The ULS Report TM

Helping people Use Less Stuff by conserving
resources and reducing waste.

Volume 5, Number 1


CO2 and You

With all of the recent concern regarding global climate change, it is important to focus on ways in which we can reduce the production of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas considered to be the lead actor in the global warming drama. It's actually quite easy to reduce CO2, and doing so produces a rather pleasant side effect: saving money while conserving resources. The key? First, focus on ways to reduce your energy consumption. Then, buy products and packages that provide more performance with less material. Here's how:

Save Energy

  1. Drive less and walk more, carpool, bicycle and take public transportation.
  2. Tune up the car, properly align and inflate the tires.
  3. Turn off the engine while waiting, slow down, and avoid jack-rabbit starts.
  4. When shopping for a new car, check the EPA fuel efficiency ratings posted on the window. Improving mpg from 20 to 23 will reduce the average number gallons of gas purchased by about 700 and save $1000!
  5. Plan shopping and errands ahead of time, so that you can get more done in fewer car trips.
  6. Turn down the heat and wear a sweater or use an extra blanket.
  7. Buy a heat exchanger to turn the fireplace into an efficient heater rather than a heat remover.
  8. Insulate and weather-strip the house and close or install storm windows.
  9. Turn off the lights, TV and radio when leaving the room.
  10. Replace regular incandescent light bulbs with longer lasting ones, bulbs of lower wattage, and/or compact flourescent bulbs.
  11. Run the dishwasher, washer and dryer only when full and using the coolest setting possible.
  12. Tune up the furnace and replace any air filters.
  13. Set the hot water heater so that the water is a bit cooler, and set the refrigerator and freezer so that the air inside is just a little bit warmer.
  14. Take showers and baths with slightly cooler water.
  15. Remove lint from the dryer filter before using.
  16. Clean lint and dust off the coils at the back or bottom of the refrigerator, freezer and dehumidifier.
  17. Buy energy efficient appliances by checking the efficiency ratings posted on them. The small added cost you pay now will be more than offset by the financial savings you'll reap every day.
  18. When cooking items at the same temperature, place them in the oven at the same time. You can even turn the oven off a few minutes before the food is done, since the oven will stay hot for quite a while.

Minimize Packaging/Maximize Function

  1. Use concentrates, refills and flexible packaging.
  2. Purchase products that come in packages which contain post consumer recycled (PCR) materials.
  3. Reuse packaging as much as possible, especially paper and plastic bags, glass containers, cans, etc.
  4. Buy items with multiple uses, such as detergent with bleach or fabric softener, shampoo with conditioner, and polishes that work on many materials or metals.
  5. Buy in bulk, as long as all of the product in the package can be used efficiently.

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A New Year's Letter from the Editor

Remember the last disagreement you had with a close friend, relative or spouse? You probably got mad, screamed a little, slammed the door and walked out. Eventually, you apologized to each other, settled your differences and resumed your lives and relationships.

If you were so angry with each other, why did you patch things up? For one thing, you like the other person, value your good times together and don't want to lose a trusted friend or confidant. But a reason at least as powerful is the fact you knew that you would see each other again, and unless the issues which led to confrontation were resolved, future meetings would be extremely uncomfortable.

The use of this type of informal, yet highly effective, conflict management procedure explains not only how close knit communities worked, but why they worked. People resolved problems by cooperating and communicating. And it is these two skills -- cooperation and communication - that were, and still are, at the core of our social fabric.

However, we lead different lives today -- lives that have severely stretched that social fabric. Extended and nuclear families are no longer the norm. Working parents grab quick meals on the way home from work, leaving children to eat by themselves. Front porches, pedestrian plazas and promenades have disappeared, along with them the chance to exchange pleasantries, opinions and views. Further exacerbating our non-communicative and uncooperative ways is the fact that much of our free time no longer involves socialization: television, video games and surfing the Net all come to mind.

It is very possible that one of the key reasons we have so many lawyers in our society today is that we have lost the sense of community which allowed, and possibly even required us, to solve problems for ourselves -- face to face and with an open mind. But nowadays, there is little stigma attached to using the courts to settle differences, since the people suing and being sued are generally strangers whose lives intersect for only the briefest of moments, and with whom they may never cross paths again.

The same can be said for our relationships with the environment. Living mostly in cities and suburbs, we are removed from nature most of the time. Here, too, we both allow and encourage others to represent our interests -- legislators, lawyers, enforcement authorities and government officials.

By assuming that others will fight our personal and environmental battles, we are slowly reducing our connections to two of the most important aspects of our lives: our loved ones and Nature. Just as important is the fact that we are also losing the fulfillment that comes from feeling a part of both.

With these thoughts in mind, I am re-committing myself to spending more time doing the things in life that call for cooperation and communication. I will devote more time to my friends and family and thus re-discover the intangible pleasures of life. I will stop and talk with people to listen and learn, to compliment and commiserate, and to re-establish the happiness that comes from feeling part of something bigger than myself. I will also spend more time outdoors, being retrospective and appreciative of the world we have, and the world we are all trying to protect for our children and theirs.

By taking this approach I hope to refocus my goals, and to improve my emotional health, as well as that of my friends, neighbors and family. In so doing, I also hope to improve the environmental health of the entire planet.

A Happy and Healthy New Year to all!

Bob Lilienfeld, Editor

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ULS Day will be November 19, 1998

Once again, ULS Day was a smashing success, with 300 participating organizations pitching in and helping to promote source reduction. We also received a great deal of media attention, with over 200 newspaper and magazine articles appearing, and more than 50 radio and television interviews around the country. And, we are happy to report that ULS Contest entries keep pouring in!

