Reducing carbon footprint can ease conscience -- and fatten wallet
Don't be overwhelmed.
Being green isn't as hard or as expensive as you might think. Your life doesn't have to change drastically. Just take one green step.
David Bach, author of "Go Green, Live Rich," says he fell into being environmentally conscious by accident - he bought an apartment in a leading green building in New York because it was close to his son's favorite park.
Still, once his allergies and his son's mild asthma cleared up, the best-selling author says it wasn't long before he was exploring other easy ways to be green.
Pretty soon, he was reducing his carbon footprint and, better yet, saving money. He's collected his tips in his new book. We've culled some for your family to consider:
Calculating carbon footprints
"Calculating your carbon footprint - using simple online tools that take about three minutes - is one of the easiest things you can do now to start going green," Bach writes.
He offers the following Web sites with the tool: www.earthlab.com/carbonprofile.; www.fightglobalwarming.com/carboncalculator.cfm or www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html.
This is a hard one, Bach admits. The National Association of Diaper Services estimates that 18 billion disposable diapers end up in landfills each year, taking hundreds of years to decompose. Still, cloth diapers, given the water and detergent needed to clean them, aren't eco-friendly, either.
"It turns out that diapers are a matter of personal choice," Bach writes. "If you do opt for cloth, be sure to use biodegradable, phosphate-free detergent."
He also suggests new gDiapers (www.gDiapers.com), which are cloth diapers with flushable, biodegradable inserts made of tree-farmed fluff pulp. You can even compost the wet ones, according to the Web site.
Other baby-related "green" tips from Bach: Make your own baby food, or at least recycle all those glass jars; buy gently used baby clothes; and nurse if possible - it's free, better for your baby, and there's no manufacturing, packaging or shipping involved.
Did you know that even when your appliances are off, they are still using a minute amount of electricity? This energy drain is known as the "phantom load," and it accounts for 27 million tons of carbon dioxide and means Americans spend about $4 billion annually on electricity for things they aren't even using, according to research from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a not-for-profit agency that studies energy policies.
Bach suggests getting a power strip for your appliances that you can turn off before bed or while you're gone.
Did you know the average American family spends $600 a year on cleaning products? And, for about $20, Bach says, you can make your own nontoxic, biodegradable versions using common household ingredients such as baking soda, club soda, vinegar and salt.
"Chemical cleaning supplies are an $18 million industry, and they not only threaten our health, they also end up in our rivers, ocean, soil and air," writes Bach, adding that if you aren't interested in making your own, there are eco-friendly alternatives that rival mainstream products price-wise. His favorites: Shaklee and Seventh Generation.
Switch to CFLs
"For 100 years, we've used 'incandescent' bulbs to light our homes. They're incredibly inefficient: Only about 5 percent of the energy supplied to them is converted to light," according to Bach.
Meanwhile, all the buzz about compact fluorescent lights is warranted: They use 75 percent less electricity and last 10 times longer.
"They are more expensive - around $4 a bulb versus roughly $1 – but the investment will pay for itself 10 times over during the life of the
bulb. This is an easy one, folks."
And that's Bach's message in a nutshell. Being "green" isn't rocket science. His tips are designed to be simple and, better yet, put a little green (i.e., money) back in your family's pocket.
Jennifer Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.