Advice from an expert

Bill Schlesinger, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, says a lot of people ask him what they can do to help save the planet. He notes that simple changes can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere:

  • Every aluminum can that is recycled to make a new can saves 94 percent of the energy that would be used to make a new can from fresh aluminum ore. Recycle 44 cans and save roughly the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline.
  • The type of car we drive and how far we drive it are probably the most important decisions we make that can reduce our energy-use footprint. Compact cars with hybrid technology can double the efficiency. Living close to work also reduces daily commuting.
  • Can't imagine driving a small car? A variety of companies, including TerraPass, offer certificates that allow individuals to mitigate the impact of their driving habits. TerraPass estimates how much carbon dioxide you emit by driving each year. By buying a certificate from TerraPass, you can support the installation of wind power in Kansas that saves the equivalent of the CO2 emissions from your car. The average car emits about 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution a year, the group says. Its Web site is www.TerraPass.com.
  • When you replace a household appliance, save money on your electric bill and reduce energy use by selecting an EPA Energy Star model.
  • Limit use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in the yard. Nitrogen fertilizer contributes nitrate to runoff waters, eventually making their way to the coastal ecosystems, where they affect fisheries. Saving food scraps in a composter will produce wonderful mulch, allowing you to use less garden fertilizer each year.