Easy ways to resolve to make a difference in 2010

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Now that the holiday season is history and life is getting back to normal, resolve to make a difference this year.

Resolutions

Here’s a list of resolutions to consider. Each is relatively easy, and most will save a few dollars over the course of the year.

- Set your thermostat in winter to 68 degrees or less during the daytime and 55 degrees before going to bed or when you’re away for the day. Keep a few fleece throws handy for reading or watching TV at night. And during the summer, use fans and set thermostats to 78 degrees or more.

- Check the tire pressure on your vehicles once a month. If all Americans kept their tires properly inflated, we’d all get better gas mileage, and we could save billions of gallons of gasoline a year.

- Make the transition from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents. They cost a bit more, but they last much longer and actually throw off more light than heat. And be ready to switch to LED lighting when it becomes affordable.

- Buy a few reusable fabric shopping bags. Last year it took 12 million barrels of oil to make the 88.5 billion plastic bags consumed in the U.S.

- Switch to reusable water bottles made of stainless steel or aluminum. If you don’t buy plastic water bottles, you won’t have to recycle them, and you’ll save the energy required to manufacture them.

No more catalogs

– Get off the catalog band wagon. Each year, literally billions of catalogs are mailed to American consumers. All those catalogs require more than 53 million trees and 56 billion gallons of water to produce. Visit www.catalogchoice.org to put a stop to unwanted catalogs. Within 10 weeks, your mailbox should be rid of unwanted catalogs.

- Only 10 percent of the energy used by a typical washing machine powers the motor. The rest heats the water. Most clothes will get clean in cold water especially if you switch to cold water detergents. So change the temperature setting on your washing machine, and save both money and energy.

Hang clothes to dry

- Reduce the use of a clothes dryer. Better yet, hang clothing outside to air dry on sunny days. During cold weather, use folding indoor racks. Clean the lint filter after each load and dry only full loads of clothes.

- A leaky toilet can waste buckets of water every day. To see if your toilet is leaking, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the dye shows up in the toilet bowl after 15 minutes or so, the toilet has a leak. Leaking is usually caused by an old or poorly fitting flapper valve, which is easily replaced.

- Stop using paper towels. Instead, buy some reusable microfiber towels, which grip dirt and dust like a magnet. When they get dirty, wash them and reuse them again and again. If you must use paper towels, use recycled products. If every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save more than half a million trees.

- Pay bills electronically. You’ll save paper, and you’ll slash your annual postal costs.

- Volunteer at a local nature center, conservation organization or animal shelter.

- Learn to identify one bird species by ear each month.

Recipe

- Finally, on a totally different subject, here’s Martha Sargent’s “No-melt Peanut Butter Suet” recipe for all who have misplaced it. You’ll need 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 2 cups “quick cook” oats, 2 cups cornmeal, 1 cup lard (no substitutes here), 1 cup white flour and 1/3 cup sugar.

Melt lard and peanut butter over low heat, then stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into square or rectangular cake pan about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Place in freezer for 30 minutes to allow suet to harden a bit, then cut blocks to size to fit your suet basket, separate blocks with wax paper and store in freezer in plastic bags.

About the Author

Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. Send questions and comments to scottshalaway@gmail.com. You can also visit his Web site, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com. More Stories by Scott Shalaway

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