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Earth Day '98, April 22

A Low-Energy Day Would Give Nature a Rest


Earth Day tip: Make it personal.

Just for the day, join the National Earth Day Energy Fast by cutting back or going completely without power. Earth Day founders Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes are urging Americans to recognize that nature pays for energy every time we use it. For today only, they suggest, take a bus, carpool or ride a bike, turn down the water-heater setting, turn off unneeded lights and the TV and prepare a cold meal. And for the rest of the year make an ongoing personal eco-resolution.

"It may seem like one person can't make a difference, but if enough people make just one lifestyle change, it can have a big impact," says Tom Watson of Seattle, a waste-prevention specialist with King County and coordinator of the National Waste Prevention Coalition. Some suggestions from his coalition and others:

* Don't bag grass clippings for the city landfill. Instead, put them in a compost bin or leave them on the lawn, which is easiest with a mulching lawn mower. Beyond that, take out a section of your green grass and plant drought-tolerant xeriscaping.

* Take care of appliances with energy-efficient retrofits, maintenance and repairs. Check out the current Consumer Reports story titled "Fix It! Your Guide to Money-Saving Repairs and Reliable Brands."

* Even if an appliance is worn out, don't dump it. Some businesses (including many computer companies) have take-back or recycling programs. Some utilities and municipal recycling programs help with recycling. You also can look for a local appliance recycler in the Yellow Pages or in recycling newsletters.

* If you buy an appliance, make sure it's from a company with an equipment-recycling program and is low-flow and top-of-the-line in energy efficiency. Look for the Energy Star label (a blue and green globe), which is associated with the federal government's new program to identify large and small appliances that exceed federal energy-efficiency standards by 15% or more.

* Shop in consignment stores and at garage sales. Buy used furnishings--even for remodeling projects. Recycled molding, doors, windows and other trim from demolished houses is becoming more available--and more fashionable--all the time.

* When buying gifts, give an experience--a subscription to the symphony, tickets to a ballgame or rock concert--instead of stuff.

* Minimize packaging by using concentrates and refills whenever possible. Don't buy overpackaged items, and, if you want to be an activist about it, protest to manufacturers that insist on unnecessary plastic, cardboard and shrink wrap.

* Buy items with multiple uses, such as detergents with bleach or fabric softener, shampoo with conditioner and polishes that work on many materials. When incandescent lightbulbs burn out, replace them with lower wattage or compact fluorescent bulbs.

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