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February 25, 2007

Go Green - A message from this year's Academy Awards www.oscar.com/oscarnight/?pn=green

Go Green http://www.oscar.com/oscarnight/?pn=green

This year, the Academy, the Oscar telecast producer Laura Ziskin and the entire production team endeavored to select supplies and services with a sensitivity toward reducing the threats we face from global warming, species extinction, deforestation, toxic waste, and hazardous chemicals in our water and food. With guidance and assistance from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-partisan environmental and advocacy organization, we learned that it was easy (and often cost effective) to make simple changes to reduce Oscar's ecological footprint. Here are a few of the things we learned (with help from the NRDC website www.nrdc.org):

Save Energy on the Road
• Look for more fuel-efficient, less polluting cars. A car that gets 20 miles to the gallon will emit about 50 tons of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Double the gas mileage and you cut the emissions by half. Investigate the many new ultra-clean alternative fuel vehicles available. Reconsider extra features such as automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive -- they are often unnecessary and eat into gas mileage.
• Keep your car in good condition. Get your engine tuned up regularly, change the oil, and keep your tires inflated properly -- proper maintenance can increase your car's fuel efficiency by 10 percent and reduce emissions.
• Cut driving miles. Each gallon of gas your car burns releases about 22 pounds of atmospheric-warming carbon dioxide. Cutting your driving by just five miles each day would contribute to keeping tons of carbon dioxide from entering the air.
• Carpool. If every car carried just one more passenger on its daily commute, 32 million gallons of gasoline (and the pollution produced by it) would be saved each day.
• Leave the car at home. Get in the habit of riding buses or trains as often as you can (just think of all the new people you'll meet!). For short distances, ride a bike or walk whenever possible.
• Encourage community leaders to build bike lanes and sidewalks, as well as cycling and pedestrian-only streets
Save Energy at Home
• Buy energy-efficient products. When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for a yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product. The most energy-efficient models carry the Energy Star label, which identifies products that use 20-40 percent less energy than standard new products. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star.
• Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. Change the three bulbs you use most in your house to compact fluorescents. Each compact fluorescent bulb will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime. And while compact fluorescents are initially a lot more expensive than the incandescent bulbs you're used to using, they last ten times as long and can save $30 per year in electricity costs.
• Set heating and cooling temperatures correctly. Check thermostats in your home to make sure they are set at a level that doesn't waste energy. Get an electronic thermostat that will allow your furnace to heat the house to a lower temperature when you're sleeping and return it to a more comfortable temperature before you wake up. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68° in the daytime and 55° at night. In the summer, keep it at 78°. Remember that water heaters work most efficiently between 120° and 140°. In your refrigerator, set the temperature at about 37°and adjust the freezer to operate at about 3°. Use a thermometer to take readings and set the temperatures correctly.
• Turn off the lights. Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you're not using them. This is a no-brainer, but it's surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers where you can.
• Use your appliances more efficiently. The way you use an appliance can change the amount of energy it wastes. Make sure your oven gasket is tight, and resist the urge to open the oven door to peek, as each opening can reduce the oven temperature 25°. Preheat only as much as needed, and avoid placing foil on racks -- your food won't cook as quickly. Your second biggest household energy user after the fridge is the clothes dryer. Dryers kept in warm areas work more efficiently. Clear the lint filter after each load, and dry only full loads. And don't forget that hanging clothing outside in the sun and air to dry is the most energy-efficient method of all.
• Check your utility's energy-efficiency incentives. Some utility companies have programs that encourage energy efficiency. Check with your utility to find out if it offers free home energy audits, cash rebates for using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and lower electric rates for households meeting certain energy-efficiency criteria.
• Weatherize your home or apartment. Drafty homes and apartments allow energy dollars to leak away. Seal and caulk around windows and doors. Make sure your home has adequate insulation. Many old homes do not have enough, especially in the attic. You can check the insulation yourself or have it done as part of an energy audit.
