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Two Big New Year’s Resolutions: Ten Ways to Accomplish Them

Monday, January 2, 2012

recyle Forget all those resolutions you’re going to forget about anyway and make two resolutions that could at least change the U S of A, if not the world.

I. Stop Wasting Energy.We Americans are among the top nine countries (of 130) in the world, keeping company with oil-rich wastrels like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, with the chillers for their air-conditioned ski slopes running under the desert sun. And it’s not that you won’t benefit pocket-wise, as you will see your electric bills go down. Here’s what you can do.

1. Turn off lights you’re not using for more than a few minutes. Your bedroom light doesn’t need to burn all evening, nor does your desk lamp when you’re watching TV.

2. Heed the calls to unplug your vampire chargers and disconnect your cable TV and audio systems while you sleep. All those little clocks and indicator lamps that stay lit are each sucking their little quota of power, which can add up amazingly. You can buy special plugs for each system with a remote for under $20, so, click, click, click and they’re off. Same in the morning, and they’re back on. (If you still have a land line, make sure your phone is not on one of these lines.)

3. Turn up your A/C. Face it, if 70 degrees F is too cool in winter, why should you insist on keeping your place that cool in summer? When you’re sitting around, 76 degrees is perfectly comfortable. Using that setting can cut your summer cooling bill by about 5 to 8 per cent per degree above 68. If your summer bill is 200/month, and you’ve been chilling out at 70 degrees, 76 degrees could see something like a $50 decrease per summer month. Not too shabby.

4. Don’t run your dishwasher or your washing machine unless it’s reasonably full. Running a dishwasher two or three times a week uses a lot less electricity than running it once a day. And if your dishwasher is of a reasonably recent vintage, don’t rinse your dishes. It’s a hangover from the days you really needed to do that and a profligate waste of water. Removing that very occasional stuff that remains caught in the tines of a fork or the recesses of a mug takes a lot less water and human energy than daily rinsing.

5. Above all, don’t use incandescent light bulbs, but replace them with CFL’s and LED’s. The mercury in a CFL isn’t much bigger than the heads of two pins and places like Home Depot will recycle them for you — no sweat. And don’t be put off by the propaganda about CFL light being ugly: CFL’s are available in warm and cold hues and can shed a pleasant light. At the same time, LED’s are ratcheting down in price and fabulous in their efficiency. With eithr, you’ll make your costs back the first year — and ride the savings forever after.

II. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. Very few of the things you throw away are destined for a landfill. If you’ve got a back yard, even food waste can be composted. (Composting is not recommended for apartment dwellers, although there are options out there if you’re hardcore.) If we recycled everything that is readily recyclable, our need to wrest so much new stuff out of the earth would be immediately reduced by vast amounts (the subject of future posts). This is something that could literally change the world in a few weeks if enough people did it seriously. All it would take is enough of us, just doing it.

1. Recycle your plastics like a good citizen. Currently most cities, like New York, only recycle plastics with the numbers 1 and 2 in the triangle embossed on plastics. In the meantime, it’s hard to find a place that accepts plastic containers labeled 3, 4 and 5. Number 5 is polypropylene, which includes containers that hold yogurt and other dairy foods, takeout containers and prescription bottles. These are now accepted by WholeFoods and a few online places. (No, that box from the salad bar is not yet recyclable most places, but it will be.) It will take time, but sooner or later all plastics will either be biodegradable or recyclable.

2. Recycle your glass and metal like its your religion, because there is to need for them to become trash. All metal and all glass is fully recyclables. Scrap metal of any kind is in high demand across the world, and every piece of it that is recycled doesn’t have to have its equivalent dug out of the ground, with the damage that attends most mining operations.

3. Recycle your paper. That means the kind of paper that comes in the mail, the pages you write on, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and the like. It does not include used kleenexes and napkins, and the oily paper that the butcher wrapped you salami in — that’s still garbage. Paper is in demand and will be processed and reused.

4. Recycle your electronics. Almost all computers are replaced by the end of three years. Cell phones and music players have an even shorter life. Old stereo system litter the landscape. If you live in a big city, your Best Buy store and some other consumer electronics retailers will take your stuff. Wherever you are, check out this EPA website for directions to recyclers in your area.

5. Recycle your mind. We live in a throw-away culture. When we are finished with furniture, clothing, kitchenware, tools — we think garbage. Other cultures think: who can I give or sell this to? A lot of what you are ready to throw out is probably not in bad shape. (I’m not talking here of torn and stained clothing or that credenza missing a leg and a door.) Think Salvation Army. Think Goodwill. All it takes is enough care about the earth to make the effort to pack it up and get it there.

All the best for your and yours in 2012 (and no more wars, please)!

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One Response to “Two Big New Year’s Resolutions: Ten Ways to Accomplish Them”

  1. great post — lots of excellent advice here. thanks for pulling this one together. i’ve bookmarked it for reference throughout the year. :)

    #3360

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