The ULS Report TM
Helping people Use Less Stuff by
conserving resources and reducing waste.
Volume 6, Number 4
Have A Low Impact Environmental Christmas
5 Unsung Environmental Heroes New
A Green Christmas ULS
electronic subscriptions and PDF version
In honor of the 5th Annual ULS Day on November 18, we
Have A Low Impact
ULS Day! Every year, folks ask us what they can do to reduce waste during the holidays --
the time of year when the amount of garbage created increases by 25% versus the
non-holiday season. (That's an extra 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New
Year's, for you accounting types.)
With the celebration of a New Millennium, we expect trash from
wrappers, bottles, confetti, cards and streamers to increase even more than usual. What
can be done to have some fun while keeping waste generation on the run?
We've come up with a list of five broad categories where the average
Earthling can make the biggest impact on the environment. Under each of these concepts are
a bunch of waste-reducing tips and ideas. None are very hard to do, and many will help you
save time and money as you save natural resources and reduce pollution and greenhouse gas
1. Think conservation, not consumption
There are many gifts that actually help people
(especially younger ones) learn the value of saving resources, rather than spending them.
We also include in this category gifts that don't require you to purchase any physical
+ Savings accounts + Movie tickets
+ Mutual fund shares + Concert tickets
+ Stocks or bonds + Sports tickets
* Don't forget that many party-related items can be rented rather
than purchased. For example, you can rent dishes and glassware, making your party more
elegant and eliminating the need to buy special holiday china. Or, rent formalwear rather
than purchasing tuxedos or gowns.
* Rather than buying ornaments, children can make their own out of
things you already have around the house, or from materials they might find in the
backyard twigs, bark, leaves, flowers, pine cones, etc.
* Plan meals wisely and practice portion control
to minimize waste in the first place:
||PORTION PER PERSON
||12-14 pounds (up to 10 people)
|Sweet Potato Casserole
||1/8 of a 9" pie
2. Focus on energy savings
The most important resource we need to conserve is energy, both because we rely so much on
non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels; and the burning of these fuels creates
pollution and greenhouse gases. Again, saving energy is not only easy, but very
profitable! Here are some holiday-related tips for home and travel
* Turn down the heat before the guests arrive. Youll save
energy while the extra body heat of your guests will warm up the room.
* Walk to neighborhood parties, or carpool (with a designated
driver!) with friends if its too far to walk.
* Purchase holiday lights with small bulbs. Remember, the smaller
the bulbs, the lower the wattage. Low wattage has two advantages It consumes less energy
and gives off less heat, making your lights safer.
* When taking photos, use "fast film." Faster film speeds,
such as 400 or 800, reduce the use of flash and extend battery life. Both save energy.
* When buying electronic toys and other portable items that are used
regularly, remember to buy rechargeable batteries to go with them.
* Plan your shopping in advance. Consolidating your shopping trips
saves fuel (and aggravation), and youll avoid those last minute frenzies when you
wont have time to make careful gift choices.
* Clean it up! Keeping the coils on your fridge free of dust bunnies
will use less energy and help it last longer. Even one hundredth of an inch of dust or
dirt on coils can reduce efficiency by 5 percent. The filters and parts of your air
conditioner and furnace should be regularly cleaned or changed as well.
* Run dishes only when you have a full load, and use the no-heat fan
or air-dry setting for overnight washing.
* Full freezers and refrigerators help keep the temperature down
with all the cold food. If your fridge is not so full (because youre shopping smart
and not overbuying food) try filling empty plastic milk jugs with water and placing them
* Turn the oven off a few minutes before the food is cooked and let
the heat already in the oven finish it.
* Turn off computers, TVs, VCRs and so forth, when not in use. Ditto
for outdoor and Christmas tree lights. Why not put the lights on timers so they turn
* Insulate! Keep hot-water pipes covered in either foam or precut
fiberglass insulation. Watch the attic too, since much of the heating and cooling loss in
your home goes through the roof.
3. Practice systems thinking
Too often, we look at the little picture and dont
see the overall effect of our actions. We'll save far more resources if we think through
our decisions from start to end. Thus, it makes good environmental and financial sense to
* Plan your meals before you shop. Start by making a list of what
you want to serve during the week. Check the refrigerator and cupboards for what's on
hand, and work from that. Then, fill in from the store what you still need. And don't
forget stick to the list!
* Plan for leftovers in advance. After a big turkey dinner, you'll
have leftovers galore. Plan what to do with them ahead of time and buy accordingly. That
way, you'll get the most out of the meat.
* Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new
bag at each store on your shopping rounds.
4. Encourage self-sufficiency
The more we can do for ourselves, the less we need to rely on what others can do for us.
For example, if we can grow our own food, we can reduce the energy costs associated with
transporting foodstuffs from thousands of miles away.
* Take a cardboard box and cover it with cloth. Add old clothes +
jewelry to make a great dress-up kit for kids.
* Make the wrap a part of the gift Put cookies in a flower pot or
hide jewelry in a new pair of gloves. Doing so will keep "wrapping" out of the
* Be creative. Instead of buying place mats or table decorations,
make your own. Cut old cards into shapes and press between two pieces of clear contact
* Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, like a book
about making crafts from reusable items, cookbook for leftovers, reusable tote bags.
* Or simply set a good example by giving homemade food or something
youve made yourself from reused items.
* Shop locally. Keeping your local economy strong, making for a
vital and thriving downtown - a key to reducing suburban sprawl and related problems of
habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity.