• Choose renewable energy. Many consumers can now choose their energy supplier. If you have a choice, choose an electric utility that uses renewable power resources, such as solar, wind, low impact hydroelectric, or geothermal. Residents of California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas can get help choosing clean power from the Power Scorecard, developed by NRDC and other groups.
• Let the sun shine in. The cheapest and most energy-efficient light and heat source is often right outside your window. On bright days, open blinds, drapes, and shutters to let the sun light your home for free. Also remember that sunlight entering a room equals passive solar heating. Even on cold winter days, sun streaming into a room can raise the temperature several degrees.
Save Resources at Home
• Recycle materials you use. Recycling saves resources, decreases the use of toxic chemicals, cuts energy use, helps curb global warming, stems the flow of water and air pollution, and reduces the need for landfills and incinerators. If there's no recycling program where you live, encourage local officials to start one. In the meantime, learn where you can take items such as paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, plastic, and tires to be recycled, then make an effort to go there.
• Buy recycled products. Look on the label for the products or packaging with the greatest percentage of post-consumer recycled content, which ensures that the materials have been used before. Try to buy paper products that have more than 50 percent post-consumer content.
• Compost. Composting reduces the burden on overcrowded landfills and gives you a great natural fertilizer for plants and gardens. Buy a composting setup at a garden supply or hardware store. Start with yard trimmings, fruit and vegetable food scraps, and coffee grounds. If you don't know how to compost, check out this handy guide.
• Buy products with less packaging. A large percentage of the paper, cardboard, and plastic we use goes into packaging -- much of it wasteful and unnecessary.
• Use durable goods. Bring your own cloth bags to local grocery stores and farmer's markets. Replace plastic and paper cups with ceramic mugs, disposable razors with reusable ones. Refuse unneeded plastic utensils, napkins, and straws when you buy takeout foods. Use a cloth dishrag instead of paper towels at home, and reusable food containers instead of aluminum foil and plastic wrap.
• Leave grass clippings on the lawn. Grass clippings make good fertilizer when they decompose. Leaving them on your lawn keeps them from occupying the limited space available in the local landfill.
Save Resources at Work
• Buy energy-efficient office equipment. Energy Star-rated equipment is an option at work as well as at home. According to the EPA, Energy Star-labeled equipment can save up to 75 percent of total electricity use.
• Recycle. If your office doesn't have a recycling program, work with your office manager and custodial staff to set one up. Paper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles are easy to start with, and additional materials can be added as the staff gets used to recycling. Set up bins in convenient areas to collect each type of material your office recycles, and make sure everyone knows they are there.
• Commit to environmentally friendly purchasing practices. Encourage your company to make a commitment to purchasing paper and plastic materials made with post-consumer recycled content. Companies should avoid paper products made from 100 percent virgin fiber content, and switch to paper that is 30 percent post-consumer content at minimum. Also look for plastic and metal products made with recycled or scrap material.
• Be thrifty with paper. Don't print out each memo or email you receive. Read and delete the ones you don't need to save and electronically file others you might refer to later. Make sure your office copier can make two-sided copies, and badger everyone to get into the habit of doing so. If people don't take the hint, arrange to have your copier's default set to the two-sided rather than one-sided option. High-speed copiers that are set to automatically make two-sided copies reduce paper costs by an average of $60 per month -- and, of course, save paper. Save even more paper by using the blank sides of used sheets of paper for note-taking and printing drafts.
• Use reusable utensils for office parties. If you work in one of those offices where there's no excuse too small for a mid-afternoon get-together, encourage the office manager to invest in a set of dishes, cups, and utensils that can be used each time, rather than breaking out plastic utensils and paper plates. If you have an event where reusable items are not an option, choose disposable items that are biodegradable and made out of easily renewable resources like corn, potato and wild reed.
