Thursday, April 12, 2007

Earth Day is Coming...Simple Ways to Celebrate

Global Warming is not a new concept, however there have been multiple recent attempts to bring the ideas to the forefront of the American mind set. Through efforts such as Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth, the environment is now a hot-topic in American policymaking. While most scholars and legislators have come to the consensus that global climate change is currently taking place, there are still some that denounce the phenomena, such as our very own Jim Inhofe (R-OK), making it nearly impossible to pass legislation that would protect the earth's water, land, and atmosphere.
While it is very important to contact your congressman about your stance on environmental issues, there are very simple steps you could take in your everyday life in order to lessen the impact that you personally have on the environment. Even if you choose only one or two of the following suggestions to make a part of your day to day routine, lessening your impact creates a ripple effect. Hopefully your family, children, friends, neighbors, and coworkers will follow your lead, and person by person we can turn the whole state green.

Things to Consider...
1) Hang a clothesline.
There are now high efficiency drying machines that use less energy than the traditional alternative, however, using a clothesline eliminates the machinery entirely. Aside from saving 5-10% of your annual residential electricity use, your clothes will last longer, and smell fresher. (Warning: your Homeowners Association may object to this. Aside from blatantly telling them how ridiculous their limitations are, visit this website for tips on how to get them to change their clothesline policy.)

2) Remember the 3 R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
Try to buy products that come in the least amount of packaging possible, and be sure to support those few companies that package their products with recyclable and/or biodegradable materials. Moreover, if you come across products that can be used for alternate purposes, keep them and use them over and over. Lastly, recycle all of the paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum you come across. While all products individually tell you if they can be recycled or not, recycling just half of your household waste will save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. If you live in a city such as Norman, which does not offer curbside recycling, be sure to put pressure on city lawmakers to enact policy that would allow for recycling to be part of the waste disposal program. The easier it is to recycle, the more likely individuals are to participate, and lessen their impact on the earth.

3) Change a light bulb
Incandescent light bulbs have actually been outlawed in parts of Europe because of their inefficiency, and atmospheric emissions. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a Compact fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb, will save you $30 over the life of the bulb. Moreover, if every family in the United States replaced just 1 regular light bulb with a CFL, 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases would be eliminated annually (which is about the same as taking 7.5 million automobiles off the roads).

4) Drive Less, and Drive Smarter
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that driving less cuts the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by your car. No matter if you drive a Mini Cooper or an H2 Hummer, driving less is a good thing. Try walking or biking to work or school, or even using mass transit systems or carpooling. That being said, if you must drive all the time, it is important not to be driving a larger vehicle. Aside from costing you more to fuel up all the time, they release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In addition, make sure that you remove all unnecessary items from your car. Extra weight means that more gas is burned on every trip. Remember, each gallon of gas you save keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

5) Use Less Hot Water
In order to save energy (and money), set your water heater to 120 degrees, and wrap it in a blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Also, many homes in Oklahoma were built before the advent of low-flow showerheads. By installing these environmentally-designed showerheads in your home, you will save hot water, and avoid adding about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually. Many companies these days offer cold water washing detergent for your clothes and dishes. Be sure to buy these products, and use the cold water settings on your household machines, which can save about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. What is great about saving hot water is that when you make environmental steps in the right direction, your wallet will also benefit.

6) Turn things off
While this tip may seem like a no-brainer, you would be surprised to find out how many people leave lights on, and water dripping when they are not home. When you inadvertently leave lights, the television, the radio, and/or the computer on, you are wasting electric energy (and the money that you work hard for). With energy in short supply these days, and few green energy-producing alternatives in use, wasting what we have is unnecessary and harmful to the environment. This is the same for water usage. When you are brushing your teeth, or washing your car, use the water flow only when you need it, rather than just allowing water to run down the drain or into the street. This will go a long way in conserving what little usable fresh water Earth has left.

7)Go Green in your home
Check with your energy provider to see if they offer wind power options. If they do, ask that your home is supplied with that electricity, as it is virtually nonpolluting, and is a renewable energy source. The more people that rally behind green energy, the more responsive companies will be in providing environmental alternatives to its customers.

8) Plant a Tree
I'll bet you thought that you would go through the entire list without a single "hippie" suggestion, but alas, I had to put one in. Trees are very important to Earth, as they absorb carbon dioxide, and release clean oxygen. Unfortunately, with the increase in harmful human activity, there are no longer enough trees to counter human emissions. Therefore, if you plant just one tree, you will be essentially helping the natural ecosystem clean up after us, as 1 tree will absorb about 1 ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

In helping the environment through completing just a few of the above tips, you will not only feel better about yourself and the Earth, but you should also save some money along the way. Make it your mission see that this Earth Day (Sunday, April 22nd) is the most widely celebrated Earth Day since its inception in 1970. Together, we can make a world of change in hopes of a strong, and healthy future.

To educate yourself on Global Warming, click here.

-Nicole Morgan

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