It's summertime, and all of us down here in NC know what that means right? Urban heat islands, smog as far as the eye can no longer see, droughts and wasted water, and energy bills skyrocketing.
And so far, we've been blessed with a federal government too distracted by Bush's war on the Constitution to take real environmental action, and a state that throws even more funding at new coal plant construction in a Renewable Energy Bill. Not to mention our lovely senators at work screwing over their own state capital on transit. Looks like we gotta take matters into our own hands.
Well, here are some really easy things we can all do to go a little easier on Mother Earth, as we work to elect a government that actually cares about her. Roll up your sleeves; let's get to work--we'll save the environment and a few bucks on the side.
1. Water use: The biggest residential water uses tend to be with washing machines, dishwashers, and yard/garden watering. The solution? Stuff your washing machines and dishwashers as full as they'll get before running them, and set washing machine water setting to something other than "extra heavy". For the yard--if you water your lawn a lot, you can cut back on it and let Mother Nature diversify its composition (more clovers and the like), which will reduce its water needs and make it more environmentally friendly in general. My family's always done that with our yard, and it looks great and requires nothing more than an occasional mow.
Benefits: Keeping water in the lakes and rivers, where it belongs.
2. Electricity: We're moving beyond CFLs here. The single easiest and most effective way to reduce your electricity use during the summer is air conditioning. And it's not even hard or uncomfortable. I'll use my house as an example (though its design, as far as insulation goes, is shitty; it's filled with leaks)--I have not turned on my air conditioner in almost a month. I'm dead serious, and I live in an urban area. All it takes is opening as many windows as possible in the evening, shutting them all upon leaving for work in the morning (closing blinds while you're at it), and maybe turn a few fans on at night. This'll flush all the hot air out of the house at night so the house will stay fairly cool during the day. At the very least, it'll reduce air conditioner use substantially, depending how you program it.
Benefits: fewer mountains destroyed, less NOx and SOx in the air, less CO2 emission
3. Gas: This is the big one--there ain't a thing right with burning gasoline. It emits CO2, increases city smog, requires about 8 parking spaces per car throughout the city and ever-wider roads, worsening runoff and heat island effects, increases our stress levels as we're stuck in traffic, makes us exercise less, throws our money at Middle Eastern dictators...it goes on and on. So...what do we do? First, identify any trips you make regularly to nearby locations that don't require travel on a highway. Bike there instead. Make a habit of it--beyond the direct pollution savings, you'll be advertising the benefits of biking to all the drivers around you. If you're comfortable riding on the road, do it; if you aren't, take the sidewalk--you'll feel up to exercising your legal right soon enough.
Also--combine errands into a single trip. So unbelievably easy and time-saving. Check out local transit options--the Triangle's is excellent; the Triad's is improving, and I don't know much about Charlotte's or, regrettably, any other part of the state, but I'm sure it's not hard to find out.
Benefits: fewer funds for terrorist-sponsoring regimes, among just about every conceivable environmental benefit possible
4. Trash: Separate recycling and compost, compost, compost. If your locality doesn't provide recycling, try to reuse glass and plastic packaging when you can. Also, in moderate quantities, paper and cardboard products can be composted, in addition to the usual kitchen/yard waste. Composting is a really great idea that's good for your landfill and good for your yard and garden. Finally, try to avoid buying products with excessive packaging when possible.
5. Anything else? Let's see...if you, say, happen to be a stubborn aristocrat in a position of power, don't suppress science that contradicts your policies and then fuck up the response when a terrible catastrophe strikes and and ruins thousands of lives...hypothetically, you know, that is.
Have a great sustainable summer everyone!