. - Turn old ceiling fan blades and pine cones into decorative fireplace fans. - Turn the tops of old TV trays into decorative plant coasters or boot trays for those wet and muddy shoes and boots by the front door. - Old flower pots (plaster, plastic or ceramic) can be broken up and used in the bottom of new flower pots or as mosaic pieces for table tops, etc. - Old water bottles were cut up into halves and quarters and added to a plaster mold of boulders. The base was a 42 inch old kiddie pool with a 30 gallon fish tank pump and some clear fish tank hose. The plastic bottles filled the inside of the mold and the water trickles down them. They can't be seen. This is my water feature. You gotta remember I live in the desert and didn't want to have evaporation. So this gives me the soothing sound of water but very little evaporation. I only fill the well once a summer. - Old baskets, lunchboxes, bowls, cans and the like can be lined with plastic grocery bags or used ziplock bags, rubber mats, etc. and turned into planters or flower pots.

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:48:16 PM
continued: - Save the vegetable scraps from preparing salads etc. Put them in a zip lock bag and freeze them. Use this for soup and stew stocks. You put them in cheese cloth and cook or boil with the item you are making. Then compost it. - My neighbor has his own tool that chops/grinds/mulches his yard trimmings. He also uses it for meat, poultry and fish bones then adds to his compost. - Avid reader? I am. To save money I take my used books to a book swap or a used book store. Then purchase my new reading material there at the same time. Many hospitals, dentists and doctor offices will take your old magazines for their waiting rooms. - Old CD's and DVD's even old LP's that are no longer usable but still have their shape can be made into coasters or hotplates. You glue a same size piece of cardboard to it and then cover with scrap fabric and or paint. For hot plates I usually add some bunting as well to the top. - Not many big fat catalogs out there now days, but in the past I used to take the old Sears, Montgomery Ward or JC Penny catalog and turn it into a door stop. You fold half of each page down. Fold then glue or staple the front cover to the back with a piece of knoted rope thru the middle and paint. There ya go a door stop. - Old computer equipment can be recycled nowdays. Taking a lesson from the past try to find an organization that takes them if workable. They clean them up and give to low income children. No these kids don't end up with the latest, greatest or fastest but they do get to hit the internet, write and print reports and make graphs. So yes that old word processing and spreadsheet software is reusable too. Community centers in low income neighborhoods or churches that do work in 3rd world countries often take these usable older computers as well. - As flowers start to wilt, take a used dryer sheet and wrap the flower heads in it. Then tie a scrap of fabric around it with a ribbon. Makes a great scent

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:45:53 PM
Continued: - If clothes are too worn to be useful as clothes. Find a craft club that turns these into other useful items like rugs, cushions, carryalls, etc. or keep them for your own washable utility rags. Old jeans, shorts and sweatshirts make great carryalls. Material scraps make great stuffing for cushions and pillows. - Utilize local produce and products where possible. The shorter the distribution to point of sale the lower the carbon footprint and often the quality is better or the product more unique. - I recently had to replace the flooring in the kitchen/family room. I didn't have much money to do this and a wanted quality, green product. For about 6 months I called and collected the scrap flooring from builders and floor stores. In my case only bamboo. These flooring scrapes would have ended up in a recycling center or the land fill and most were free. When I had enough scrapes I had the floor laid, sanded and re-stained. Different bamboo sources, shorter board lengths, different grains and even different colors since not all the original stains were the same. One very unique, natural, renewable, durable floor. - Like to grow fruits and vegetables? Don't get stuck in the row rut. Do intensive or companion gardening. Less pests, less fertilizer, less weeding. Example: Sunflower, corn, squash or zucchini with pole beans. Carrots with tomatoes. - Compost instead of garbage disposal. There is even a new product for in-house composting. My friend has it and it doesn't smell. Once the compost is complete - out to the garden. Compost yard waste instead of sending it to the landfill. There are many new composters that look nice and don't stink. There is even a product for composting doggie do-do. I am told it works for used cat litter too.

