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Living Green Part I: Save Energy & Water
There are plenty of things your family can do to preserve natural resources and help the environment. In this series of articles, titled “Living Green,” we’ll review ways to be environmentally responsible and reduce your family’s carbon footprint. Many of these tips have the added benefit of improving your family’s health and saving you money.

Here are a few ways to conserve energy at home. See how many of these your family already knows about.

Reduce your dependence on cars:

Use your legs.
When you walk and bike you cut down on gas consumption, reduce air pollution and improve your health. When your child is an infant, it’s a perfect time to use a stroller or baby carrier to run errands. As he gets a bit older (and you’re feeling a bit ambitious), you can bike with him on a child seat or attach a child trailer. When he’s old enough, you can add a third wheel to your bike and peddle together. Or, walk with your child when you complete routine tasks in your neighborhood.

Minimize Trips.
When driving is necessary, combine errands to minimize the number of trips you take. Organize carpools for appropriate events or use public transportation when possible.

Walk to School.
Many schools sponsor a monthly walk or bike to school day. If your child’s school isn’t participating, find out how to sign up at www.walktoschool.org/.

Reduce energy and water use at home:

Flick off a switch.
Teach your child to turn off lights and electronic devices when not in use. Keep in mind that many devices (including televisions, home theaters, cell phone chargers and computers) continue to draw energy even when turned off. It’s best to put these devices on a power strip, which you can turn off when they’re not in use.

Replace your bulbs.
Change your incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent ones, which last longer and use a quarter of the energy to produce the same amount of light. For example, a 60-watt bulb and a 15-watt fluorescent bulb produce the same amount of light.

Control your temperature.
In the winter, open your shades during the daytime to allow natural sunlight to help heat your home. Set your thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and 55 at night. Get in the habit of dressing yourself and your children warmly inside the house. It’s good for the earth and you’ll reap the benefits of a lower heating bill. In the summer, reduce your air conditioning load when you can. This saves an enormous amount of energy.

Insulate yourself.
Insulation improves the energy performance of your home in hot and cold weather. Repair drafts around your windows and doors; a bit of caulking and weather-stripping can go a long way. And choose energy-efficient windows when you can to lower energy consumption. You’ll save money in the long run.

Save water.
Teach your children to turn off the faucet when brushing their teeth. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator and instruct your kids to use this rather than the faucet every time they want a drink. Low-flow showerheads save water as well as energy. Put a bucket in your shower while your shower warms up and use it to water plants, soak your dishes or make buckets of bubbles for your child to play with. And remember to fix any leaky faucets, which waste gallons of water.

Choose energy efficient appliances.
Appliances in the home may be the biggest energy consumers of all. When it’s time to replace an older appliance, such as your refrigerator, choose an energy-efficient model for long-lasting savings on your energy bill. Look for products bearing the Energy Star® label.

Other energy-saving tips include only running your dishwasher when it is full, selecting the appropriate water level for laundry loads and hanging items to dry on a clothesline when you can.

By living a green life, you’ll be reducing your family’s consumption of the earth’s precious resources, helping the environment as well as your budget.

If you’d like to measure the impact your family is having on the environment, you can calculate your carbon footprint at http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator/.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist