Think Green

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7 fast ways to go green today

Individuals may not be able to reverse global climate change on their own, nor can one person working alone prevent a species of animal from becoming extinct. But collective efforts in which communities make concerted efforts to protect the planet have the potential to bring about significant change.

Such efforts need not even be extensive. When widely adopted, the following ways to go green can benefit the environment in myriad ways, and each is rather easy to adopt.

1. Sort the trash. A substantial amount of household waste can be recycled, but too frequently people throw out things in haste. Cans, bottles, aluminum foil, paper bags, plastic bags, and plastic containers can be recycled or put to use in other ways. When you examine things that end up in the garbage, you may find that such items have utility elsewhere. Take a few minutes to analyze if something can be reused before tossing it out.

2. Carpool to school or work. Carpooling greatly reduces wear and tear on vehicles and can reduce the need for costly repairs while saving fuel. Tufts University professor William Moomaw, co-author of the latest "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" report, calculated that if American commuters would carpool for just one day per week, they could significantly reduce America's carbon emissions by 2050. Carpooling to school and work also cuts down on the number of vehicles on the road during times of gridlock, reducing the propensity for accidents and traffic jams.

3. Buy local products. Purchasing locally grown foods or products produced nearby reduces the need to transport those products while cutting back on packaging as well. Visit farmers' markets on the weekend to stock up on items used for meals during the week. This will greatly lower your energy footprint, and you won't have to spend much time traveling for your meals.

4. Turn off a few lights. There is no need to have every room in the house illuminated, especially when those rooms are unoccupied. Consciously turn off the lights, televisions, radios, and other electronics after you leave a room to cut down on energy usage.

5. Plant native greenery. Trees, shrubs and other plants improve air quality while providing a home to wildlife. Plants produce oxygen and store carbon, helping to control greenhouse gases and keep the atmosphere cooler. Plant more trees or other plants around the house, which helps the environment and adds some aesthetic appeal to your property. Choose native plants that will thrive in your climate.

6. Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. A standard water heater is set to 140 F, but many people do not need water that hot. Turn it down a few degrees, and you'll save energy and reduce the risk of scalding.

7. Fix plumbing leaks. Leaky toilets can waste a substantial amount of water, some as much as 200 gallons per day. Fixing leaky toilets as well as any faucets around the house can help conserve energy and save money on your monthly water bill.

Going green doesn't involve a large investment of time or money. A variety of small changes can be effective when a good number of people do their part. 

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