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This article is the third in a three-part series that details steps individuals and businesses can take to reduce their carbon footprint and help Evanston achieve its greenhouse gas emissions-reduction goal: 13 percent by 2012.
8. Reduce and Reuse.
Waste prevention conserves valuable resources, saves energy and landfill space, and reduces waste toxicity. Shoppers can help by choosing products with minimal packaging, purchasing items in bulk, and seeking non-toxic or less toxic alternatives to materials containing hazardous substances.
Products designed to be used more than once – cloth napkins, rechargeable batteries, and refillable containers, for example – are another good choice. Other helpful practices include taking reusable shopping bags to the store; using sturdy coffee mugs at the office; maintaining and repairing durable products; and borrowing, renting, or sharing seldom-used items, such as power tools and party equipment.
Recycling, together with waste prevention, diverts organic wastes from landfills, thereby reducing the amount of methane – a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) – produced as waste decomposes. It also saves energy since manufacturing goods from recycled materials typically takes less energy (and less water) than producing goods from virgin materials. And recycling paper products saves trees, letting them remain in the forest where they remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Evanston’s weekly curbside pickup program accepts cans and foil; newspapers and many other types of paper; glass containers; plastic containers labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; and six-pack rings. Residents can take items that need special handling – medications, latex paint, electronics, fluorescent light bulbs – to drop-off locations for recycling. (Guidelines are available at www.cityofevanston.org/recycling.)
Finally, purchasing recycled-content products creates a strong market for these items and completes the recycling loop.
10. Use Water Wisely
For most municipalities, the biggest use of electricity is supplying water and cleaning it up after it has been used. So, using water efficiently saves energy while helping to conserve a precious resource.
Fixing leaks is a good place to start. A slowly dripping faucet or a “running” toilet can waste thousands of gallons of water a year. Installing newer low-flush toilets and water-efficient showerheads and faucets will cut water usage significantly. The average home retrofitted with WaterSense-labeled toilets and faucets www.epa.gov/watersense/) can save more than 11,000 gallons of water/year.
Simple every-day practices can also save a lot of water. Turn off the tap while brushing teeth or shaving. Take short showers instead of a bath. Choose energy- and water-efficient models (www.energystar.gov/) when purchasing a new dishwasher or washing machine.
Use water wisely outside, too. Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day to reduce evaporation. (Early morning is best.) Use drip irrigation rather than in-ground and conventional sprinklers. Collect rainwater in a rain barrel for landscape irrigation.
11. Eat Green
Food production has a major environmental impact. In Livestock’s Long Shadow, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that livestock production accounts for 18 percent of all GHG emissions. Producing grains, fruits, and vegetables has consequences as well, with its often heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. A great deal of energy is also spent on transporting, processing, and packaging food.
The choices people make about the food they eat can change this picture. Strategies to consider: Eat seasonally. Buy locally: support Evanston’s farmers markets. Eat less meat. Avoid air-freighted and hothouse-grown foods.
12. Landscape Green
The benefits of green landscaping over formal landscapes and lawns are many. A natural landscape reduces emissions from landscaping equipment, which are often much greater than those of a car for each hour of operation. Diverse plantings better absorb rainwater, reducing runoff and water pollution from pesticides and fertilizers. This approach also reduces the amount of yard waste to be collected and hauled out of town.
Introducing native plants into the garden is a good place to start. Native plants are adapted to local conditions and do not require watering (except during establishment), chemical pesticides, fertilizers – or mowing. Native species attract birds, beneficial insects, and wildlife and improve bio-diversity.
Other green landscape techniques include rain gardens, tree planting, permeable paving for driveways, sidewalks, and parking areas, green roofs, and rain barrels and cisterns. (The Center for Neighborhood Technology is a good resource: http://greenvalues.cnt.org/.)
13. Join Citizens for a Greener Evanston
CGE is a group of Evanstonians working to engage the broader community in helping Evanston achieve its GHG emissions-reduction goal: 13 percent by 2012. A steering committee plans and coordinates the broader effort, and 10 task forces work on implementing specific aspects of the Evanston Climate Action Plan.
CGE invites all interested Evanstonians to join the campaign. Sign up for the electronic newsletter for information about campaign activities and green events in town. Consider joining one of the task forces. Visit the CGE website (www.greenerevanston.org) for details.