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SOURCES: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Minnesota Energy Office; "The Environment Equation," by Alex Shimo-Barry; Alliance for Sustainability; National Geographic Green Guide; Living Green Expo; greenguardian.org; Consumer Reports; reduce.org.
6 DEN OR OFFICE
• Unplug electronics and appliances, or plug them into a power strip that can be turned off to prevent the electrical drain that occurs even after they are shut off.
• Reuse computer paper.
• Choose green power generated from renewable sources such as wind. It emits far fewer, if any, greenhouse gases.
11 ENTRY AND PATIO
• An energy audit will help find ways to reduce your home's carbon footprint and cost of operation. Call your utility for details, or see hes.lbl.gov.
• Limit or forgo back-yard wood burning not only for cleaner air for the planet but to avoid respiratory issues for neighbors.
9 FAMILY ROOM
• Choose a gas fireplace over a wood-burning one; it's more efficient, produces fewer emissions and can save money if used as supplemental heat.
• Use efficient lights such as compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Turn off lights and electronics when you leave a room.
• Install a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the heat at night or when you're away.
• Recycle unwanted TVs and electronics. When buying new, remember that LCD displays use less electricity than plasma.
• Close window shades to reduce heat gain in the summer; open them in the winter to gather warmth. Use replacement windows that are double-paned and gas-filled, with a U-rating of 0.3 or less.
8 DINING ROOM
• Buy locally grown food, which minimizes the energy costs of transportation.
• Use cloth instead of paper napkins.
• Use low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and stains. VOCs include a variety of chemicals that can have adverse short- and long-term health effects.
• Reduce the need to dry clean, or use a cleaning company that doesn't use toxic solvents. See www.greenearthcleaning.com.
• Keep your floors bare or use products made from renewable sources. Otherwise, shop and dispose of carpet wisely. See www.greenguardian.com.
• Use a microwave and small appliances when cooking to save energy and time.
• Clean your dishes with a dishwasher, which uses less water than washing by hand.
• Recycle and minimize waste to save energy and resources.
• Keep your refrigerator temperature between 37 and 40 degrees and vacuum coils regularly. Replace aging units with Energy Star-rated models.
• Keep ranges clean to provide the best energy and cost performance.
• Avoid toxic cleaners, which contaminate indoor air (see page 6).
• Use paper towels made of recycled materials. Better yet, use reusable microfiber cloths that are better for cleaning.
• Avoid plastics with PVC, which may contain phthlates, a substance some studies show have negative health effects, especially for children. PVCs pollute from manufacturing to disposal.
• Drink tap water instead of bottled.
• Maintain your vehicle so it will pollute less and cost less to operate. Take waste fluids to a service station or county hazardous waste collection site. See greenguardian.com.
• A hybrid car can go about three times as far on a tank of gas. Not ready to buy? Rent one for your next trip.
• Reduce pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer use. See reduce.org for ideas.
• Switch to safer fishing tackle because lead in fishing jigs and sinkers poisons wildlife. Ask at sporting goods stores.
• Use a bicycle, instead of a car, whenever possible, or carpool.
• Get your furnace serviced yearly and replace the filter as recommended by the manufacturer for cleanest performance and longest life.
• Buy the most efficient models available when replacing your furnace, water heater and air conditioner. Ask utilities about rebates.
• Watch your water heater temperature. It only needs to be 120 to 125 degrees.
• Seal ductwork in your home to reduce carbon emissions, heating and cooling costs. But don't use regular duct tape. Close seams, gaps and holes with mastic sealant or a metallic tape.
• Fix leaky faucets, especially hot-water taps, to save water, reduce carbon footprint and lower utility bills.
• Switch to an energy-saving shower head that reduces emissions; it could save a family of four about $250 year.
• Avoid vinyl shower curtains. Buy PVC-free shower curtains.
5 LAUNDRY ROOM
• Use cold water to wash; dry outdoors whenever possible. Buy efficient washers and choose dryers with moisture sensors.
10 YARD AND GARDEN
• Use an electric mower instead of a gas-powered one. Better yet, use a push mower.
• Compost food and yard waste to relieve landfills and provide a useful addition for the soil.
• Plant trees so they'll shade the home in summer and let in winter light; you'll save electricity and money.
• Use an air conditioner only when needed. Set it for 72 degrees or higher when home; 78 or higher when away or at night. Sign up for your utility's saver plan.