Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth opens in Halifax June 16, and the accompanying Climate Crisis website: www.climatecrisis.net is a treasure trove of information, from glowing reviews of the film to 10 easy ways you can cut down carbon dioxide emissions. You'd expect nothing less from the guy who invented the internet, but it turns out other environmental crusaders—such as David Suzuki: www.davidsuzuki.org/WOL/Challenge/10steps.asp the Weather Makers guy: www.theweathermakers.com/globalwarming/ and the City of Toronto: www.toronto.ca/health/2020/athome.htm have similar lists of earth-friendly actions on their sites.
To make it really, really easy for you to save the world, we've combined the various lists to make the following list of eight ideas at least two experts endorse. At the top, Suzuki, Gore and Toronto agree that a little climate change is a good thing, when it happens in your house. Among the single-source bits of advice not mentioned here, The Weather Makers author Tim Flannery thinks installing solar panels is an important step. Then again, he says writing to a politician is useful, too.
Touch that dial
Most energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which creates the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, so it makes sense that if you use less energy, you both save money and reduce your enviro impact. But where exactly do you start? Three of our four list-makers point to the thermostat. Set it a degree or two lower in winter (the furnace doesn't kick in as early), a degree or two higher in summer (to use the air conditioner less). Suzuki says almost 60 percent of the energy used in an average Canadian home goes towards heating.
Suzuki, Gore and Flannery aren't shy about the need to drive cars less. Walk, ride a bike or use public transit instead. (Suzuki is alone in suggesting that you choose to live close to your work or school. Buying a bus pass is a more realistic chore than buying a house.)
Gore and Toronto advocate turning off electronics—computers, stereos, even lights—when they're not in use. Duh.
If you're in the market for a new vehicle, Flannery and Suzuki remind you to shop around for a fuel-efficient model. On cars new and old, Gore reminds you to keep the tires properly inflated because a soft tire hurts your gas mileage.
How many environmentalists does it take to change a lightbulb? Two, Gore and Flannery. Gore says replacing one regular bulb with a compact fluorescent version can save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. Although if you never turn them on, you'll probably save more (see above).
Go with the low-flow
Invest in a low-flow showerhead (Flannery, Gore) and you won't miss the hot water you're saving.
"Reduce, reuse, recycle" doesn't necessarily make sense when it comes to washers, dryers, fridges and the like. Suzuki and Flannery agree that buying the latest, most efficient versions of appliances can save lots of energy. In case big-ticket shopping isn't in your budget, Toronto suggests improvements like cleaning the dust off the condenser coils on the back of your fridge, using the dryer less by hanging wet clothes and only running the dishwasher when it's full. Fun fact: Flannery, the Australian, calls appliances "whitegoods."
A tip from enviro fashionistas Al Gore and the City of Toronto: Use less hot water by always washing your clothes on the cold-water setting. More realistic than always washing your body with cold water, low-flow shower or not.