The Consumer and the Planet

Uploaded by NSUCTL918 on 05.10.2012


11th grader Brian straps on a camera, so he can stream his daily activities.
As a project for an environmental studies program, college freshman Josh turns on
his webcam and takes his laptop everywhere.
New homeowner Robin also sets up an open feed from the kitchen of her just
purchased home.
All 3 people want to reduce their carbon footprints.
They want to minimize the carbon dioxide their daily activities generate.
All 3 stream their video to an environmental think tank.
Experts will examine their everyday activities and suggest more ways they
can help the environment.
Here's some of their footage, starting with Brian. He wakes up,
washes his face, and brushes his teeth.
He gets dressed, eats breakfast, and takes his dog Burley for his morning outing.
He claims the money he's paid for mowing the family's yard,
writes his parents a note, and heads for the school bus.
Switching to Josh's streaming live video,
he helps himself to an OJ from his refrigerator in his dorm.
He changes his printer cartridge,
and prints out a paper on endangered species,
and checks in with a friend.
Then he takes his MP3 from its charger, picks up his books, and heads
for his bike.
In another town, Robin's webcam shows for helping herself to some cereal for
She prepares some food for lunch in a microwave
and packs her lunch, along with the a bottle of water.
She puts the dishes in the dishwasher.
She wipes off the kitchen counters,
freshens up the cat's litter box,
and takes out a week's garbage.
Then she heads off to work.
Here are the think tanks observations some suggestions on how Brian, Josh and
can conserve natural resources.

The gas that runs today's cars
creates exhaust containing carbon dioxide and many other pollutant gases.
A car in idle emits 20 times more pollution than a car moving at 32
miles an hour.
Josh avoids using drive-through service for his fast food
Robin drives a hybrid car that reduces gas usage.
The hybrid engine reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of gasoline-powered cars.
Her hybrid car has both a battery that provides electricity and a conventional
internal combustion engine.
Sometimes it runs on the conventional engine,
other times it uses the battery.
Josh rides his bike,
or takes the bus to reduce his gasoline consumption.
To earn his allowance, Brian uses a gasoline-powered mower to mow his
family's lawn.
Running that more for an hour pollutes as much as driving 11 late model cars
for the same amount of time.
Weed eaters
and leaf blowers
pollute even more than the power mower.
Switching to an old-fashioned push mower and hand tools would turn Brian's
yardwork into a good workout and reduce the amount of pollution he puts into the
Even food choices can conserve gas.
Food travels an average distance of 1500 miles as it moves from
farm to plate.
Robin shops at a local farmer's market during the summer.
She buys locally produced meats, fruits, and vegetables whenever she can.
That cuts down on fuel used to transport food from faraway regions or even
However, Robin drinks bottled water.
If she switches to tap water,
she'll save on the energy expended, manufacturing, and transporting the
plastic bottles.
She'll save money too.
Manufacturing and disposing of the plastic water bottles consumed in the
United States,
burned up about one and a half billion barrels of oil
in 2008.
That's enough to power 100,000 cars for a year.
Most of these bottles end up in landfills, not recycling centers.
Bottled water is not necessarily cleaner or safer than tap water in the United
People can use home filters if they want to improve the taste of local water.
Generating electricity often releases polluting gases into the atmosphere,
so consumers help the planet when they conserve electricity.
Back at Josh's dorm, he uses a landline because it doesn't require an
electrical charger like mobile phones do.
He left his computer and printer running when he went to class.
Even the low-power option uses electricity, so turning them off will
save power.
A TV uess between 10 and 15% of its energy when it is powered
People can use electricity generated from renewable sources. Renewable means
something can be replaced or regrown.
The sun and winds are renewable sources of energy because they never run out.
Solar cells can collect sunlight and convert it into electricity.
Josh could switch to a solar-powered charger for his iPod.
Solar water heaters are more expensive than traditional water heaters, but they
can pay for themselves over time through lower utility bills. As a college
freshman, Josh now does his own laundry.
He washes his clothes in hot water.
Switching to cold or warm water will save energy used to heat the water
Setting a dryer on the moisture sensor rather than the timer, cuts energy use by
robin cooks in a microwave.
Zapping a meal for a few minutes is more energy efficient than heating an
entire conventional oven.
On a summer day, Brian closes the blinds to keep out unwanted hot sun.
