Smarter Business: Greening the Games
Professional sports team up with NRDC to reduce their environmental impact.
For many years NRDC has provided hundreds of green tips to professional sports teams across the country. Here’s the latest list of tips that professional leagues are distributing to their fans nationwide, encouraging them to save energy, save money and benefit the environment:
Save Energy on the Road
- Keep your car in good condition - Get your engine tuned up regularly, change the oil, and keep your tires inflated properly. A tune-up could boost your miles per gallon anywhere from 4 to 40 percent; a new air filter could get you 10 percent more miles per gallon. When replacing your wheels, opt for the new fuel-efficient tires. Due to new materials in these tires, they use less energy when rolling along the road but maintain excellent wear and traction characteristics. Major tire makers including Michelin, Goodyear and Bridgestone all offer fuel-efficient models.
- Commute smarter - Share a ride to work, telecommute or use public transit. If your daily commute is just 10 miles each way (the national average) and you normally drive a 20-mpg vehicle, you would save 236 gallons of gas each year by opting to carpool, telecommute or use transit. If each commuter car carried just one more passenger once a week, we would cut America's gasoline consumption by about 7.7 million gallons. To learn how you can commute smarter and calculate the benefits of alternative transportation check out NRDC’s CO2 Smackdown.
- Drive smarter (known as hypermiling) – Drive more smoothly, avoid heavy breaking or accelerating and coast to a stop in order to improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and save on gas by maximizing miles per gallon. Avoid idling by shutting off the engine for prolonged waits (for the kids at school or at a train crossing). Remove roof racks whenever possible as they can create significant drag. When carrying clamshell storage containers, bikes or other burdens, you reduce your fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent, so take them off the car roof when not needed. Learn more about getting better mileage.
- Slow down - Ease up on the pedal. Slowing down from 75 to 65 miles per hour will drop your highway gasoline consumption by about 15 percent. That's money in your pocket.
- Use good motor oil- Choose fuel-efficient motor oil marked with an "Energy Conserving" label by the American Petroleum Institute. Motor oils with additives that reduce friction can increase a vehicle's fuel economy by 3 percent or more.
- Leave the car at home - When possible, choose alternatives to driving (public transit, biking, walking, carpooling), and bundle your errands together so you'll make fewer trips. Find out if you live in a smart region for transportation in NRDC’s Smarter Cities nationwide transportation study.
- Encourage streets for bikes and pedestrians - Encourage officials in your community to increase features such as bike lanes and pedestrian malls, and push for traffic-calming techniques like speed bumps, raised crosswalks and extended and widened sidewalks. The more pedestrian- and bike-friendly an area is, the more people will walk and ride and the less they'll drive. This means less congestion, less energy consumption, and less air pollution. Learn about America’s best regions for transportation in NRDC’s Smarter Cities nationwide transportation study and find out how to improve your neighborhood’s transportation options.
Save Energy at Home: Read More↓
- Switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) - Change the six bulbs you use most in your house to compact fluorescents. CFLs are 80 percent more efficient than conventional bulbs. Each CFL will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime. And while compact fluorescents are initially more expensive than the incandescent bulbs you may be used to using, they last ten times as long, and replacing six bulbs can save you an average of $36 per year in electricity costs.
- Turn off the lights - Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you're not using them. This is a no-brainer, but it's surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers where you can. The same goes for any outdoor lights. Don’t leave outdoor security lights on all night or during the day-- install a timer or sensor.
- Set heating and cooling temperatures correctly - Set your thermostat in winter to 68 degrees or less during the daytime, and 55 degrees before going to sleep (or when you're away for the day). During the summer, set thermostats to 78 degrees or more. Get an electronic thermostat that will allow your furnace to heat the house to a lower temperature when you're sleeping and return it to a more comfortable temperature before you wake up. Learn more on EPA’s Energy Star website.
- Buy energy-efficient products - When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for a yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product--this compares the energy use for that model against similar models. New energy-efficient models may cost more initially, but have a lower operating cost over their lifetimes. The most energy-efficient models carry the Energy Star label, which identifies products that use 20-40 percent less energy than standard new products. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star. Did you know your refrigerator typically accounts for up to 20 percent of your electric bill? On the average, new refrigerators and freezers are about 75 percent more efficient than those made 30 years ago, so investing in a state-of-the-art refrigerator can cut hundreds of dollars from your electric bill during its lifetime. Find the most efficient electronics and appliances in the U.S. at Top Ten USA, a nonprofit that identifies the best of the Energy Star products. Learn more at NRDC’s CO2 Smackdown.