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:44:22 PM
continued: - Buy bulk where possible, redistribute to containers for immediate use and store or freeze the remainder. I buy spices, cereal, flour and rice in bulk. Put what I need in the kitchen in smaller reusable containers and store or freeze the rest. Re-filling the immediate use containers as needed. - Reduce the use of disposable items. Swifter, dust rags, towels, napkins, placemats, plates, utensils, etc. If cold water washing, it is cheaper to wash these and reuse than it is to use and throw away for the landfill. - Filter your drinking/cooking water instead of buying bottled water. It is much cheaper to wash containers or replace filters than it is to use bottled water and send the empty to the landfill. - Reuse whatever possible. I reuse ziplock bags among other things. I turn them inside out and put thru the dishwasher or soak them in a bowl with bleach then reuse them. If the bag was used for a food item that I don't trust the cleaning of for reuse with another food item - I use the bags for storing thread, buttons, hooks, nuts, bolts, nails, zippers, game pieces, etc. Multiple uses before it is recycled. You can reuse dryer sheets by soaking them in liquid fabric softener and using in the dryer again. I get about six uses out of each dryer sheet. I have even used them on my Swifter dusters!!!. They work great. - Recycle whatever possible. A friend of mine built me a small Recycle Center. It has 4 drawers. The bottom holds paper, then comes glass, then metal, then plastic. Each drawer holds one of those plastic grocery store bags. So ALL gets recycled and each is small enough that even my 3 year old grandson can take out the recyclables. Newspapers are great for cleaning windows!!!! Then recycle them.

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:43:05 PM
continued: - Study your lighting. Most times you can stay with a low wattage bulb if you have the proper reflector for it. Think of a lighthouse. It is a very small bulb in lighthouses. The penetrating light comes from the reflector which also happens to magnify the light. - Car pool if possible. I organized a car pool for shopping in my neighborhood. Once every three months we take turns taking everyone around all the warehouse stores, malls, home improvement stores and such. We make one circle around town to hit each one of these places. It is almost a full day event. Side benefit is knowing and networking with your neighbors. - Insulate and seal windows and doors. This can be accomplished with a little putty, thermal drapes/shades or weather stripping. If you need to replace an exterior door, get an insulated one. Instead of replacing windows, get storm windows. There is a new type that is applied inside instead of outside that seal the existing window in the process and even add the look and feel of window molding. Much cheaper than window replacement. - Rechargeable batteries - The shortest and most efficient cycle in dishwashers. Or consider this - I had to replace my dishwasher recently and got two drawer dishwashers. One drawer is smaller than the other. I use this one most often as it is just me in the house now. But when I have guests I use both. Less water, less energy. - Take advantage of crock pots, pressure cookers and cast iron Dutch ovens. IE: Avoid major appliance use like ovens if at all possible. Plan oven use so you are making more items and freezing for later use. Start with the lowest temperature foods first and work up to the highest. By reducing the pre-heat time you are saving energy and thus money.

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:39:48 PM
- Plan errands so the trip takes the least amount of mileage as possible with no criss-crossing routes. - Look for products with the least amount of packaging. This means a lot of my meat, poultry, sea food, fruits and vegetables are purchased from local vegetable stands and the butcher section rather than the pre-packaged sections of the supermarket. - By used instead of new where possible. You might even luck out and end up with a valuable collectible. - Try to purchase multi-functional appliances and furniture. The less clutter, the cheaper and easier it is to heat to cool your rooms. Also to someone as lazy as me, the cleaning is needed. Under bed dresser platform beds. Folding tables that can be a sofa or Huntsman table until unfolded and it stores the chairs to boot. Sofa beds, futon sofas with drawers. The drawers can hold the bedding. - Reduce clutter. Your heating/cooling systems are doing their job based on the CUBIC feet in a room. That includes cabinets, drawers, bookcases, hutches and closets. If you haven't used something in the last year or two and it is not a collectible or sentimental - get rid of it. You are paying to heat and cool to keep items you are not utilizing. Not to mention cleaning them. - Turn off faucets when brushing your teeth or shaving and use a cup of water or washrag instead. - Get shower heads that are not only low water use but aerate the water and have a turn off valve on the head so when you wash your hair or body you turn the water off while soaping. This way the temperature is set when you switch it back on to rinse. - Utilize Smart Switches and Power Strips to turn off appliances and electrical devices that are not in use. Remember that most of today's TV's, PC's, microwaves and coffee pots are pulling electricity even when not in use. Anything that has an 'instant on' feature or clock on it is always pulling electricity. - Study your lighting. Most times you can stay with