Since the room won't heat up so much while he's gone,
he can reduce the amount of time he runs the air conditioner.
Here's another view of Josh's dorm room. Try to spot how Josh can reduce his
electrical use, without inconveniencing himself greatly
Josh left is lamp turned on, even though he's not home.
That boom box is plugged in, so it also uses electricity when he isn't around.
Of course josh has a cell, in addition to his landline. He left the charger plugged
in even though he has his cell with him.
By putting several cords on one power strip, Josh can conveniently turn off
several electronics when they're not in use.
Robin hangs her laundry on a drying rack.
To save electricity, she seldom dries laundry in the dryer.
Robin keeps her air conditioner at 78 degrees while she's home
and turns it higher, while she is away at work. During the winter,
she has her thermostat at 68 degrees. Air conditioners and furnaces
account for about half of a typical households energy costs. Robin's
thoughtful thermostat settings help her save on her energy bills.
She could replace her old thermostat with a programmable model to reduce her
energy use even more. It automatically adjusts the temperature.
Americans use a lot of water.
From washing cars
to eating vegetables that require water to grow,
Americans consume 1600 gallons of water each day.
Everything from droughts to living in desert country
causes water shortages.
Brian let the water run, while he brushes his teeth.
A simple action like turning the water off while brushing, can save a gallon a
minute. If Brian limits his showers to five minutes, he will save an average of
1000 gallons of water every month,
as well as the power necessary for the water heater to heat that 1000
A dripping faucet can waste as much as 20 gallons a day.
Instead of rinsing fruits and vegetables with running water,
Robin could clean them in a bowl of water.
She could use a trickle rather than a torrent for kitchen chores that require
an open spigot.
She saves water wen she scrapes her dishes, not rinsing them before loading them
into her dishwasher.
She only runs the dishwasher when it is full.
Robin installed a low-flow showerhead and toilet
that cut down her water usage by at least 20%.
Brian washes the family car on the lawn so the runoff goes back into the
ground water supply.
Using commercial car washes conserves water since they reuse rinse water.

Many environmental advertising claims sound impressive, but are meaningless.
They are vague, inaccurate, and impossible to substantiate.
Just because a product uses words such as eco, green, earth,
or planet does not mean it necessarily has legitimate environmental benefits.
Some advertisements make claims without giving information about why the product
actually is good or better for the environment.
The phrases do not give the information needed to compare products, packaging, or
Here are some meaningful labels:
the Energy Star label appears on energy-efficient appliances and
Products with the Energy Star certification, run on half as much energy
as standard equipment.
Energy Star products usually cost more up front.
Sometimes users recoup the initial expense because Energy Star products
don't eat up so much power.
Josh's refrigerator in his dorm has an Energy Star label,
so does his printer. Desktop and laptop computers,
TVs, cable, and satellite receivers
must also meet Energy Star standards.
Gamers can use Energy Star game consoles.
The Energy Star label also appears on clothes washers, dishwashers, and room air
Here's a top-loading wash machine.
It consumes energy and water because the entire drum fills with water.
Here's a front-loading washer which has the Energy Star label.
It saves energy over the top-loading machine because its cycles clothes through
water at the bottom.
Front-loading machines also save energy
because they remove more water during the spin cycle.
Laundry needs less time in the dryer.
Energy-saving dishwashers don't use hot air to dry the dishes.
Here's a quiz:
Which uses the most energy? A wash machine, dryer, dishwasher, or refrigerator.
The refrigerator uses the most energy because it runs continuously.
The other appliances don't.
Air conditioning units also hog energy.
Brian's clock radio uses power, even when it isn't playing at any station.
The curly glass of a compact fluorescent bulb, lights Josh's lamp.
Compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs,
cost more to buy but they can last up to10 times longer.
CFLs use 1/4 the power of incandescent bulbs for equal amount of
CFLs produce about 75 percent less heat. Standard incandescent
bulbs are inefficient
because they give off more energy as heat than light.
CFLs require disposal at a hazardous waste center
because they contain a small amount of mercury, a toxic metal.
Many laundry detergents and household cleaners contain chemicals
which pollute water and harm aquatic life.
Others contain petroleum, a non-renewable resource.
Design for the environment, or DFE,
labels household products, which the environmental protection agency
DFE recommended products
may cost more than conventional cleaners and don't always clean as well as
cleaners with damaging chemicals.
