In any case, there’s little doubt that the ideals of Earth Day are rapidly gaining significance. This is good news. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Herewith, my list of Earth Day resolutions—some simple, some not, all necessary. —Ben Hewitt
1. Drive less. Well, duh. If only it were that easy. After all, we’ve built our economy and culture on the wheels of the automobile. And it’s not like we have to give up our cars. But after years of dragging our collective heels on the ideals of car-pooling and mass transit, it’s time to take action. It’s also time to really think about each car ride we take: Is it necessary? Can it be combined with another errand? Often, the answer is “yes.” Bonus: You’ll save dough on gas and car repairs.
2. Reuse. This is pretty simple, too. But the devil is in the details. For instance, we reuse almost every plastic bag that comes into this house. I built a little drying rack for my wife’s birthday (lucky her!), which makes it super simple to rinse out a bag and hang it to dry. If you don’t have the time to make one, you can buy one here. Another example: Rather than buying Tupperware containers for leftovers, we reuse yogurt cartons, which can last for years.
3. Use compact fluorescent or LED lighting. True, some of the earlier CF bulbs frankly stunk. But the newer ones are great (better, PM found, than regular bulbs) and they’re getting cheap (I just bought a bagful for $0.98/each). I haven’t tried LED’s personally, but I’ve heard good things.
4. Install solar hot water collectors. We get a lot of questions about our solar pv and windmill, but very few about our Thermo Dynamics solar hot water collectors. That’s a shame, because even in cloudy northern Vermont, our solar water heater represents the quickest payback and greatest energy savings of all our systems.
5. Upgrade to a tankless water heater. Can’t afford to drop $7000 on a two-collector (family of four) solar hot water system? Consider upgrading to a tankless, on-demand hot water heater. For about $1500-$2000 (including installation), you can lop about 30 percent off your hot water bill.
6. Buy local. This is so simple, and so effective. And sadly, in some areas, so hard. But when you consider that the average piece of food on your plate was grown 1500 miles away, it becomes clear what a difference this can make. Shop at the farmer’s market, and cut that distance by, oh, 1490 miles. If you’ve got a building project, look for a local sawmill. If there’s a brewery in your town (or some green beer you can hunt down), frequent it—with good sense and in moderation, of course.
7. When you can’t buy local, buy used. I’m a Craigslist junkie. I’ve used it to buy two cars, one tractor, and tires for my truck. The good part: I’ve saved money. The better part: I’ve reduced my environmental footprint. The best part: I’ve met some really cool people.