- Unplug seldom-used appliances – Do you have an extra refrigerator in the basement or garage that contains just a few items? You may save around $10 every month on your utility bill by unplugging it.
- Unplug your chargers when you're not charging - Every house is full of little plastic power supplies to charge cell phones, PDA's, digital cameras, cordless tools and other personal gadgets. Keep them unplugged until you need them, even if they’re not in use (as they’re still sucking energy), and you’ll save on your annual energy bill. Learn more using NRDC’s Energy Vampire Calculator to determine the cost to you and the amount of CO2 emitted by unused items plugged into the wall. Find out more at NRDC’s CO2 Smackdown.
- Use power strips - Use power strips to switch off televisions, home theater equipment, and stereos when you're not using them. Even when you think these products are off, together, their "standby" consumption can be equivalent to that of a 75 or 100 watt light bulb running continuously. With several electronics plugged into a power strip, you can turn everything off at once with the flip of a switch—also, most power strips double as a surge protector.
- Use sunlight wisely - During the heating season, leave shades and blinds open on sunny days, but close them at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows. Close shades and blinds during the summer or when the air conditioner is in use or will be in use later in the day. To learn more about low-cost ways to stay cool in the summer, including weatherstripping your windows, adding outdoor awnings or installing ceiling fans (particularly in the attic), see "CO2 Smackdown, Low-Cost Cooling."
- Keep your water heater at the right setting - Set the thermostat on your water heater between 110 and 120 degrees. Lower temperatures can save more energy, though you may run out of hot water on occasion or end up using extra electricity to boost the hot water temperature in your dishwasher.
- Cut your fridge’s energy use - Set your refrigerator temperature at 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit; your freezer should be set between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t open the refrigerator door any longer than you need to--this keeps the temperature cool inside. Use the power-save switch if your fridge has one, and make sure the door seals tightly. You can check this by making sure that a dollar bill closed in between the door gaskets is difficult to pull out. If it slides easily between the gaskets, replace them. Also make sure there is good air circulation around the coils at the back of your fridge and no heating vents are nearby —lack of circulation and nearby heating vents can lower the refrigerator’s temperature, which can result in wasted energy.
- Check your air conditioner’s efficiency - If you have a window-mounted air conditioner that is more than 10 years old, set money aside to replace it with a new Energy Star rated unit before next summer. See NRDC’s “Salvage or Scrap: Air Conditioners” for help on choosing the right-sized model. But also consider cheap ways to cool your home that don't require air conditioning—see "CO2 Smackdown, Low-Cost Cooling."
- Use your oven more efficiently - The way you use an appliance can change the amount of energy it wastes. Make sure your oven gasket is tight, and resist the urge to open the oven door to peek, as each opening can reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees. Preheat only as much as needed, and avoid placing foil on racks -- your food won't cook as quickly.
- Use your washing machine and dryer more efficiently - Wash at least half your loads in cold water instead of hot. Typically 90 percent of the energy consumed in washing clothes stems from heating the water, so washing loads in cold water can create substantial savings. Another big household energy user is the clothes dryer. Dryers kept in warm areas work more efficiently. Clear the lint filter after each load, and dry only full loads. And don't forget that hanging clothing outside in the sun and air to dry is the most energy-efficient method of all.
- Check the efficiency of your washing machine - Consider replacing top-loading models that have reached the age of seven or older and are starting to fail. Front-loaders are more expensive, but EPA Energy Star-rated models use much less water and that means much less energy to heat the water. See “Salvage or Scrap: Clothes Washer” for more details and compare your model with a current Energy Star-rated machine using NRDC’s calculator.
- Check your utility's energy-efficiency incentives - Some utility companies have programs that encourage energy efficiency. Check with your utility to find out if it offers free home energy audits, cash rebates for using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and lower electric rates for households meeting certain energy-efficiency criteria.
- Weatherize your home or apartment - Drafty homes and apartments allow energy dollars to leak away. Seal and caulk around windows and doors. Make sure your home has adequate insulation. Many old homes do not have enough, especially in the attic. You can check the insulation yourself or have it done as part of an energy audit. Learn more at NRDC’s CO2 Smackdown.
- Choose renewable energy - Many consumers can now choose their energy supplier. If you have a choice, choose an electric utility that uses renewable power resources, such as solar, wind, low impact hydroelectric, or geothermal.
- Think about your diet – Replace beef and pork with poultry to lower your carbon footprint and save money too. Replacing the protein you get from beef with poultry can save you an average of .75 tons (or 1,555 pounds) of CO2 emissions annually. For comparison's sake, if the average American were to go entirely vegetarian, they would save 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Poultry products are also often cheaper than beef, including many Certified Humane and USDA organic poultry options. But your biggest savings will come from cooking your own food and reducing takeout and restaurant meals. Learn more about the importance of reducing meat consumption for your health and the planet at NRDC’s CO2 Smackdown.
Save Resources at Home: Read More↓
- Recycle household discards - Make an effort to participate fully in your town's or your building's recycling program. If there's no recycling program where you live, encourage local officials to start one. If you have a recycling program where you live, work to expand it. In the meantime, learn where you can take items such as paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, plastic, and tires to be recycled, then make an effort to go there. For more information about the benefits of recycling, visit NRDC’s Recycling page.
- Make recycling convenient - Put collection bins in various places around your home and office to make recycling convenient. Use different bins that follow your city's recycling policies so you don't have to separate it out later.
- Recycle used electronics - Check with the e-Stewards Recyclers in your area about recycling your electronic waste or ‘e-waste’. For a list of e-Stewards Recyclers and more about e-Stewards Certification, see www.e-stewards.org. Learn more about what to with your e-waste.
- Use durable goods - Bring your own cloth bags to local stores. Replace plastic and paper cups with ceramic mugs, disposable razors with reusable ones. Refuse unneeded plastic utensils, napkins, and straws when you buy takeout foods. Use a cloth dishrag instead of paper towels at home, and reusable food containers instead of aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Most cities in the United States have clean, drinkable water, so use tap water (you can filter it if you'd like) and refillable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.
- Don't forget to reuse - Paper, plastic, glass and cans aren't the only items that should be diverted from incinerators and landfills. Donate old clothing, furniture and other useful but unwanted household items to homeless shelters, thrift stores, animal shelters and other community organizations.
- Cut down on extra paper and junk mail – Unsubscribe from unsolicited catalogs and junk mail. Several services will help remove your name from lists of unwanted mail, including CatalogChoice.org (affiliated with NRDC), 41pounds.org, and DMAChoice.org. 41pounds.org charges $41 for five years of service; CatalogChoice.org welcomes donations; and DMAChoice.org, which can also help you control the flow of commercial email, is free.
- Compost - Composting reduces the burden on overcrowded landfills and gives you a great natural fertilizer for plants and gardens. Buy a composting setup at a garden supply or hardware store. Start with yard trimmings, fruit and vegetable food scraps, and coffee grounds. Learn how to set up your own compost.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn - Grass clippings make good fertilizer when they decompose. Leaving them on your lawn (“grasscycling”) keeps them from occupying limited space in the local landfill.
Save Resources at Work: Read More↓
- Buy energy-efficient office equipment - Energy Star-rated equipment is an option at work as well as at home. Energy Star equipment has power management features that allow it to reduce its power use or turn itself off when not in use. According to the EPA, Energy Star-labeled equipment can save up to 75 percent of total electricity use.
- Recycle - If your office doesn't have a recycling program, work with your office manager and custodial staff to set one up. Paper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles are easy to start with, and additional materials can be added as the staff gets used to recycling. Set up bins in convenient areas to collect each type of material your office recycles, and make sure everyone knows they are there. For more information about the benefits of recycling, visit NRDC’s Recycling page.
- Commit to environmentally friendly purchasing practices - Encourage your company to make a commitment to purchasing paper and other materials made with post-consumer recycled content. Companies should avoid paper products made from 100 percent virgin fiber content, and switch to paper that is at least 30 percent post-consumer content. Also look for plastic and metal products made with recycled or scrap material. Also see “Paper Purchasing” at the NRDC Greening Advisor for more information about environmentally preferable paper.