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:27:01 PM
I have nothing against hunting for food. I have nothing against loggers. However, hunting for the sake of a kill is wastefull. Logging is a needed aspect of our lifestyles but I do believe it can be done in a more economical way that also helps the enviornment. Spotted owls, deer and all the other wildlife is a necessary part to maintaining our spaceship earth. I find it very hard to believe we have explored our moon and havn't come up with a way to harvest our needed timber and still keep the environment intact for the wildlife, not to mention keeping people employed. Why must we humans only side on either the far left or the far right were enviornmentalism is concerned? Can't we use our extensive brain power to come up with better solutions? When I mentioned the Home Usage Audit in a previous comment, I was agreeing with the comment that too many people have homes that are way too large for the number of people and their activities in them. Such a waste of everything - resources, energy, space ... I live in the NM high desert and can't believe the lawns of Kentucky Bluegrass the water features and all the plants that are native to wetlands rather than the desert. Soo much non-natvie stuff has been planted in this area that evaporative coolers no longer work because the humidity has increased so much from all the watering of these extensive non-native landscapes. So sad ...

James_91
4/3/2009 2:25:03 PM
I wonder why & how my dog's waste products are significantly different than those of the many coyotes that inhabit the hills around my house? Most of the other ideas are good, but I have to challenge the programmable thermostat. Yes, it works if you live a standard commuter lifestyle, go off to work every day on a regular schedule, and get your heat from an oil or gas-fired furnace. For those of us with a different way of life, it's just a waste of money - not to mention that interfacing one to solar heat & wood stoves is a non-trivial project :-)

Michael Brown_4
4/3/2009 2:09:01 PM
Sorry for the double post, and here's the end of my original that got cut off (if it matters...): ... as much as we don't seem to be able to talk about it rationally, human population reduction and limitation should be the primary item on any list of things to "Green our Lives". ** Kudos to Sarah for starting the population discussion!!

Criss Kraus
4/3/2009 2:08:57 PM
Pets do not create the un-green life as much as the rest of our actions or lack there of do. That's like saying eat less meat to reduce the steer farts. Dumb. It's how we take care of our pets and how the steer are fed and butchered that create the un-green results. Meat trimmings used to be used to make soap and candles. Steer fed with natural products produce less farts than synthetic feed fed steer. There are composters for pet wastes as well as natural food products. Why not look at landscaping? Like where people in the desert have huge water features and pools? Where non-native plants are used in abundance? Just replacing all the washers to all of my faucets and hoses saved me $20 in the first month!!!!! I just was unaware of all the sneak water usage going on. I agree with most of the other suggestions. However I would have to add a Home Usage Audit to the list. Many of us have purchased homes that have rooms we either do not utilize very often, not to mention the items in them including closests or are in a layout that creates more walls, halls, doors and archways than is needed. The more walls, halls, doors an archways the harder the heating and cooling systems work - which results in more heating and cooling costs and energy being used. Talk to your parents, grandparents and other people that lived thru the depression. There are tons of things we can do by following their lead that save energy, money and reduce polution and they won't change our lifestyles drastically or cost a fortune to implement.

T_15
4/3/2009 1:57:36 PM
Comment directed to PL in the Northwest: Please shut your pie-hole - you are a dis-service to all of us other "back-to-the-landers". Yuck!

Michael Brown_4
4/3/2009 1:37:30 PM
Couple of things come to mind: 1) I'm still confused and disheartened by the "debate" that rages over human population. PL, I suggest a Biology/Ecology class at the local Community College, because you are quite uninformed about how animal population limits work. Just because you, or people you know or listen to or whatever, think that humans can do whatever they want *without consequences*, doesn't make you correct. Humans are actually *animals*, and we have limits on our population placed on us just like every other species. We are going to have to seriously pay the piper on human population growth, and it will be within your children's lifetimes, PL - not the best legacy to leave your kids, that whole "billions of people starving to death" thing. (In fact, we're paying the piper now to a large extent, but we haven't started into the serious "die-off" stage, yet...). Take a look at: http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-international.html Hard to say that our human population is "optimal" or a "non-issue" after reading those stats, isn't it? 2) None of the 15 items on the list actually matter - in global impact - when compared to human population. Just imagine, say, 5 million humans living on the entire Earth; what kind of lifestyle could those people enjoy without really worrying about it? Each person could have a couple SUVs. They could use virgin paper for tissue and lumber and paper and heat, without too much serious damage. They could safely ignore most of the stuff on Dan Chiras' list. And I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I put species extinction on the list of important indicators about whether our lifestyles are sustainable - well, with 5 million people, the species extinction rate would greatly decrease, perhaps even stop, if they were really, really careful. Anyway, point is, as much as we don't seem to be a