• Bring a waste-free lunch. Store your food in reusable containers rather than wrapping it in foil or plastic. Keep a knife, fork, spoon, and cloth napkins at work to avoid the need for plastic utensils and paper napkins. Bring your hot or cold drinks in a thermos, and drink them from a mug you keep at your desk or in your work area. Encourage your employers to incorporate recycled paper products in your printers, copiers and bathrooms. Many office supply chains feature paper and tissue products with recycled paper content, often at comparable prices.
• Turn off your screen saver! Modern computer monitors do not need this function to stay in top form -- it's simply a waste of energy.
Conserve Water
• Install a low-flow showerhead. Showers account for 32 percent of home water use. Low-flow showerheads deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute compared to standard showerheads that release 4.5 gallons per minute. A family of four using low-flow showerheads can save about 20,000 gallons of water per year.
• Install an ultra-low-flush toilet or a toilet displacement device. Toilets are water hogs. About 40 percent of the water you use in your home gets flushed down the toilet. That amounts to more than 4 billion gallons of water in the U.S. each day. That's why federal law now mandates that all new toilets installed for residential use be low-flush toilets. Conventional toilets generally use 3.5 to 5 gallons (sometimes more) of water per flush, while low-flush toilets use 1.6 gallons of water or less. If you're not building a new home, you can still benefit by installing one of these toilets. You can make an old toilet move efficient by putting a brick or plastic milk jug filled with water or pebbles in the toilet tank. This reduces the amount of water used per flush. You'll save more than 1 gallon of water per flush!
• Install flow restrictor aerators. Placing these inside faucets saves 3 to 4 gallons per minute when you turn on the tap. Of course, you can also help out by doing simple things such as not running water in the sink while soaping your face or brushing your teeth.
• Repair leaks. Fix those leaking and dripping faucets as soon as possible. A dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons every day.
• Landscape in tune with the natural environment. If you're landscaping, use plants that are native to your area. Growing native plants can save more than half the water normally used to care for outdoor plants. Raising thirsty plants in arid areas means having to drown them almost daily in gallons of sprinkler or irrigation water. In dry areas, xeriscape landscaping uses plants that need little water, thereby not only saving water and labor, but also preventing pollution from the use of fertilizers. If you must water your lawn, water early or late in the day or on cooler days to reduce evaporation. Allow your grass to grow a bit taller than you normally do. This will help reduce water loss by providing more ground shade for roots and promoting soil water retention.
• Use water wisely in everyday activities. Water is wasted more quickly than you might think. An open faucet lets about 5 gallons of water flow every 2 minutes. In the kitchen, you can save between 10 and 20 gallons of water a day by running the dishwasher only when it's full. You can save even more by washing dishes by hand in a sink or water-filled dishpan, rather than running the tap continuously as you scrub. Run the clothes washer only when full as well. Taking a shorter shower will also save a lot of water. Try turning off the showerhead while soaping! Sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them down -- washing a sidewalk or driveway with a hose uses about 50 gallons of water every 5 minutes.
Support Organic & Sustainable Farming
• Ask for organic produce. Often, organic produce costs more and is more difficult to get, but many supermarkets and greengrocers are willing to stock organic food if they know customers will buy it regularly. Talk to your friends and neighbors about their willingness to buy organic and then let your produce manager know that many customers are interested. As organic produce becomes more commonplace, prices will drop.
• Deal directly with organic food growers and suppliers. If you can't find a local grocer who will stock organic food, contact organic growers and suppliers directly or visit a local farmer's market.
• Become a Community Supported Agriculture supporter. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) cooperatives bring together local farmers and consumers. As a member of the cooperative, you pledge to cover farm operation costs for the season. In return, you share in the harvest. CSA farms are not all organic, but they all strive to operate sustainably.
• Farmers: cut down on pesticide use. Innovative and successful farmers around the country are switching from conventional pest management practices, which are heavily reliant on pesticides, to profitable alternative agricultural practices that substantially reduce pesticide use.
The Oscars announced that they had gone green and to look on their website. All of these great tips above are listed on their website. The complete link is printed at the start of this article. Go Green.

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