Think globally, act locally.
This is one of the more cherished tenets of the environmental movement, but who knows what it means? In simple terms, it means to look at the entire planet, or ecosystem. Then consider what you can do within your own sphere of influence, however large or small it may be.
Since you can't run out and save the world, just start with yourself and what you can do in your own home. After all, what could be more local than that?
Here are just a few simple ideas that should not only help the planet over the long haul, but just might make your own home healthier, cleaner and happier.
Take a look at how your house uses energy.
The more efficiently a house uses energy (the less you use to stay just as comfortable), the less you pay the power company and the less non-renewable resources like oil or coal the power company needs to take from the earth.
It doesn't take a lot of effort to do this. Proper insulation, weather stripping and the right window glass can make a major impact on your pocket book with minimaleffort.
Insulation reduces the loss of heating or air conditioning so these appliances don't have to work as hard. Weather stripping also might be considered a type of insulation, especially around doorsand windows.
Check the seals in these areas. If you can feel a draft, the seal may be damaged or worn and should be replaced. Caulkingis one option. It eventually will peel as it ages and dries out, butit can be replaced with relative ease.
Window glass, especially the low-emission or the double-glazed variety, also can reduce heat loss. Or, to keep it simpler still, shop for some energy-saving film coverings, which also can work well if properly installed and maintained.
Conserving water -- especially in this area, where protection of the Chesapeake Bay is so crucial -- is something everyone should make an effort to do.
Even something as simple as turning a faucet off can save 20 gallons of water a day. Taking care of a leaky toilet can recover up to 200 gallons a day.
Use water sparingly when brushing your teeth, washing dishes or shaving. Install a water conservation shower head for showers, and shower instead of taking a bath.
Water the lawn by soaking the soil to a depth of four to six inches, and do it only when the weather is dry. Contain rain water or run-offfrom the roof by planting trees, shrubs and other ground cover.
Reduce the amount of hard surfaces around the home. Wood decks with space between the boards let rain drain into the ground. Also, diverting rain onto the grass helps reduce run-off into storm drains that feed into the bay.
Now take a look at your kitchen and garage.
Theaverage home is not the toxic nightmare that haunts the dreams of the most fervent environmentalists, but it does have its own modest share of hazardous waste. Just remember to keep your use equally modest.
Buy only what you need of such items as paint, pesticides and thinners -- don't stockpile them. If anything is left over, don't leave it lying around. Get Rid Of It.
Some household hazardous material actually can be flushed down the toilet, because this dilutes the material and carries it away from food preparation areas. But don't flush different chemicals at the same time, since this could cause a dangerous chemical reaction.
If you can't toss something out, give itaway. For example, leftover paint can be donated to church groups orother volunteer organizations. Pesticides can be given to garden clubs.
Many gas stations have posted signs designating them as collection points for the recycling of motor oil.
This is of particular importance, because one quart of oil can contaminate more water than 80 people can drink in their lives. But four quarts can be recycled into 2 1/2 quarts of usable machine oil. And when you buy a new car battery, ask if the dealer will accept old ones for reconditioning.
If you come across a container of something that you can't identify, or something that just doesn't look right, LEAVE it alone until you can get some professional advice on its disposal.
There is a 24-hour emergency number for dealing with hazardous substances, 974-3551. This number is local throughout the state of Maryland.
Other numbers for information on hazardous waste handling are 1-(800)-I-RECYCLE from the Maryland Environmental Service, and (301) 454-3742 for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.
The need for cleanliness is axiomatic, but you don't always need to blast your dirtinto oblivion with the latest chemical cleanser. There are certain items that, albeit more prosaic, will do the job just as well.
For example, baking soda, soap (liquid, powder, or bar form) washing soda, white vinegar and borax can replace or supplement what you might normally use. Not only that, they are safer to dispose of and frequently cheaper.
Baking soda, for example, is a classic remedy against bad or rotten odors. It requires no batteries and is very easy to install in refrigerators, near trash cans or by litter boxes.
Washing soda and borax makes a good dish-washing soap. Alternatively, find the regular dish-washing soap with the lowest concentration of phosphates and use it 50-50 with baking soda.
A safe drain cleaner can be created with few simple household ingredients.
Mix one cup of baking soda, one cup of salt and 1/4 cup of cream of tarter. Pour 1/4 cup down each drain, followed by hot water.
Clogs may be cleared with 1/4 cup of baking soda, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Cover until the fizzing stops, then flush with hot water.
For cleaning glass, use equal parts of water and vinegar in a pump bottle. If you areusing this mixture in an empty commercial cleaner bottle for the first time, remove any possible residue from the original cleaner with rubbing alcohol. Apply the mixture and wipe down with cotton rags.
To clean clothes, add 1/3 cup of washing soda to the water, and use soap flakes or powder instead of the detergent. One-half cup of boraxwill brighten fabrics and add a little extra cleaning punch. A few drops of white vinegar prevents fading, and a few drops adding during the final cycle softens fabrics.