1. The birds and bees Birds and insects pollinate about 80 percent of the world’s food, says Rose Getch of the National Gardening Association. You can help by planting a pollinator garden. Learn more at www.kidsgardening.com.
2. Eat your veggies Try taking a break from meat once a week. According to the environmental-advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists, meat production is energy-inefficient-it takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. Check localharvest.org to find locally produced foods, which cuts energy used for transportation.
3. Share a ride Approximately 18,000 Oak Parkers drive alone to work, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Public transit saves an estimated 1.4 billion gallons of gas each year, saving about 14 million tons of CO2, according to the American Public Transportation Association. If you can’t take the bus, why not carpool?
4. Turn on the tap Why drink Lake Michigan water instead of fancy bottled water? Well, “it takes a lot of oil to make and ship those bottles, and once they’re empty, most wind up in landfills or as litter,” says Jen Boulden, cofounder of the online environmental community idealbite.com. If you’re squeamish, buy a water filter. For comparisons, go to waterfiltercomparisons.net.
5. Give plastic a rest Plastic baggies are swelling landfills, but every day people pull out their sandwich bags as they get ready to send the kids off to school. If you’re looking for a safer alternative, try long-lasting ceramic or glass when you’re microwaving, or sturdy stainless steel when you’re not.
6. Bright idea Change your traditional light bulbs to compact Energy Star fluorescent bulbs, which use one-fourth the energy and last 10 times as long, saving an average of $30 over each bulb’s lifetime. Remember to dispose of them safely, though, as fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury. The nearest disposal sites are at 2000 S. 25th Ave. in Broadview and 1150 N. Branch St. in Chicago.
7. Go native with your lawn Native landscaping that is drought-tolerant and doesn’t require significant lawn care equipment will consume the fewest resources. When you do use lawn care equipment, try using manually-powered tools, such as a reel mower. And try composting leaves and yard waste on site so that they don’t have to be trucked miles away.
8. Park the car Next time you need to take a trip around town, walk, bike, carpool, or take the el. Or, if you must drive, why not try a fuel-efficient hybrid? With gas approaching $4 a gallon, you’ll save money, too.
9. Let it all hang out A recent study by Cambridge University’s Institute of Manufacturing found that 60 percent of the energy associated with a piece of clothing is in the wash. “Over its lifetime, a T-shirt can send up to 9 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the air,” according to a Time article.
The solution? Use warm, instead of hot, water; wash only full loads; buy new, energy-efficient machines; or better yet, hang-dry your clothes. “Altogether you can reduce the CO2 created by your laundry up to 90 percent.”
10. Pay online Bills, bills, bills. And they’re all on paper, usually one-sided, and sent through the mail. If every U.S. home went paper-free and paid its bills online, the switch would save 1.6 billion tons a year of solid waste and cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.1 million tons a year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.
Source: Newsweek, Time, idealbite.com, energystar.gov, Michael Iversen, 2000 U.S. Census