Veronica Hendrix

*It’s hard to believe that we just celebrated the 40th anniversary of “Earth Day.”  It began as a grass roots movement aimed at inspiring us to appreciate the planet and protect it from human harm.

Each year it grows in importance and in new policies. And each subsequent generation embraces the charge to protect our climate, conserve energy, recycle and reduce waste, and create more sustainability in our homes, schools and business.

I couldn’t let Earth Day come and go without an honorable mention.

I saw former Vice President Al Gore’s academy award winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” While some called the film alarmist propaganda, it is clear that humanity is not treating the world humanely. Drought conditions, record high temperatures, the increase in hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, inordinate rates of skin cancer, and the unprecedented changes in our ecosystems are beyond curious.  They are a sign that our planet is reacting to the incessant and pervasive environmental abuses we have exacted upon it.

That abuse, according to scientists, is causing global warming of the planet. And when bears can’t hibernate because temperatures haven’t dropped enough, and flowering plants in some of the coldest regions of our nation are blooming in the winter months instead of spring, I say it’s more than an anomaly; it’s a breach of nature.

I’m committed to doing my part to help preserve our planet. And calculating my carbon foot print was a good place to start.

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact that our daily activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases we produce, which is measured in units of carbon dioxide.

I found out that my carbon footprint is 5.4 tons a year. The national average is 9.5. I think I should get a star or happy face for that score. I learned there is even more I can do to decrease my carbon imprint and help make the planet a healthier place. It’s a lot easier than you might think. Here are just a few easy suggestions:

Install a Faucet Mount Filter System. By switching from bottled water to a faucet mount filter system, you will not only save money, but you can help save the planet. Consumers use 1.5 million tons of plastic water bottles each year and only 50% of that plastic is recyclable. It’s a big win for the planet and money in your bank account. They retail for about $50 and each replacement filter produces about 100 gallons of 99.9% filtered water.

Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). CFLs reduce the release of greenhouse gas emissions and are safer because they burn at a significantly lower temperature than incandescent and halogen lights. They also last 10 times longer and use 66% less energy than incandescent bulbs while delivering the same light levels. CFLs accrue a net savings between $30 and $45 over their lifetimes.

Turn down the hot water heater and your house thermostat during the winter.  Set your water heater to 130° F and thermostat to 55° F in the winter months when you go to bed or leave home. These simple changes can prevent the emission of more than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide over the course of the year, while cutting your energy bill by more than 10 percent.

Inflate your car tires.  It can improve your gas mileage by about 3.3 percent — a savings of about 7 cents per gallon. With gas prices hitting record highs, you can’t afford not to keep your ties inflated.

Purchase Energy Star-labeled appliances. Energy Star products are the most efficient appliances and can provide a 30 percent return or better through lower utility bills. I recently purchase an energy star refrigerator and I have notice a savings on my utility bill. And my new stainless steel retro fridge looks great in my county French kitchen.

Wash and rinse in cold water. If we all used cold water, we could save about 30 million tons of carbon dioxide each year — and more than $3 billion in energy costs, collectively.  By the way, cold water cleans your laundry just as well as hot water.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle.  It reduces the excessive amounts of fossil fuels and hydropower required to dispose of these materials. And those bottles and cans amount to dollars and cents and who couldn’t use a little extra change in this economy. Don’t forget about recycling your d old computers, cell phones, televisions and gadgets because they are our biggest source of waste. But you can turn them and get dollars for them. Just visit www.gazelle.com and find out how you can turn your trash into cash.

Get out of your car.  I did it. I’ve gone Metro and have saved a ton of money and hopefully a ton of carbon dioxide too.  Our cars are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Walk, bike, carpool or use public transportation where you can.  It’s a lot easier to go green than you think.

If you’d like to calculate your carbon footprint and learn more about other ways to go green, visit http://green.yahoo.com/calculator.    

(If you have comments about Veronica’s View, email them to vsview@yahoo.com)