As a new year approaches, most people start thinking of ways to improve their lifestyle. This year, why not add a few environmentally friendly practices to the list?
Simple changes in daily routines followed throughout the year can make a difference. Here are a few ideas to help everyone start thinking about how to take care of Texas.
Resolve to Conserve Water
An important way to take care of Texas is by conserving water, and there are many simple measures you can take that will contribute to this goal.
Take shorter showers
Repair leaky faucets and toilets. A faucet leaking at a rate of one drop per second can waste up to 1,660 gallons of water per year. A leaky toilet can waste about 73,000 gallons of water per year.
Install faucet aerators to cut in half the amount of water used by each faucet, and install water-efficient showerheads to reduce water consumption by 25 to 60 percent.
Water is wasted when it runs unnecessarily, so turn off the tap. In the kitchen, wash produce in a pan or bowl rather than under running water. In the bath, take shorter showers. And, to save up to 4 gallons a minute, turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
Resolve to Use Less Energy
Texans can choose from many simple steps to conserve energy and reduce electrical consumption.
Use power strips that you can turn off for appliances and electronic devices such as computers, chargers, power adapters, printers, televisions, microwave ovens, and coffee makers. This will eliminate wasteful “standby power,” the electricity consumed by appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode.
Use power strips
Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use 67 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last up to 10 times longer, with an average lifespan of 6,000 hours.
When it is time to replace your appliances and electronics, consider trading up to Energy Star–qualified products that use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment. Visit www.energystar.gov to learn more about energy-efficient products and practices.
According to the State Energy Conservation Office of Texas, heating and cooling account for 45 percent of a typical household utility bill. Install a programmable thermostat and set it at 78 degrees during the summer months and 68 degrees during the winter. When used properly, a programmable thermostat with four temperature settings can reduce energy consumption by 10 percent, saving the average household up to $150 per year.
Resolve to Use Less Gas
Drive less. Consider organizing or joining a carpool to get to work, or use public transportation. Consolidate errands when possible. Walk or bike more.
Keep your vehicle in shape
Resolve also to slow down and avoid aggressive driving. This can improve fuel economy by 5 percent in town or up to 33 percent on the highway.
Keep your vehicle in shape. A poorly maintained vehicle can release as much as 10 times the emissions of a well-maintained one. Proper maintenance—such as changing the oil, checking tire pressure, and replacing filters—can reduce a car’s emissions and improve gas mileage by up to 5 percent.
If the new year means a new vehicle, consider the benefits of buying one with a high fuel-economy rating. The TCEQ’s Drive a Clean Machine program offers assistance in 16 participating counties to qualified owners of vehicles that fail the emissions test or that are 10 years old or older. Visit www.driveacleanmachine.org to find out more about this program.
Resolve to Recycle and Compost
Reduce waste, conserve energy, and preserve natural resources by recycling paper, metal, plastic, and other materials. If Texans recycled and composted all their recyclable and compostable materials, almost 90 percent, or over 26 million tons per year, of the municipal solid waste in Texas landfills could be diverted.
Recycle and compost
Recycle newspapers, food packaging, cardboard boxes, junk mail, and other paper products. Recycling 1 ton of paper is the equivalent of making paper from 17 to 31 trees, and also saves 7,000 gallons of water and 4,000 kilowatts of electricity (enough power for the average home for six months).
Use rechargeable batteries—most can be recharged up to 1,000 times—and then recycle them when they no longer hold a charge. To find a battery drop-off site near you, visit www.call2recycle.org.
Donate or recycle electronics instead of discarding them. Recycle used motor oil and other vehicle fluids. Two gallons of recycled motor oil can produce enough energy to power the average Texas home for one day, cook 48 meals in a microwave oven, blow-dry your hair at least 215 times, vacuum a house for 15 months, or run your television for 7½ days straight! Visit www.cleanup.org to find a recycling center near you.
Compost fruit, vegetable, and yard waste. Compost serves as a great soil conditioner and can reduce the need for water.
Resolve to Use Less Paper
Reduce your junk mail
Use cloth products whenever possible. Switch to reusable shopping bags. Use dish towels instead of paper towels, cloth napkins instead of paper, and the old-fashioned handkerchief instead of facial tissues.
Junk mail accounts for 4 million tons of solid waste a year. Take your name off marketing mailing lists by calling or e-mailing companies directly or by using a free service such as www.catalogchoice.org. Or, for a small fee, you can also register with a comprehensive junk-mail reduction service. Search for “junk mail” online to find some of these services.
Resolve to Buy Texas
Buy Texas products
Look for Texas organic fruits and vegetables grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Most farmer’s markets and pick-your-own farms offer organic products. For locations in Texas, go to the Pick Texas Web site. Buying food produced in Texas supports the local economy, reduces refrigeration and transportation emissions of long-distant transport, and lessens the need for packing materials.
Visit www.takecareoftexas.org for more ideas. The Web site also contains an online calculator to help Texans estimate how much water, energy, and money they can save by taking some of the simple steps suggested on the Do Your Part page of the site.
The Home Depot and the TCEQ Take Care of Texas
The Home Depot and the TCEQ Partner to Take Care of Texas
This year, the Home Depot and the TCEQ partnered to host several events designed to educate consumers on how to take care of Texas.
At an Earth Day event at 16 Home Depot stores across Texas, more than 40 participants built rain barrels and over 280 participants learned how to save money, water, and energy.
At the TCEQ Environmental Trade Fair and Conference in May a Home Depot representative gave demonstrations on how to build rain barrels. Drawing up to 90 viewers each time, the demonstrations at the Take Care of Texas booth proved to be the highlight of the booth.
When not making presentations, the Home Depot representative answered questions about their EcoOptions products.
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