- Be thrifty with paper - Don't print out each report, memo or email you receive. Read and delete the ones you don't need to save and electronically file others you might refer to later. Make sure your office printer and copier can make two-sided copies, and encourage others to get into the habit of doing so (better yet, change the default settings to double-sided). Save even more paper by using the blank sides of used sheets of paper for note-taking and printing drafts. Also see "Reducing Paper Use" at the NRDC Greening Advisor.
- Use reusable utensils for office parties - If you work in one of those offices where there's no excuse too small for a mid-afternoon get-together, encourage the office manager to invest in a set of dishes, cups, and utensils that can be used each time, rather than breaking out plastic utensils and paper plates.
- Bring a waste-free lunch - Store your food in reusable containers rather than wrapping it in foil or plastic. Keep a knife, fork, spoon, and cloth napkins at work to avoid the need for plastic utensils and paper napkins. Bring your hot or cold drinks in a thermos, and drink them from a mug you keep at your desk or in your work area.
- Set computers to sleep and hibernate - Enable the "sleep mode" feature on your computer, allowing it to use less power during periods of inactivity. In Windows, the power management settings are found on your control panel. Mac users, look for energy saving settings under system preferences in the apple menu. Configure your computer to "hibernate" automatically after 30 minutes or so of inactivity. The "hibernate mode" turns the computer off in a way that doesn't require you to reload everything when you switch it back on. Allowing your computer to hibernate saves energy and is more time-efficient than shutting down and restarting your computer from scratch. When you're done for the day, shut down. And don’t forget to turn off the screensavers on your computers—you don’t need them to protect your screen, and they use more energy than just leaving your computer idle. You can also turn down the backlighting on your computer screen to save energy even while it’s in use (look at the top of your keyboard or under program settings for both Macs and PCs).
Shop Smart: Read More↓
- Buy products with less packaging - A large percentage of the paper, cardboard, and plastic we use goes into packaging -- much of it wasteful and unnecessary. When you buy a product, look at the packaging and ask: Can it be reused? Is it made of post-consumer recycled materials? Is it necessary at all? Reward those companies that are most enlightened about their use of packaging by purchasing their products. Contact companies that overpackage and tell them you will be more likely to buy if they change this policy.
- Buy recycled products - Purchase paper and other products for your home and office that are made with post-consumer recycled content and packaged in recyclable materials. Check the packaging you buy to ensure that it’s recyclable (and ideally includes recycled content). Avoid buying individually-wrapped servings – repackage at home in smaller, reusable containers.
- Buy in bulk - When you can, buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging that gets thrown away.
Conserve Water and Keep it Clean: Read More↓
- Install a low-flow showerhead - On average, showers account for 32 percent of home water use. U.S. federal law now requires that all showerheads sold be low-flow models. Low-flow showerheads deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute compared to standard showerheads that release 4.5 gallons per minute. A typical family of four using low-flow showerheads can save about 20,000 gallons of water per year. Also remember, cutting down your time in the shower saves money on your water and energy bills. For every minute the typical American spends in the shower each day, 204 pounds of heat-trapping pollutants are emitted annually for an electric-powered water heater and 94 pounds for a natural gas-fueled water heater.
- Install flow restrictor aerators - Placing these inside faucets saves 3 to 4 gallons per minute when you turn on the tap. Of course, you can also help out by doing simple things such as not running water in the sink while soaping your face or brushing your teeth.
- Install an ultra-low-flush toilet or a toilet displacement device - Toilets are water hogs. About 40 percent of the water you use in your home gets flushed down the toilet. That amounts to more than 4 billion gallons of water in the U.S. each day. That's why federal law now mandates that all new toilets installed for residential use be low-flush toilets. Conventional toilets generally use 3.5 to 5 gallons (sometimes more) of water per flush, while low-flush toilets use 1.6 gallons of water or less. If you're not building a new home, you can still benefit by installing one of these toilets. Still have an old toilet? You can save more than 1 gallon of water per flush with a displacement device -- place a brick or plastic milk jug filled with water or pebbles in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
- Use water wisely in the kitchen - Water is wasted more quickly than you might think. An open faucet lets about 5 gallons of water flow every 2 minutes. In the kitchen, you can save between 10 and 20 gallons of water a day by running the dishwasher only when it's full. You can save up to 30 percent more water by running a full load in your dishwasher than if you wash all the dishes by hand with the tap running. Save yourself money and time and use your dishwasher – you don’t even need to rinse dishes before loading them, just scrape any scraps into your compost (most dishwashers are now built to remove any food residues and pre-rinsing can waste as much as 20 gallons per load). If you do need to wash dishes by hand, fill the sink or a dishpan with water, rather than running the tap continuously as you scrub.
