If we don't curtail our wasteful ways, the demands we place on our planet will limit generations to come. We may have a separate bin for our recyclables, and that's a great start—but we can do more to assist the efforts to save the planet.
Join the green revolution by incorporating these eco-friendly habits:
Switch to a Sponge
How many bulk packages of paper towels do you go through in a year? It's too many. Get a pack of sponges and start cleaning your counters with them instead. Worried about bacteria that could grow on your sponge? Remove food particles, keep it dry (bacteria loves moisture), and every couple of days or so, microwave the wet sponge with a half-cup of water or run it through a dishwasher cycle.
Reuse Your Bags
Keep reusable canvas tote bags on hand at all times. Why? National Geographic reports that they are refined from crude oil and natural gas and are not biodegradable. Invest in a couple of strong totes and keep them in your purse or in your car. You just never really know when you'll need them.
Stop Printing at Home
A study from the National Institute of Public Health found that laser and ink-jet printers emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ozone and particulates that harm both nearby users and the environment. In addition, the process of manufacturing at-home printers releases unsafe air emissions. You and the environment would be better served by using a service like DigMyPics.com, which makes digital copies of your media for emission-free sharing.
Replace Your Light Bulbs
Do you know the most environmentally friendly light source? OK, it's the sun. But the second is an LED light bulb. By replacing your incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs you get longer bulb life, use less electricity and save money in the long run. Choose Energy Star-rated LED lighting to be sure it's as efficient as can be.
Take Your Foot Off the Gas
Hybrids are settling into the mainstream now, paving the way for completely electric vehicles. In addition to using greener transportation modes like bike riding and public transportation, conserve gas by avoiding rapid and unnecessary acceleration and keep your car parts clean and well-maintained.
Shop at local farmers markets for fresher, more flavorful foods and your money will go back into a sustainable system that advances the local economy. Investing in your community creates jobs and helps solidifying a city's infrastructure. The Austin Independent Business Alliance is campaigning to get people to shift 10 percent to locally owned businesses from chain stores. It will add hundreds of millions to the local economy and create thousands of new jobs.
Ditch Plastic Water Bottles
Get a stainless steel water bottle to fill throughout the day instead of buying single-use bottled water with toxic polycarbonate plastics. While plastic bottles are recyclable, a reported 75 percent of water bottles end up in landfills and pollute waterways because people don't recycle them, according to worldwatch.org.
Some people are never satisfied. Ignoring the fact that gasoline has done a terrific job of powering motorcycles for many years, they insist on exploring alternative fuels. Of course, there are good reasons. Although a small and lightweight motorcycle is an eco-friendly way of getting around town, gasoline is an imperfect fuel source.
Exhaust emissions are top of the issues list. Modern machines are cleaner than those of yore, but still put out a cocktail of smog-creating chemicals— most notably, CO2. The source of the gasoline concerns many people too. Derived from oil, there's a finite supply, and much of it has to be imported. And last, in urban environments where two-wheeled transportation is at its most useful, the noise generated by those mechanical motorcycle parts is a significant problem.
Electricity: The Obvious Alternative
A growing proportion of our electricity comes from renewables, but even when generated from coal or gas it's easier to control the emissions at source. An electric motorcycle has zero emissions at the point of use, but it has other selling points for biking enthusiasts. Electric motors generate instantaneous torque, making these machines remarkably quick. The smoothness is also a boon to riders, and the hush benefits everyone but those who love the throb of a Harley.
Harley riders may enjoy maintaining their machines, but for most bikers it's a chore. Electric power eliminates many motorcycle parts like spark plugs, oil and filters, so maintenance costs are almost zero and reliability is exceptionally good.
As with cars, the Achilles' heel of electric power is battery storage. The energy density of batteries is far less than that of gasoline, meaning range is limited. That's not necessarily a problem in cities though, where riders don't cover great distances, charging points are relatively plentiful, and regenerative braking puts power back into the battery.
Brew Your Own?
If batteries are such a nuisance, how about generating the electricity on-board when you need it?
That's the idea behind fuel cells. These generate electricity from hydrogen, producing water as a byproduct. As Forbes reports, the technology is well established— car manufacturers like Honda and BMW have had fuel-cell development cars running for several years— and a number of motorcycle manufacturers are working on fuel-cell bikes. But if you want to buy one, you'll need to wait a while.
Other fuel sources have been tried. An Argentinean motorcycle company, Zanella, promoted a bike that would run on compressed natural gas, while several enthusiasts have experimented with biodiesel. As a fuel, biodiesel is interesting because it's renewable, but the downsides are noise and exhaust emissions.
This is Not Science Fiction
Electric motorcycles are available now from companies like Evolve, Brammo and Zero. There is more evidence that these are practical alternatives to the old gasoline machines. Consider this: Gizmag.com reports that police forces from Monterey, Calif. to London, England, have tested and are using electric motorcycles.
So what's the future for eco-friendly motorcycles? Electric power is here but range concerns will likely hold back long-distance cruisers. Those folks will have to wait for fuel-cell bikes, but for city use the green motorcycle should satisfy most riders.
As you get started on your spring cleaning, forget about using chemical-filled commercial products. These can waste your money and pollute your breathing air. Instead, make non-toxic natural cleaners with these simple recipes:
In all rooms, use two cups of white vinegar and water to clean hard surfaces. Add drops of essential oil to mask the smell of vinegar.
Garbage Disposal Deodorizer
If smelly odors are creeping out of your garbage disposal, try this trick. After using a lemon (or lime), slice it into strips and cut the pulp out. Throw it down the disposal with a sprinkle of baking soda and splash of vinegar.
Hopefully you have a lot of lemons on hand because here's another cleaning recipe with this small citrus as the main ingredient. Fill a bowl full of warm water and lemon slices. Put in the microwave and cook for one minute. Let sit for three minutes, then wipe clean with a damp sponge.
Put an old tube sock on your hand like a sock puppet and dip it in a bowl of warm water mixed with vinegar. Wipe greasy, dirty, dusty blinds clean. If you have wooden blinds, use lemon oil (not water) to dust them. In some cases, you may be better off tossing the blinds and investing in grommet curtains made from eco-friendly materials or energy-efficient solar shades.
Pour 1/4 cup undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle. Add a tablespoon of cornstarch and fill with warm water. Shake to blend and wipe dry with crumpled newspaper, a cotton rag or coffee filter.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Mix several squirts of liquid dish soap into a cup with about a fourth cup vinegar. Pour mixture into the toilet and let sit for 15 minutes, then start scrubbing.
Carpet Stain Remover
Using a broom, vacuum or warm rag, remove any particles from the carpet before beginning. Next, sprinkle stain with cornstarch or baking soda. In a small bowl, combine one tablespoon clear dish washing liquid, two tablespoons vinegar and two cups of warm water. Blot stain until it's gone.
Leave sprinkled baking soda on the carpet for about 30 minutes before vacuuming it up. If you have young kids or animals that are prone to spills, consider pulling up the carpet and investing in laminate or softwood floors.
Don't let dust get the best of you. Combine several drops of pure lemon oil with two tablespoons of lemon juice. Add a drop or two of vegetable or olive oil and use a cotton cloth to wipe dust away.