Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Green Person

We know our planet is hot - how hot is still a question of some debate - although it seems we get closer each day to a consensus that something (or a whole lot of something's) must be done to reverse the effects of global warming.

Chances are if you're reading this column, you are one of those people who is either looking for more information on Living Green or you are a Green Person already.

The good news: There is no shortage of ways Joe Consumer can make changes in Living Green on the way to Being Green.

If you are just starting, here are some powerful adjustments almost anyone can make:

1. Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs (or, CFLs). The EPA says "If every American household changed five regular light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, it would be like taking 8 million cars off the road." Look for the Energy Star logo; any average hardware store carries them.

2. Cut down on VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) by using gas grills over charcoal grilling. Gas BBQs produce about half as much CO2 as charcoal grills, and about 1/3 as much as electric grills.

3. This summer collect rainwater run-off with a simple rain barrel solution. Rainwater is chlorine free, can be used on plants and helps reduce polluted rain run-off in streams and rivers.

4. Plant a tree. Trees act like natural air filters. They absorb the carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air. The average person is responsible for emitting 94 pounds of CO2 every day. It takes at least four trees to offset the CO2 you personally generate in a month. Visit American Forests ( or The Conservation Fund (, a non profit group in Arlington, VA for more. Both groups will plant a tree for you.

(And, for $57 the Conservation Fund will plant 11 trees for you - enough to neutralize 14 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere!)

The other half of the model Green Person requires a bigger commitment to Living Green/Being Green. Because they are "macro" choices they will have much bigger impacts on the cleaning up the environment, saving energy and remaining carbon neutral.

Big commitments might look like this:

1. Drive a fuel-efficient hybrid car
2. Build an energy efficient, sustainably built green home
3. Donate a percentage of your earnings to an environmentally responsible non-profit.

Living Green starts with a state of mind. The choices can be absurdly confusing, often eccentric and tend to the altruistic. The important thing is to put it in perspective.

At the same time, Living Green is NOT meant to be polarizing, it is NOT a superficial label and it is NOT an excuse to point fingers at people.

Green IS an excuse to take some new steps towards cleaning up the environment.

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