Consumer Tips

Don't Heat the Street!

Some people use twice as much energy as necessary to heat their homes.

An open fireplace damper can let eight percent of your heat escape through the chimney!

What you can do:

Make a map of your home, and mark all the windows, heating vents, and outside doors. Take a ribbon and hold it up to the edges of the doors and windows. If it blows, you've found a leak!

Show your map to your parents. Plugging up these leaks will help save energy.

Keep your curtains closed on cold, cloudy days to block the cold air out. Also, keeping the curtains closed on very hot days keeps the cool air in!

Fight the Light!

Turning off the lights when you leave the room is one of the easiest ways to save energy.

This will also make your parents happy because it will save them money!

What you can do:

If you are going to be out of the room for more than five minutes, turn off the light.

If you know of a light that is often left on accidentally, make a sticker or a sign to hang next to the light that says "Lights Out!" or "Don't Forget!"

Other ways to save electricity are turning off your walkman, stereo, and computer before going to sleep at night.

The Bunny's Not So Efficient!

Most of the heavy metals (lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, copper, and mercury) in household waste comes from batteries. These metals are toxic and can be harmful to humans and wildlife.

Forty percent of all battery sales are made during the holiday season.

What you can do:

Don't throw batteries in the trash. They should be taken to a toxic waste disposal area, if at all possible. When we throw batteries in the trash for landfill disposal, we run the risk of letting the metals seep into the ground and eventually into the food chain.

Ask for holiday gifts that do not require batteries.

Turn off the toys and games (like GameBoys TM) that use batteries when you are not playing with them.

Ask your parents to buy rechargable batteries.

Warning: Water Waste Worries World!

A faucet that leaks enough water to fill a soda bottle every 30 minutes will waste 8,768 liter (2,192 gallons) of water a year.

A leaky toilet can waste more than 40,000 liters (10,000 gallons) of water a year.

About 75 percent of the water we use in the home is used in the bathroom. (About five gallons to seven gallons with every flush!)

What you can do:

Use a broom instead of a hose to clean off the driveway - this will save hundreds of gallons of water each year.

When you have dish duty, do the dishes by hand. Plug up the sink, fill up one side with soapy water, and the other side with rinse water. Don't let the faucet run. Tell your parents that doing the dishes this way saves enough water for a five minute shower!

Be a water detective: Ask your parents to show you where the water meter is. When you know your family will be gone for a few hours, look at the number on the water meter before you go. When you come back, if the number has changed, you probably have a leak.

Forget the Fluff; Go for the Good Stuff!

By buying things that can be used over and over instead of disposables that are thrown out after each use, and by looking for things that will last instead of breaking right away, you will save precious natural resources, energy, and landfill space.

Even though some well-made items may cost a little more, they are usually worth the money because they last for a long time, and you don't have to replace them.

What you can do:

Think "reusable" not "disposable." This means that you should pick products that are made to be used over and over, like plastic popsicle sticks that you can use to make popsicles at home, or rechargeable batteries.

Try to tell the difference between items that "look good" and items that are "made to last." This is sometimes tricky, because many companies try very hard to make things look good on the shelves. But just because something looks good, doesn't mean it is made well.

Look at the materials and parts. Wood, metal, and thick plastic usually last a long time. Things with lots of mechanical parts may break down. Little pieces may get lost.

Look for a guarantee. Many companies who claim to have well-made products will promise to fix their product if it breaks.

Groceries are Good, but No Bag is Better!

Only about 700 paper bags can be made from one 15-year-old tree. A large grocery store can use that many bags before lunch.

Plastic bags start out as either oil or natural gas. Oil and natural gas are non-renewable resources. This means they can't be reused, and when they are all gone, they are gone forever.

Also, manufacturing these bags adds a lot of pollution to the environment. Once plastic and paper bags are used and go to landfills, they stay there for hundreds of years!

What you can do:

If you have only a few items, ask the clerk not to give you a bag.

When you go shopping with a parent, take some paper bags with you. At the check-out counter, ask the clerk to put your groceries in the reused bags. Some stores offer discounts for people who use their own bags. For every bag reused, they give money back - usually about five cents for each bag.

With your parents, pick a spot in your house to store bags that you get from the grocery store. These bags can be used to carry things to friends' houses or for trash linings.

After bags wear out, recycle them.

Another different thing you can do is take along a cloth bag to the store - and don't use paper or plastic bags at all!

Reuse Before Recycle!

What you can do:

Use notebook paper on both sides.

Make a scrap-paper pad. Gather pieces of used paper the same size with the blank side up. Find a piece of cardboard the same size as the paper and put it at the back. Staple the whole thing together, and use it as a place to write down grocery lists or things to do.

Put Your Paper in Piles!

If every American recycled his or her newspaper just one day a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year.

You can save a tree for every four feet of paper you recycle.

It takes half as much energy to make recycled newspaper as it takes to make fresh newsprint from trees.

Things that can't be recycled are stickers, paper clips, wax paper, tissues, paper towels, paper cups, paper plates, and envelopes with plastic windows.

What you can do:

First, make a place to keep used paper, such as cardboard boxes.

Recycle your newspapers. (Check to see if recycling centers want them tied together or in bags.) Anything that comes with the newspaper can also be recycled (except magazines, which must be recycled separately).

Recycle your old notebook paper. It is considered "white paper," and makes better recycled paper. "White paper" is writing paper, notebook paper, white envelopes, typing paper, index cards, computer paper, and white stationary.

Cereal boxes, egg cartons, wrapping paper are called "mixed paper." All these things can be recycled. Mixed paper can be made into paperboard, the paper that is used on roofs.

Article produced by The California Energy Commission. Online Information All rights reserved. Used with permission