* Vacation locally. Pretend youre a tourist visiting your own
town. Call the AAA, visit your Chamber of Commerce and visit the local government website.
Youll be amazed at the attractions youve taken for granted and never visited.
Not only will you save on fuel and transportation costs plus food and lodging, you'll once
again be contributing to your local economy.
5. Give the gift of time
Nothing costs less or means more than spending time with
loved ones. Enjoy your family and friends, and your need to find joy through consumption
Return to Index
5 Unsung Environmental Heroes
We recently received a very clever little book from
the Northwest Environment Watch. It's called Seven Wonders Everyday Things for a
Healthier Planet. Written by John C. Ryan, it outlines the significant environmtental
value of some rather mundane products. In the interest of time and space, we'll focus on
five of the seven.
It doesn't pollute. It doesn't burn fossil fuels. It's easy to park. It's healthy. And you
don't need to buy insurance to do it. Riding a bike thus has strong environmental and
financial advantages over cars.
One other advantage of bicycles is the fact that they don't require
large numbers of, and investments in, roads. Reducing the need for new and better roads
also reduces chances for urban sprawl, overpopulation, habitat destruction and loss of
biodiversity. So start peddling! (And for safety's sake, don't forget to wear a helmet!)
To learn more, contact the Surface Transportation Policy Project
at 202-466-2636, or visit their website at www.transact.org.
It's a little thing. But hanging your clothes out to dry can save you around $85 a year,
or $1100 over the life of your dryer (not to mention saving you the cost of the dryer).
You not only save money and energy, but your clothes smell fresher and last longer, too --
they don't disintegrate into lint, thread or dust balls.
OK, it probably isn't realistic to totally do away with a dryer. How
about hanging sheets, pillow cases and towels? You can even put the dry towels in the
dryer for a few minutes at low temperatures to fluff them up.
You can get losts of good energy-saving information from the
Rocky Mountain Institute. Call 970-927-3851 or visit them at www.rmi.org.
Ladybugs love to eat garden pests. How valuable are the roughly 4000 species of beetles
that we call ladybug? Global spending on pesticides reaches $30 billion annually, and it
is estimated that ladybugs provide pesticide services worth 4 times this amount!
And unlike pesticides, ladybugs don't leave residual chemicals that
can leach into streams and groundwater. They also don't damage other critical and
beneficial parts of the ecosystem, such as bacteria or fungi.
You can do your part by supporting organic farmers, or growing your
own organic food. Call the Pesticide Action Network at 415-981-1771 or point or browser
The Public Library
By making books, magazines and newspapers available for sharing, public libraries have the
potential to save enormous amounts of materials and energy. Going to the library means
that use of paper and ink is reduced, and energy consumption during manufacture and
distribution is curtailed.
The typical American buys around eight books a year and borrows
around six. Our Canadian friends are better at this they buy three but borrow eight. Let's
see if those of us in the good old US of A can be more like our northern neighbors.
Call Libraries for the Future, 800-542-1918 or visit them at www.lff.org.
The Ceiling Fan
It's the indoor version of the clothesline. Instead of using air conditioning, a ceiling
fan uses the evaporative power of moving air to help you feel dryer and cooler. When you
consider that about one sixth of all energy consumption in the U.S. is used for air
conditioning, the humble ceiling fan takes on a very green profile, indeed.
Just so you know, the typical ceiling fan can make it feel as if
it's 72 degrees F when it's really 81 degrees. And a ceiling fan uses only about one-tenth
the wattage of a medium-sized room air conditioner.
When it's really hot and you feel you must use the AC, turn on the
ceiling fan, too. You'll save up to one third of your cooling bill, since each degree
cooled by the fan saves you four percent of the cost of cooling by the air conditioner.
Again, you can get energy-saving information from the Rocky
Mountain Institute 970-927-3851 or visit www.rmi.org.
Return to Index
New Waste Publication Available
In its effort to prevent waste generation and promote resource
efficiency, the Source Reduction Forum, a Council of the National Recycling Coalition
(NRC), has published Waste Prevention Pay$ A Media Outreach Toolkit. The Forum has
also released Purchasing Strategies to Reduce Waste and Save Money. Check them out
on the Web at www.nrc-recycle.org or call 703-683-9025, ext. 225.
Return to Index
A Green Christmas
with regrets to Clement Clarke Moore
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through my home,
Efficiency reigned, thanks to our geodesic dome.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Warmed by the ceiling fan over their heads.
Cozy in PJs, a night shirt or gown,
We saved money by turning the thermostat down.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the thermopaned windows I flew,
And pushed open lined curtains to have me a view.
There in the yard did suddenly appear,
A low emissions vehicle powered by tiny reindeer.
The driver was hoping by all to be seen,
Since he'd gotten new clothes, all warm and bright green.
He jumped on the roof and down the chimney he slipped,
Delivering the gifts he'd been making or shipped.
And if by sheer magic and out of the vapor,
Came presents now wrapped in bits of newspaper.
For Sally a doll and for Jimmy new socks,
Each wrapped with old ribbon and in a used box.
A scarf for dear Mary and a hat for old Rodge,
Now they could walk and not take the Dodge.
With a job well done he got back in his sleigh,
Ready to travel far, far away.
But just before leaving he stopped and did tell,
"Have a ULS Christmas and all will be well."
Have a Happy and Resource-ful Holiday Season!
Return to Index
The ULS Report is a quarterly publication of Partners for Environmental
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Snail mail address: P.O. Box 130116, Ann Arbor, MI 48113
Editor: Robert Lilienfeld
Technical Advisor: Dr. William Rathje
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