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by Tracy Will
Tue, Jan 13th 2009 08:45 am

Since we're still early in the New Year and many of us are still working diligently on our resolutions, I thought I'd follow up on last month's newsletter and talk about some of the things I've done and plan to do to live greener.  My top two are among the easiest things that everyone can do and make a noticeable difference at the same time. 

I switched over to all compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) in all of my light fixtures.  CFL's use an average of 75 percent less energy and last an average of 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.  They cost more up front, but if you spend $5 on a CFL compared to $1 on an incandescent and it lasts 10 times longer, you've already saved 50 percent, not to mention what you'll save on your electric bill once you've changed over all of your lights.  Because they contain a small amount of mercury, you'll need to recycle them, which is now as easy as dropping them off at your local Home Depot.  For more information on CFL's visit

I've also switched over to all reusable shopping bags.  Most stores now carry them near the check-out area in the $1 to $2 price range, depending on the size of the bag, for a light-weight reusable shopping bag.  I started by purchasing a couple bags from each store I shopped at, so that I now have plenty of bags for even my biggest grocery trip.  My philosophy is that as long as I have one bag from their store, they shouldn't care if I'm using bags from other stores too.  I keep them in my car, and I have enough now that even if I leave some in the house, I always have at least a few in the car.  Aside from their environmental benefits, I just plain like the reusable bags better.  They hold more and you can put them over your shoulder, which means fewer trips to and from the car when you get home, and they're much sturdier.

I rent, but I'm fortunate because my landlord put in all low-flow fixtures, is gradually replacing all of the old windows with new, Energy Star rated windows, sealed up the leaky doors, and even installed a programmable thermostat at my request.  To add to the energy savings, I've put plastic on the leaky windows and made sure to program my thermostat so that the heat goes down at night and during the week when I'm not at home.  I've also committed myself to purchasing only Energy Star rated appliances in the future, which started with the purchase of a new air conditioner and dishwasher.  For this past holiday, I replaced about half of my lights with LED's including a couple strands of solar-powered lights, and set aside my old lights to either donate or recycle.

As you may have guessed, I already make a big deal about recycling, making sure to sort out everything that I can for curbside recycling.  I also donate old clothes, toys and other reusable items to either friends and family or charity.  This year I plan to step it up a notch by having containers for other recyclable items that aren't collected at the curb.  I've already started saving old batteries for recycling and purchased rechargeable batteries for future use.  I'd also like to start recycling more plastics, only categories 1 and 2 can go to the curb, and look into composting.

Another goal I have for this year is to zap my phantom loads by purchasing "Smart Strips" for my computer and other electronics.  Finally, I want to be a smarter shopper.  I'm going to make a concerted effort this year to pay more attention and purchase items that have recycled content, are made locally and contain less harmful chemicals whenever possible.

For more information on these and other ways to live greener, check our list of Green New Year's Resolutions.

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Ed wrote: At Saint-Gobain Structural Ceramics, we built three clearly marked boxes out of 1/2" plywood with handles that are marked for battery recycling.


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