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Make a difference during Earth Day Week

Staff Writer

Remember that this is Earth Day Week, and there are lots of little things you can do that add up to make a big difference.

Lighten up

Replacing just five frequently used light fixtures and/or light bulbs with Energy Star-qualified fixtures and bulbs can save you $70 a year on your electric bill.

Energy Star approved lights, such as CFLs or LEDs, use about 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs and lighting fixtures and can last from 10 to 50 times longer, according to the EPA.

Energy-efficient lights also generate 75 percent less heat, which will make a big difference in your home during the warm summer months to come.

Replacing other electronics in your household with Energy Star-approved models is another great way to conserve electricity and save money.

Stay cool the smart way

“Heating and cooling accounts for almost half your energy bill — about $1,000 a year.” writes the EPA.

Changing air filters regularly and properly maintaining your cooling and heating systems can add up to big savings.

Also be sure to program your thermostat to moderate temperatures during the day while at work or when away from your home. Keeping the house extra warm or cool when no one is there adds up to unnecessarily high bills and wasted energy.

While it is nice to come home to an already perfectly temperate house, having the patience to wait 20 to 30 minutes for the desired temperature to be reached will save you in the long run.

Properly sealing and insulating your home is another way to keep the temperature pleasant without shelling out extra cash and wasting energy.

Slow the flow

Treating, heating and pumping water uses roughly 3 percent of the nation’s energy. Cutting back on water use reduces greenhouse gas pollution.

Remember to turn off the tap when shaving and brushing your teeth and to run your dishwasher only when it is full. Cutting down on how often the dishwasher runs can stop 100 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and save you $40 per year.

Be sure to repair any leaking water fixtures (a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons a day) and only water outside as needed and during the coolest part of the day to decrease evaporation and water loss.

Plant green

Another way to conserve energy and water is by using primarily local plants, which are accustomed to our arid climate and need less water, into your landscaping plan. Many landscapers in the area are trained to create stunning yard displays with only local species.

You can also start composting food scraps, which cuts down on landfill garbage and can put nutrients into garden soil. Be sure to do some research first about what can and cannot be composted and how to deter wildlife from eating your scraps.

Avoid harsh chemicals and pesticides on your garden and lawn. Not only are the chemicals dangerous for humans, they can leach into ground water, rivers and streams, polluting surrounding habitats. There are many environmentally safe gardening products available with just as promising results.

Check out the EPA’s GreenScapes program to learn more about improving your lawn and garden while helping the environment.

Recycle

The benefits of recycling have been touted time and time again … and yet the people who regularly participate in recycling programs are few and far between.

Recycling can be easy with a little preparation and education. By putting recycling bins next to your garbage can, you will have a better chance of remembering to separate out paper, plastics, cans and glass.

Separating out recyclables will also drastically reduce the amount of garbage going into the landfill.

There are many energy benefits that accompany recycling as well. Recycling reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions created from resource extraction, manufacturing and disposal procedures.

Give me the numbers

Specifically, recycling just 10:

• glass bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop computer for 20.9 hours, or to power a 60W CFL bulb for 80.2 hours.

• aluminum cans saves enough energy to power an air conditioner for 1.7 hours, or a laptop for 51.9 hours.

• plastic bottles saves enough power for 25.4 hours of laptop operation, 97.8 hours of a 60W CFL bulb and 0.8 hours of an air conditioner.

• plastic grocery bags saves enough energy to power a laptop for 3.4 hours. Recycling 16 bags can save enough to power a 60W CFL bulb for over 20 hours.

• magazines saves enough energy to power 10.8 hours of a 60W CFL bulb. Recycling 25 magazines can save enough to power a laptop for seven hours.

More

You can calculate your household’s carbon footprint and learn more about actions you can take to conserve energy at home, in the office, on the road and at school, by going to the EPA’s website on climate change at epa.gov/climatechange.

Little actions add up; do not underestimate your power as an individual to have a very real impact on the world this week and every week.

This story was posted on April 24, 2014.