Michael Brown_4
4/3/2009 1:36:41 PM
Couple of things come to mind: 1) I'm still confused and disheartened by the "debate" that rages over human population. PL, I suggest a Biology/Ecology class at the local Community College, because you are quite uninformed about how animal population limits work. Just because you, or people you know or listen to or whatever, think that humans can do whatever they want *without consequences*, doesn't make you correct. Humans are actually *animals*, and we have limits on our population placed on us just like every other species. We are going to have to seriously pay the piper on human population growth, and it will be within your children's lifetimes, PL - not the best legacy to leave your kids, that whole "billions of people starving to death" thing. (In fact, we're paying the piper now to a large extent, but we haven't started into the serious "die-off" stage, yet...). Take a look at: http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-international.html Hard to say that our human population is "optimal" or a "non-issue" after reading those stats, isn't it? 2) None of the 15 items on the list actually matter - in global impact - when compared to human population. Just imagine, say, 5 million humans living on the entire Earth; what kind of lifestyle could those people enjoy without really worrying about it? Each person could have a couple SUVs. They could use virgin paper for tissue and lumber and paper and heat, without too much serious damage. They could safely ignore most of the stuff on Dan Chiras' list. And I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I put species extinction on the list of important indicators about whether our lifestyles are sustainable - well, with 5 million people, the species extinction rate would greatly decrease, perhaps even stop, if they were really, really careful. Anyway, point is, as much as we don't seem to be a

Ryan_19
4/3/2009 11:36:37 AM
Thanks, Sarah and Leslie...I absolutely agree and couldn't have stated those ideas more clearly than you've done!!! For MC: there's a fantastic, environmentally friendly cat litter (Feline Pine) made from compacted nuggets of pine...after removing and flushing solid waste in the toilet, the remnants of the litter can be composted...can't get more green than that!

Bob Robblee
4/3/2009 9:41:19 AM
I would like to add a note about household garbage control. First, separate the bin for garbage into 4 sections, one for paper trash, one for metals, one for plastics and one for glass. Clean the food containers and recycle them. Recycle the paper or if you burn wood, use it for fire starter. Add a covered mulch bucket for vegetable waste under the sink and add 2" of water on the bottom. Feed cooked scraps to the dog or cat.{Living on an acreage makes having a cat an excellent rodent invasion prevention method.} The mulch is composted in the shell of a salvaged automatic washing machine. Burn biofuels to heat your home. Forget the CFB conversion and replace incandescents with LEDs which reduce the energy consumption for lighting by 98%.

Janet_3
4/3/2009 8:35:31 AM
You forgot a very important point, the size of your dwelling. We live in a popular retirement area. Because houses and building costs are much lower in our area than in the major cities, retirees are moving here in droves. They are building huge 4,000 square foot homes for two people in what was once beautiful native habitat. These retirees prefer gated communities that require manicured landscape and many restrictions such as no drying clothes out of doors, planting vegetables, and compost piles. Also, each of these so-called retirement communities has its own high maintenance golf course. In my opinion, no amount of energy saving light bulbs or recycling effort is going to make a dent in their carbon footprint.

David LaFerney
3/14/2009 8:47:37 PM
For the third time in the past year the police in my area have raided a "puppy mill" The last one had more than 300 neglected animals living in tiny cages full of their own filth. There is only one reason why people run these operations - to make money. So how's this - 1)Keep as many pets as you want, but have them spayed or neutered so that you don't add to the problem. 2)Never buy a dog or cat from someone who is selling it for profit. Even if everyone stopped buying pets it's unlikely that the supply would dry up any time soon.

Kathleen_18
3/6/2009 11:27:05 AM
I am an urban homesteader in progress, with a home on about 2/3 of an acre. I am not rich, so replacing appliances before they wear out is not an option for me. My washer, dryer (used occasionally), and refrigerator are all still going after 25 years. When they finally drop, I will replace using the mini-max model. That is, I will get the most energy efficiency for the least cost. To help my old toilets use less water, I have placed several bricks in their tanks. This is an old hint from the '60s. I also have key-wound clocks throughout the house. They use no electricity and keep on ticking during power outages. I reuse animal food (rescued dogs, cats) and bird seed bags for trash collection and storage (they often have linings to keep damp contents in and critters out). Because rain is very scarce in the southwest desert (around 9 inches a year), I have invested in a series of rain barrels that currently can hold up to 365 gallons. I've placed those on downspouts from my house roof, but will try to increase the number of barrels each year until I've used up all of the potential drip areas of my artificial watershed. I wish that I were handier than I am, even simple projects confound me. Ah well.

