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Published March 28, 2008 10:24 PM

Earth Day Challenge! 10 simple but effective ways to support the planet

By Radish staff
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Whether you’re light green, dark green or just starting to think about environmental issues, Radish dares you to take your actions up a notch in honor of Earth Day. We’re calling it the Radish Earth Day Challenge.

The Challenge consists of 10 easy habits to start ASAP. Do as many of these as you can — some you’ll only need to do once, others you can do over and over and over again.

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Keep track of everything you do for 60 days. Before you get started, e-mail your name and daytime phone number to editor@radishmagazine.com, and we’ll check back with you in June to find out how you did. The household that makes the biggest changes will win the Challenge, receive a recycling bin full of Earth-friendly goods and a year subscription to Radish and will be featured in a future edition.

If you want to sign up in person — and learn more about the 10 components of the Challenge — come to the Radish presentation at the Earth Week Fair from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. April 19 at the QCCA Expo Center, 2621 4th Ave., Rock Island, Ill. (The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For details, visit qcearthweek.org.

Ready? Set. Go!

1. Use CFLS. As your regular (incandescent) light bulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent light bulbs and save 71 percent in lighting costs over time. The cost to purchase and use one CFL over its life is $14.40, while the cost of an incandescent (which will burn out nearly 10 times faster) is $50.14. Change just one regular bulb to a CFL, and that one bulb saves 730 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. While it’s true that each CFL contains about as much mercury as would fit on the tip of a ball-point pen, it’s a fraction of the toxic material that a typical coal plant would produce to energize a traditional bulb over its lifetime. Get the skinny on CFLs at gipl.org/pdf/Study_Guides/CFLIncandescent Comparison.pdf.

2. Use reusable bags. Every year people consume about 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags, and about one-fifth of those are used here in the U.S. They’re one of the most common items to be found during environmental cleanups here and elsewhere — even in places where they’re never or rarely used. (In some places in Africa, collecting blowing plastic bags has become a cottage industry.) Plastic bags are made from petroleum and do not biodegrade. Every time you use a textile bag, you make the plastic one unnecessary. Find out more at reusablebags.com.

3. Recycle more than you currently do … and watch your trash shrink. Every item you recycle makes your trash bag that much less full, which equals an immediate decrease in the amount of stuff you’re adding to landfills. If Americans collectively recycled 10 percent more of their easiest-to-recycle items like aluminum cans and paper, it would save enough energy to provide 1.8 million people with electricity for a year. If you don’t now recycle, start small and save paper. Already recycling paper? Add cans and bottles. Already doing that? Take your e-waste to the correct facility or start a compost pile and recycle your veggie scraps at home. Learn more from the Waste Commission of Scott County at wastecom.com.

4. Shop at a farmers’ market. Every time you buy food from your local farmers’ market, you’ll get “exceptional taste and freshness, strengthen your local economy, support endangered family farms, safeguard your family’s health and protect the environment,” according to Food Routes, the national organization that supports local Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaigns in the Radish region. Most markets start up in May. To find the ones near you, check out the list at radishmagazine.com/markets.php.

5. Plant something, then care for it and watch it grow. Just about anyone worth listening to who has something to say about how we can improve the way we use land — Alice Waters and Wendell Berry are two of the greats among them — tells us to plant something. Even if you don’t eat it, but just look at it, the experience of interacting with the soil and what comes from it, they say, is enough to change your outlook on your own life and the life of the planet. So plant something and observe a change in yourself.

It may be the most important “greening” you’ll ever take part in. For more inspiration, read “The Pleasures of Eating” by Wendell Berry, online at stjoan.com/ecosp/docs/pleasures_of_eating_by_wendell_b.htm or see Alice Waters’ story in the May issue of Radish.

6. Walk, bike or ride public transportation at least once a week. According to the organization Complete the Streets, if each resident of an American community of 100,000 replaced one car trip with one bike trip or walk just once a month, it would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 3,764 tons per year in the community. For more information on the many benefits of getting around town without using your car, visit completestreets.org.

7. Install low-flow shower and faucet heads. According to TreeHugger, a typical household in the U.S. uses more than 260 gallons of water per day. But just by replacing faucets and showers with low-flow fixtures, you can cut out about 45 of those gallons each day. The sustainability organization suggests many low-flow products, including the Lowest Flow Showerhead by Gaiam that has a flow rate of 1.2 gallons per minute and a “pause” button that allows you to stop the water while soaping up or applying shampoo. The model sells for only $12 at gaiam.com.

8. Use re-usable water bottles and fill from the tap. According to the Container Recycling Institute, eight out of 10 plastic water bottles used in the U.S. become garbage or end up in a landfill. In addition, FilterForGood, a joint effort of Brita and Nalgene companies, reports that 1.5 million barrels of oil are used each year to make those water bottles. Besides saving resources, using refillable water bottles keeps a lot of trash out of landfills. For more information, visit refillnotlandfill.org or FilterForGood.com..

9. Participate in a group or individual litter cleanup. Litter is beneath all of us, literally, everywhere. Taking the initiative and the time to clean up a riverbed, park, city block or even just your own yard is perhaps the most personal and effective way to show your love of the Earth. Each time you’re out for a walk, take along a biodegradable bag and pick up the trash along the route. And join others in larger environmental cleanups being held where you live. For more information on such projects, check with your local environmental organizations or visit Keep America Beautiful (kab.org), Living Lands & Waters (livinglandsandwaters.org) or Reclaiming Roots (reclaimingroots.org).

10. Encourage others to change their ways! Tell your friends, your family, and the people in your neighborhood, your church and at work just how good it feels to be green. Tell them about the Radish Earth Day Challenge and help them start living the green life today.

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