The FSC label stands for the Forest Stewardship Council.
Wood products with the FSC label,
come from well-managed forests. There are currently more than 67 million
acres of FSC certified forest land in North America
and more than 225 million acres globally.
Products made from trees are renewable, if trees are replanted.
Here's the amount of garbage the average person creates in a year:
90 soda cans,
70 food cans,
110 bottles and jars,
the paper from 2 trees,
100 pounds of plastic.
Robin manages to fill only a small garbage bag during one week.
How does she do it?
She buys products like cereal in bulk.
Robin has an outdoor space where she set up a compost pile, which she uses for
She puts kitchen waste, like coffee grounds and banana peels, in the compost
pile instead of adding them to her garbage or running the electric disposal.
So when Robin composts, she also saves the water and electricity necessary to
run a disposal.
In a few weeks, these waste turn into a rich compost that can improve soil.
Compost-improved soil also holds water better,
so watering isn't necessary.
Robin's webcam shows her using clean dish rags to wipe hre countertops.
That way, she has no use paper-toweling to add to her week's trash.
Dogs and cats can live green lives.
Brian picked up Burley's waste, but the plastic bag he used will end up in a
landfill indefinitely.
A biodegradable bag will break down in a landfill. Like most people, Robin uses
clay litter for her cat's waste. However,
clay doesn't dissolve, so it is not biodegradable after it arrives at a
If Robin switches to a waste-free, organic littered, she can dump it in her
yard in a spot far from her compost pile.
Robin never puts paints,
oil, or chemicals down the drain.
Runoff from toxic chemicals in landfills can poison water.
Toxic metals and batteries can contaminate groundwater
so Josh takes his used batteries to a recycling center. Brian checks the green
electronics website for links to recycling programs, when he wants to
dispose of some electronic equipment.
Recycling used things and buying new recycled products
reduces trash in landfills.
Recycling means using a raw material again.
For example,
a town collects aluminum cans from Josh's school. The resulting bales of crushed
aluminum cans make new cans. Recycling aluminum cans saves 90% of
the energy needed to make a new one.
Josh prints his assignment on recycled paper, even when it is more expensive
than traditional paper.
He uses both sides of the paper for early drafts.
One ton of recycled paper uses only 60% of the energy used to make
new paper.
He uses recycled toner cartridges. He takes the used ones back to a store that
collects the empties, and buys remanufactured replacements.
He checks drafts and fixes mistakes before printing so he prints only what he
Josh buys recycled products whenever he can. Recycling industries can only exist
if people by their products.
When Josh and his friends order take-out food, they tell the restaurants not to
include extra napkins and utensils.
They favor restaurants that use containers made from corn
or other agricultural crops,
instead of traditional, petroleum-based plastic, take-out containers.
Recycling plastic may actually use more energy than simply throwing the plastic
away. Brian uses disposable cups in the bathroom and writes with a disposable
pen. He could avoid one-time use products.
Americans discard 1.6 billion pens every year. If placed end-to-end,
they would stretch more than 150,000 miles. That's like
flying from San Francisco to Cape Town, South Africa 10 times.
Josh tries to reuse things like plastic bags.
Reusing plastic bags gives them a second life.
Robin washes and reuses plastic and foil food containers she uses for her
She has a reusable lunch box and includes a cloth napkin.
She carries durable, reusable bags when she shops for groceries.
Robin's jeans are fashionable,
yet purchased at a thrift store.
Buying used clothing helps the environment
because clothing production releases greenhouse gases.
Choosing used, over new, saves the consumer money.
Internet websites advertised gently-used, or refurbished, products at much lower
prices than new.
Brian donates his used clothing to charities, rather than throwing them into
the trash.
Brian carries a slim, reusable bottle in his backpack when he goes to school.
He uses it instead of a new cup at the school cafeteria and receives a 10%
Thanks to the think tank, Brian, Josh, and Robin know more earth-friendly solutions
they can easily implement. Reduce use of energy like gasoline, oil, and
Don't run faucets unnecessarily. Conserve water.
Avoid one-time use items.
and reuse.
Buy Energy Star appliances and electronics.
Use environmentally-friendly products.
Reduce garbage and waste.
Buy recycled products and reuse personal things.
They're doing their part to preserve the planet for future generations.
They are part of the solution to the planets needs.