To all of this year's participants, we say thanks and look forward to working with you again this year.

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By Dr. William L. Rathje

One of my most vivid memories is of my visit to the home of a family living in crushing poverty in Mexico City. There was no plumbing and all water for drinking, cooking and cleaning had to be carried up five flights of stairs. Outhouses crowded the entrance patio. The family's kitchen fit my expectations - a long dark room that seemed to stifle the light bulb that flickered from the ceiling. It was their bedroom, where all nine residents slept, that was a surprise. It was filled to overflowing by a colorful congregation of 286 toy hippopotami. This collection was a source of great pride and the centerpiece of family life.

Even in the poorest of homes in Mexico, this type of collect-o-mania was commonplace (although most poor families focused on religious and/or movie star paraphernalia). In fact, making collections of things seems to be a basic characteristic of humans today.

Collect-o-mania is a part of what I have called the "Pack Rat Syndrome," the deeply ingrained human tendency to want to keep things, even things that we don't use or want anymore, but one day just might. Even when we don't know what something is, we keep it with the thought that one day we might figure the mystery out.

What do you collect? Virtually everyone I know collects something - rocks, tropical fish, vermilliads, trading cards from baseball and other sports, comic books, beer cans, corks from wine bottles, stamps, coins, antique postcards, matchbooks, restaurant menus, family photographs, train schedules, and a million other sources of pride and joy.

I collect bears (pictures, toys, sculptures, belt buckles, coin banks, etc.), toy garbage trucks, and artifacts that tell the story of culture change (such as a Japanese Army C-Ration can from World War II and bailing wire used to hold together a slightly cracked wooden headrest from Fiji or an intricately carved wooden axe handle from New Guinea that had a leaf spring from a Ford truck lashed on the blade).

I began to think about these collections more seriously when I heard the news report recently about a man in England who had just died and willed his world-class collection of bricks from old factories to his daughter -- who didn't know where to put all 7,000 of them! That gave me a lot to think about. First: What would happen to our solid waste system if suddenly everyone threw away their collections? It would quite possibly be inundated and collapse.

Second: Can collecting incorporate source reduction? I believe the answer is a resounding yes. If most of us are going to collect, we can source reduce by collecting stuff that has already been manufactured for something else - like train timetables or the New Guinea axe - or includes something you would buy anyway - like bourbon in a commemorative Elvis Presley bottle. That way, lots of stuff will be horded and not discarded.

I must admit that from this point of view I do not approve of commemorative plates or medals or coins that are manufactured merely for the collectables market. Sooner or later they will be thrown away. In the meantime, they will have only served the acquisition need of collectors, rather than serving that need and something else before

But even if something is thrown away, even if it is missed by scaverngers, there is one last hope to keep it from filling up our landfills. Worldwide, thousands of archaeologists are digging up, sorting, recording, preserving and displaying millions of old collectables - from broken pieces of pottery to gold deathmasks. If we all have the need to own or see collectables, archaeology is the ultimate source reduction success story: digging up the old so that new collectables will not be produced.

Dr. William L. Rathje is Professor of Archaeology at The University of Arizona and Director of The Garbage Project. The Project studies contemporary cultures by digging up their landfills and examining the resulting debris.

Dr. William L. Rathje is Professor of Archaeology at The University of Arizona and Director of The Garbage Project. The Project studies contemporary cultures by digging up their landfills and examining the resulting debris.

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The ULS Report has grown from scratch in 1994 to the point where today we have 150,000 readers around the world. We also maintain a comprehensive Web site on source reduction, coordinate and promote ULS Day activities, produce a monthly commentary for public radio and Fox TV News. We have always prided ourselves on the newsletter being free, and we aim to keep it so. However, we would appreciate it if you would help us a bit:

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Book Nook

Now is a great time to curl up with a good book. Here are two recent selections that will help reduce winter boredom while you learn to reduce the impact you and your family have on the environment. (Note: Check with your local bookseller about availability. You can also order on the Net. Click on the "Order Now" link next to the book title below.)

Beyond Recycling: A Re-user's Guide  (Order now from
by Kathy Stein * Clear Light Publishers, $14.95

This easy-to-read book lists 336 practical tips that will help you save money protect the environment. It focuses on re-use, which is the second R and is really a form of source reduction, since by reusing we reduce the need to produce new products and use energy.

The book contains lots of good ideas with which to keep really bulky items like mattresses, tires and furniture in good condition and out of landfills. For instance, rotating and turning over your mattress on a regular basis will help it to last longer. When finished with it, check with the Salvation Army to see if they'll pick it up for refurbishing rather than having it picked up for a long slumber in the local dump.

The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Order now)
by Janet Luhrs * Broadway Books, $20.00

This comprehensive manual combines useful guidance, step-by-step strategies and personal examples from practitioners of voluntary simplicity. It will help to you re-evaluate your priorities, goals and relationships with friends, family and colleagues.

The book covers important everyday concerns such as money management, health, holidays, travel and family. It provides a wide variety of ways in which to simplify, reduce and save while enhancing your family's emotional and spiritual satisfaction.

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The ULS Report is a bi-monthly publication of Partners for Environmental Progress. Send e-mail to

Snail mail address: P.O. Box 130116, Ann Arbor, MI 48113
Phone: 734-668-1690
Fax: 734-930-0506

Editor: Robert Lilienfeld
Technical Advisor: Dr. William Rathje

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Copyright 1998 Partners for Environmental Progress

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