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47 posts from July 2007

July 14, 2007

Quick Tip: Recycle Your Car Battery

Unlike some household batteries, the lead-acid batteries generally found in cars are easy to recycle: Most states require dealers to take them back. A nearby recycling location is just a click away at Earth 911 (search for "car batteries" in your zip code), where you can also find out what to do with used motor oil and oil filters.

Curious about the nickel metal hydride batteries in hybrid vehicles? Check out what Mr. Green has to say on the subject in his column and his mailbag.

July 13, 2007

Daily Tip : July 13, 2007

I have been using a reel-type lawnmower for a month now and I love it. My yard is not small, 50 feet x 120 feet, but it takes no longer to cut the grass with the reel vs. a gas mower. You can't cut backwards, and it has trouble with high grass, but I can mow early in the morning, before it gets hot, without disturbing the neighbors. I love the simplicity of whipping it out and starting the job without first checking the gas tank and then cussing at the mower to get it to start. You just push and cut. Maintenance is minimal as well. My yearly household emissions are cut 10 percent by this simple change.

--Submitted by Anne Thornhill

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July 12, 2007

Going to Bat for the Environment

The good thing about having a sports stadium in a dense downtown area is that even die-hard drivers can usually be convinced to take public transportation to the game. ($20+ parking has a way of doing that.) And even though these transit neophytes can cause chaos and confusion, it does my baseball-loving, planet-hugging heart good to see the throngs of people pouring off buses, BART, and the ferry every gameday. Also cheering is this report from Treehugger about Major League Baseball's small green steps--including giving Ichiro Suzuki, this year's All-Star MVP, a hybrid SUV instead of the regular gas-guzzling kind. Hey, I said they were small steps.

Daily Tip : July 12, 2007

Avoid the toxic chemicals (and high price tags) of many commercial cleaning products by making your own. A teaspoon of liquid soap or borax dissolved in a quart of warm water makes a dandy all-purpose cleaner. For tougher jobs, use one-half cup borax, one-half teaspoon liquid soap, and a splash of vinegar in two gallons of warm water.

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July 11, 2007

Ban the Bulb

Banthebulb_bagIncandescent lightbulbs are already persona non grata in Australia and Canada, with other countries and U.S. states contemplating their own bans on the energy-inefficient lights. Among them is the United Kingdom, where Dr. Matt Prescott of Ban the Bulb is making the case for incandescents' extinction. In the U.S., the urban advocates at The New Colonist have added a little flair to the cause with a full line of "Ban the Bulb" clothing and accessories--including dog T-shirts, BBQ aprons, messenger bags (above), and thongs.

Newyorker_libertyStill wondering what all the fuss is about? The Washington Post expertly breaks down the benefits of switching to efficient compact fluorescents, which the New Yorker celebrates as a patriotic move on its recent "Bright Idea" cover (at left). Just be sure you recycle them properly.

Daily Tip : July 11, 2007

Each year, 100 million trees are used to produce junk mail. Find out how to get off marketers' lists at newdream.org/junkmail.

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July 10, 2007

Shop and Save

Smja07_gl_mallAn ecofriendly mall may seem oxymoronic, but Green Exchange won't be selling sweatshop-made fashions or contributing to sprawl. The shopping center, set to open next year in a renovated lamp factory on Chicago's North Side, will feature an organic cafe, stores carrying sustainable clothing and building supplies, and dozens of other like-minded tenants. And malls aren't the only consumer icons getting a green sheen: A new credit card racks up carbon offsets with every purchase, while YoNaturals stocks vending machines with dried fruit, yogurt, and organic snacks.

(Illustration by Josef Gast)

The Green Life Daily Tip : July 10, 2007

Bring your own mug to work, school, or your local cafe. Some coffee shops will even offer a small discount if you do.

July 09, 2007

The Green Life Daily Tip : July 9, 2007

Consider taking your next vacation close to home -- and enjoying more time recreating and less in transit. A round-trip transatlantic flight for a family of four creates as much greenhouse gas as driving for a year.

July 07, 2007

Biking for Beginners

With the weather getting warmer, it's a perfect time to begin biking to work. You'll burn calories instead of fossil fuels, and by combining your daily commute with your daily exercise, you'll have more time left over for summer fun. Here's how to get started:

Get geared up. You'll be wearing a helmet, of course. But if you're going to be doing any night riding, make sure you also have a headlight and taillight, white reflective tape for your wheel rims, and some highly visible or reflective clothing. When it comes to bicycle choice, a mountain bike's fat, knobby tires can be better in the city than a road bike, at least for short commutes; they’re more stable and less likely to slip when it's wet or if they get caught in a grate.

Know your needs. Depending on your circumstances, special bikes can make cycling more alluring. A folding bike can be taken on public transit for part of a longer commute. The Xtracycle, an elongated bike with a rear platform for cargo, works well if you need to cart things around.

Pick the right route. The most direct way to work isn't always best when you're on a bike. Look for quieter streets, streets with bike lanes (or at least wide ones), or multiple-lane, one-way streets for the safest ride. Avoiding any routes heavily trafficked by big trucks and buses also reduces your exposure to pollution. (Speaking of pollution, you can check your local air quality on the EPA's AIRNow site. If your city's air-quality index is higher than 151, you might be better off taking public transit that day.)

Practice proper maintenance. Make sure your tires are properly inflated (the correct pounds per inch, or ppi, should be listed on the side of the tire) and check your brakes before setting out.

Get in position. When riding, create space between your bike and other vehicles, both moving and parked. Ride about four feet away from parked cars to avoid being "doored"; drivers can see you more easily that way too. If there's more than one lane going in your direction, it's OK to ride in the middle of the lane.

Drive defensively.
Always assume that drivers don't see you. Get a rearview mirror so you can check traffic all around you. Always ride with traffic and follow all traffic laws, including using hand signals to change lanes and turn.

Clean up green.
Wipe down your bike after every ride to keep it running smoothly and lube the chain every few trips with a plant- or vegetable-based lubricant like Pedro's CHAINj.

If you still have concerns about city riding, look for a local cycling association or advocacy group. They generally offer safety classes and serve as a way to hook up with other riders (there's safety in numbers) and get involved with campaigns for better bike lanes and other improvements. Programs in Charlotte, Chicago, and Kansas City have bike "mentors" or escorts who will suggest routes and equipment and even ride to work with you on your first day bike commuting. So what are you waiting for?

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