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10 big steps

1. Use cloth.
The cleaning products market does a fabulous job selling the convenience of disposable wipes ó furniture polish wipes, disinfectant wipes, mop pads and so on. But is it really any more convenient to toss a disposable wipe into the trash than to toss a cloth towel into the washing machine? Allergy sufferers in particular can benefit by using cotton handkerchiefs, which are softer on a tender nose than a tissue.
2. Use cloth diapers.
Today’s cloth diapers are dramatically different from those of yesteryear. They are available fitted and contoured with Velcro rather than pinned closures. Leaky rubber pants have been replaced with breathable Gortex covers. A baby may go through 5,000 to 7,000 diapers. The same baby would need only 48 to 72 cloth diapers before being potty-trained.
3. Line-dry clothing.
When did the clothesline become aesthetically displeasing? Though folks with close neighbors might choose to air dry intimate apparel on an indoor rack, it’s hard to imagine that towels, jeans, or sheets are offensive. Six to 10 percent of residential energy use goes to running clothes dryers. Running the dryer creates more heat, requiring more energy to cool a home during the summer. Why not let nature lend a hand with the next load? Sun-kissed clothes last longer and won’t be wrinkled if you don’t return to the line promptly when they are dry. Detergents often leave line-dried clothes stiff; however, fluffing in the dryer for a few minutes with a damp washcloth will renew softness.
4. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
These bulbs, known as CFLs, last nearly 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They cost more, but the savings is in energy use. A 15-watt CFL generates the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent. By replacing one 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL, you’ll see a savings of at least $50 over the life of the bulb. Be aware the CFLs will seem dim when the light is first turned on. In a short time it will brighten, so don’t despair.
5. Purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle.
Although the hybrid vehicle market is growing, many gas-powered autos offer superior fuel efficiency ó even some SUVs. With today’s high gas prices, fuel efficiency may be factored in above style and brand loyalty. A site maintained by the Department of Energy, fueleconomy.gov, compares miles per gallon and estimated annual fuel cost for different makes and models.
6. Tote your own grocery bags (or boxes).
Or, when buying only one or two items, don’t accept a bag. Use any accumulated bags as trashcan liners or recycle them at the grocery store.
7. Buy only what you need and use what you buy.
Seriously consider new purchases. How much will you really use/wear it? Do you already own a product that serves the same purpose? It’s easy to get excited about new gadgets, only to realize that the old one worked just as well or better ó then you’re left with another piece of clutter for a yard sale or worse, the dump. If an item is broken, look into the repair cost. The manufacturer may offer a replacement piece for minimal or no cost.
8. Buy recycled.
Look in particular for products with post-consumer content. Recycled goods must be collected, re-manufactured, then put back in the marketplace as a new product. Recycled goods generally have a similar price and quality compared to virgin goods. Office paper is just one example where the difference in price and quality is indistinguishable, but the recycled option is obviously more environmentally friendly.
9. Practice backyard composting.
Yard and kitchen waste can be reused through composting. Naturally occurring soil microorganisms process leaves and food scraps, resulting in nutrient-rich, organic soil that can be returned to nature as a mulch, soil amendment or potting mix.
10. Use mass transportation, bike or carpool to work.Salisbury offers three bus routes from the Salisbury Depot to Rowan Cabarrus Community College, the VA Medical Center, Salisbury Mall, Innes Street Market, Spencer and East Spencer. Fare is $1 with free transfers. Rowan residents who commute to Charlotte might take advantage of the Charlotte Area Transit System with the nearest park and ride at the Home Depot in Concord. Those who travel longer distances frequently can consider Amtrak. While commuting via public transportation or carpool may require some flexibility, these commuters see significant savings in the cost of fuel. Additionally they contribute to cleaner air, a reduced need for parking and less highway congestion.
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Megan Bame is a freelance writer and avid recycler who works hard to reduce her carbon footprint.

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