- Use water wisely in everyday activities - Run the clothes washer only when full. Take a shorter shower and turn off the water while soaping and shaving to also save a lot of water. Sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them down -- washing a sidewalk or driveway with a hose uses about 50 gallons of water every 5 minutes.
- Repair leaks - Fix those leaking and dripping faucets as soon as possible. A dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons every day.
- Choose nontoxic alternatives to household cleaners with harsh chemicals - You can use baking soda, for example, to deodorize drains, clean countertops and polish stainless steel. Learn more about which chemicals are safe to use in your home with the NRDC Chemical Index.
- Don't pour chemicals down the drain - When you dump paint, oil, harsh cleansers and other hazardous products down the drain, they can find their way into nearby bodies of water. Contact your local sanitation, public works or environmental health department to find out about hazardous waste collection days and sites. Learn more about how to dispose of your household chemicals safely.
- Maintain your septic system - Have your septic tank cleaned out every three to five years. Such maintenance prolongs the life of your system and can help prevent groundwater contamination.
- Direct runoff to soil, not street - Rain gutters and spouts on your home should lead to soil, grass or gravel areas, and not blacktop, cement or other hard surfaces. Wash your car on the lawn instead of on the street or driveway. Remember to sweep your driveway and sidewalks, rather than hosing them down. Learn more about waterless car wash products here.
- Clean up after your pet - Don't leave pet waste on the ground. It could contain harmful bacteria and excess nutrients that can wash into storm drains and eventually pollute local waters. Flush it, or look for signs in public parks that direct pet owners to appropriate trash receptacles.
- Landscape in tune with the natural environment - If you're landscaping, use plants that are native to your area. Growing native plants can save more than half the water normally used to care for outdoor plants. Raising thirsty plants in arid areas will mean having to water them almost daily with gallons of sprinkler or irrigation water. In dry areas, use plants that need little water, thereby not only saving water and labor, but also preventing pollution from the use of fertilizers. Remember to group plants according to their needs and keep planted areas dense and consolidated to make watering more efficient. If you must water your lawn, either water early or late in the day or on cool days to reduce evaporation. Allow your grass to grow a bit taller to reduce water loss by providing more ground shade for roots and promoting soil water retention. You can also use windbreaks, screens, lattice, and vines to shelter the house, outdoor living areas and plants.
- Use natural fertilizers - Apply natural fertilizer such as compost (from your kitchen!), manure, bone meal or peat whenever possible. Ask your local hardware and garden supply stores to stock these natural fertilizers. You can also buy a composting setup at a garden supply or hardware store, or by mail. Composting decreases the need for fertilizer and helps soil retain moisture. Spread mulch over the entire planted area to a minimum thickness of 2 inches. Mulching also can reduce evaporation loss from the soil surface by up to 70 percent. Learn more about easy organic lawn care and mulching.
- Avoid over-watering lawns and gardens - Use slow-watering techniques on lawns and gardens. Over-watering lawns can increase the leaching of fertilizers into groundwater. Trickle or "drip" irrigation systems and soaker hoses are 20 percent more efficient than sprinklers. Learn more about gardening better with less water.
- Decrease impervious surfaces around your home - Having fewer hard surfaces of concrete and asphalt will improve drainage around your home and in your yard. Do your landscaping with vegetation, gravel or other porous materials instead of cement; install wood decking instead of concrete, and interlocking bricks and paver stones for walkways. Redirect rain gutters and downspouts to soil, grass or gravel areas. Planting vegetation at lower elevations than nearby hard surfaces allows runoff to seep into soil. Learn more about how to reduce stormwater runoff around your home and importance of permeable pavement and rain gardens.
- Recycle used motor oil - A single quart of motor oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water. Resist the temptation to dump waste oil on the ground or pour it into gutters or storm drains. Inquire about local programs that buy back waste oil and dispose of it properly. Learn more about disposing hazardous waste.
- Keep up on vehicle maintenance - Make sure your car isn't leaking oil, coolant, antifreeze or other hazardous liquids. Bring it to a mechanic for regular checkups.
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