P L
3/6/2009 1:41:39 AM
Reducing the population of people is great, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. This world is PEOPLE FIRST, ANIMALS SECOND. I'm all for taking care of the earth, but not at the expense of humans. Here in the Northwest, thousands of loggers went on welfare, and families suffered because some pointy head in an office decided that we were damaging habitat for the spotted owl. I think the spotted owl is great... with a little dressing and some green beans on the side. Problem solved. Controlling how many children you have is a choice. Now either that means a lot of people stay celibate and don't have sex, or you take your chances with those horribly synthetic, non-environmental latex/rubber CONDOMS... GASP! Or you use chemical or mechanical means to kill the fetus by the various means... the "pill", the "morning after pill", the uterus wire thingie, the "shot", or just yanking the poor critter out of your uterus with an industrial vacum with your legs up in stirrups. Ya, but hey, all in the name of environmentalism, right? Now we are getting into the whole can of worms about controlling human population. How bout we all just try to live as responsibly as we can, and let our actions do the talking instead of telling people what we think should be done and pushing our views on others as fact instead of opinion. That's just my two cents worth.

MC_2
3/5/2009 7:30:56 PM
We have allowed domestic pets to become grossly overpopulated. Because it's cheap and easy-- at least you think it is 'til you try to take care of all those fuzzy offspring nobody wants Try taking better care of the pets you have. I wouldn't be living with 10 cats right now-- and wanting to puke at the mountains of litter they produce 'cause when you've got 10 cats it's all you can do to afford clay litter-- if more people would spay/neuter and look at Kitty as a member of the family instead of a possession to be jettisoned when s/he becomes inconvenient. Two were pound rescues; the others were thrown out 'cause the new apartment didn't take pets or someone wanted the pet fee for something else or nobody bothered to "fix" the cat (which if you're broke is REALLY REALLY CHEAP through your local Humane Society), and the cat did what cats do and the people didn't want to deal with it. Do you know bears actually crap in these woods?!?!? ;-) And coyotes and deer and turkeys and dear merciful heavens, don't drink behind a duck... Does anyone know how to make that corn litter stuff?? It is the only thing other than clay they will use but I cannot afford to keep it all the time from the store. 40+ mpg isn't realistic for quite a few of us, either. I can manage to drive less, and to maintain my compact so it continues to get 32mpg, but I can choose: Energy audit and more insulation (lots more insulation, lol), replacing the car with a high-mpg hybrid, or having some savings to land on if things go badly. Maybe I should see about a loan for that Insight... OK, they are good ideas by and large, and I've done over half of them, but too many are not sustainable for anyone making less than $50-60K a year, let alone for the massive numbers of people living on way, way less than that and stuck in a destructive paradigm 'cause it was the only one they knew when they made their choice

Sarah_27
3/5/2009 6:36:29 PM
Instead of talking about pets, many of whom are waiting in shelters for adoption, why not mention something people can do that will can do even more to help the earth---limit the number of children you choose to have? Each child has a much greater environmental footprint than a pet. Feeding people uses a tremendous amount of acreage and wildlife habitat as well. And how many pets do you know who wear disposable diapers for 2 years, drive cars when they turn 16, heat, cool and furnish their own homes, mow lawns, purchase clothing from across the globe, throw away tons of trash, and consume conspicuously for an average of 70-80 years? Whatever happened talking about zero population growth? Let's get a handle on human population first.

Leslie_13
3/4/2009 4:30:36 PM
I always enjoy good green tips, and this piece does have a lot of great ideas, however, one is just wrong: reduce the number of pets. First, the two reasons the author lists for doing this are based on the assumption that the person is not a good pet owner and lets the cat roam outside. I keep my two cats indoors. They are not killing birds or pooping all over the yard. I also use environmentally friendly litter. What does the author suggest should happen to the many animals overflowing from our shelters if we all stop getting pets? It's not like because we get pets, there are more of them, that is, if you adopt from a shelter and not from a breeder. The hundreds of animals in shelters are still pooping and eating - whether they are in a happy home or not. The issue here is not about how many pets you have but whether they are a) spayed or neutered b) kept indoors c) properly cleaned up after and c) gotten from a shelter as opposed to a breeder and d) using environmentally healthy pet products. I think instead this item should have been titled Become a Green Pet Owner. Getting pets is not the problem -just improper, thoughtless care.







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