Consider electric yard equipment -- and your own muscles. Electric mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers create less pollution and are more energy-efficient than gas ones. Even better: manual equipment.
Get rid of them. It takes more energy to run those floating toasters or even a static image than it does to have your computer and monitor go into a low-power mode. Unlike 10 years ago, the screen-saver does not extend the life of your monitor. Killing it could save $50 to $100 a year on your electric bill over a year's time.
Reinvent clothes. Turn children's jeans with worn-out knees into shorts. Reinvent clothes that you still like and still fit, but have minor "style" problems -- for example, hemlines that need to be shortened significantly. Many dry cleaners employ seamstresses for those who can't (or can't find the time) to do it themselves.
Old clothing -- Part 2
Be conscious of how you dispose of well-worn clothes. They're not likely to end up on the shelves of your local thrift store. (In 2005, an estimated 11.1 million tons of textiles were generated as municipal solid waste, only 15.3 percent of which was recovered for export or reprocessing.) The Salvation Army, AMVETS and Unique Thrift Stores are three organizations that work hard to divert all types of unsold fabric from landfills. (Many charities sell unsold clothes to textile recycling companies, which in turn sell wearable items to wholesalers overseas, where demand is high. The really worn stuff could be turned into cleaning cloths or filler inside your mattress or car's interior roof.)
The non-profit Gaia-Movement, USA (773-651-7870, gaia-movement-usa.org) and U'SAgainLLC, a commercial textile recycling company (800-604-9533, usagain2.com), have drop boxes in and around Chicago. Call them for locations. Both of these organizations also ensure that worn clothes find a second home overseas or a second life through reprocessing.
Three simple ways to improve your mileage:
1. Don't drive aggressively. Speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking can lower your highway gas mileage by as much as 33 percent and city mileage by as much as 5 percent.
2. Don't go super-fast. Driving 75 m.p.h. instead of 65 m.p.h. can cut fuel economy by as much as 15 percent.
3. Keep up with your car's maintenance. Clean air filters can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. Properly inflated and aligned tires improve mileage by about 3 percent.
Check out freecycle.org. It's a kind of eBay experience -- but without the financial gain. The city-specific site allows people to post items they want to get rid of and others who live close by, in turn, to "shop" for something they need. No money is exchanged between parties.
Check out these Web sites: