THE WORDS GREEN AND guilt go well together.
In a 2007 nationwide poll sponsored by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, 81 percent of Americans said they felt a personal responsibility to do something about global warming. For them, and for you, we offer this gide to guilt-free environmentalism.
Being green tends to cost green. And oftentimes, the environmental responsibility that individuals tend to take on seems closely tied to their ability - and their willingness - to spend. Thus, you may see that dual-income, no-kids couple down the street commuting to work in their $25,000 hybrid car or read about celebrities writing checks for carbon credits to cover their energy- hogging mansions. But there are moves you can make that don't cost much - or even anything - and that will help reduce greenhouse gases, keep recyclable materials out of landfills, and otherwise help the earth continue to support life.
The average citizen of a developed country produces anywhere from six to 23 tons of carbon per year. The cost of buying credits to mitigate those emissions varies widely, starting as low as $1 per ton and going as high as $30 per ton.
Conservation International, a nonprofit headquartered near Washington, D.C., recommends that anyone wanting a greener lifestyle to do without a car or, failing that, to drive less. Walk, bicycle, or take public transit, which doesn't cost much at all. And if you do have a car, keeping the engine tuned and the tires properly inflated will reduce pollution and save you gas money.
Next, green your home with Energy Star-rated appliances and windows, high efficiency showerheads, and plenty of insulation and caulking, which will help reduce heating and cooling needs. None of these options is all that expensive, and most of them will put money in your pocket because you'll be using less energy and water.
Reusing items and recycling are both easy ways to be green. Repair and reuse household items instead of replacing them; when you do buy new products, select ones that incorporate recycled materials.
What you eat can also have an impact on the environment. Choosing organic, locally produced foods decreases the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which are pollutants, and also cuts down on the negative effects of transportation. Conservation International also urges would-be eco-warriors to select green products when you're shopping and green candidates when you're voting, and to purchase carbon credits (more on this in a moment). If it all sounds like a bit much, remember that nobody can completely eliminate the impact that living has on the environment - but we can all do better.