Top Ways to Fight Global Warming
Some not-so-inconvenient steps you can take to combat climate change.
You don't have to stage benefit concerts on seven continents to do your part in the fight against global warming. You don't need Madonna. You don't even need Al Gore. In fact, less is often more when it comes to protecting Mother Earth. Less consumption. Less energy. Less waste. Global warming is an enormously complicated challenge, and to defeat it will require unprecedented cooperation among oft-feuding nations and a forbiddingly complex overhaul of the world's energy production and delivery systems. But that doesn't mean that doing your part has to be difficult. Or even terribly inconvenient. Let the policymakers argue over cap-and-trade bills, carbon taxes, and the fact that wind power currently generates just .7 percent of the country's electricity. The inconvenient truth is there are plenty of ways for individuals to make a difference. Let us count the ways.
10. Don't use hot water when cold water will do. No one is telling you to take a cold bath, but would it be so bad if that's what your clothes received? Save the energy required to heat up water for laundry by giving a cold wash a spin. You may not notice a difference. You can also try detergents specially formulated for cold water. Tide ColdWater is a leading brand.
9. Buy "recycled." Capitalists hate this idea, but Mother Earth is a fan. Buying something used—whether it's a sauce pan or a Bentley—doesn't carry the same cachet that comes with righteous recycling, but it's the same thing and spares the energy that goes into manufacturing new goods. So enjoy your friends' newfound respect as they lounge on your recycled couch. A corollary to this: Sell or donate rather than throw away.
8. Turn on the ceiling fan. Circulated air does wonders for cooling a room without having to crank down that thermostat even further. And the whirring sound helps you sleep, right?
7. Buy in bulk. Not only will you expend less energy worrying over toilet paper, but you'll also expend less energy getting to the store. Energy savings also come from reduced packaging. Another bonus: presenting feedbag-size packages of Doritos at any gathering relaxes guests who a) want a lot of Doritos or b) privately question if anyone else is coming.
6. Strategic landscaping. Trees are great fuel, but get this: You can cool your home by planting a tree where the sun hits most directly. In addition to simple tasks like drawing the blinds, the shade can dramatically cut air conditioning use. A deciduous tree also loses its leaves in the winter, allowing sunlight to warm your house when you need it most. The tree will do this year after year at no extra cost.
5. Discover what "power strip" means to you. Cellphone and iPod chargers suck down electricity just by being plugged into the wall. Rather than dealing with the hassle of inserting and removing your chargers when they're in use, plug them into power strips with an on/off switch. A power strip in the off mode uses zero juice. For fun, free-associate with friends while saying the words power strip.
4. A better bulb. Screw in compact fluorescent bulbs. They lose less energy as heat than traditional bulbs do and can last up to 10 times as long, which means you can pass them on to your kids when you're gone. Recycling meets responsible parenting! To reward yourself, spend the money you save on bulk items rather than leaving it in your will.
3. The Energy Star. If you're not into acquiring a "recycled" appliance, buy one with the Energy Star label. These products are government-certified juice sippers that can slash your electricity bill by as much as 30 percent, depending on just how inefficient your old appliances are.
2. Get with the program. Have trouble remembering to ease up on the AC when you leave the house? Get a thermostat to remember for you. A programmable thermostat costs about $100 but will pay for itself in less than a year.
1. Get active. Getting active has never required less effort. The best way to fight global warming is to let your representatives in Congress know you support federal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the old days, such ambition would have required organizing your thoughts into a letter or making a phone call. Not any more. Websites by green lobbying groups like Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense carry prewritten petitions on their website. When you plug in your name and address, they even find your representative for you! You can make demands of your elected leaders without even knowing who they are! Then there's the matter of casting a vote for the candidate whose solutions you like most. There. That wasn't so inconvenient, was it?