Where can I go to find out how much energy my home uses annually?
—Robin Palmer, Wageningen, Netherlands
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook 2000 Report, American residential energy use will increase by more than 22 percent overall between 1998 and 2020.
"The average household expenditure on energy is about $1,300 to $1,400 per year," says Senior Technical Specialist Paul Hess of The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN). To find out how much energy your home usurps, type in your U.S. zip code at EREN’s Home Energy Saver website (http://hes.lbl.gov/hes). This site estimates the annual energy bill for an average house in your area, and then allows you to customize your home to compare reduced energy costs; you"ll find, for example, that installing compact fluorescent lights in just one fourth of your home’s high-use lamps will shave 50 percent off your lighting energy bill. Purchasing appliances with an Energy Star label will save an additional $35 to $70 a year. Warmair.com also demonstrates the substantial energy saved by simple actions like adding insulation to your attic, installing double-paned windows and lowering your thermostat. Surf around for more tips, as developing a whole-house energy conservation plan will help ease the burden on both your wallet and the environment.
Tel: (800) DOE-EREC
To benefit the environment, what guidelines should I follow about changing the oil in my car?
—Andy Sloan, Goldens Bridge, NY
Most modern-day drivers operate their automobiles under what are often called "severe driving conditions." Randy Kambic, director of Media Services at Jiffy Lube International, defines those conditions as "stop-and-go driving, cold and hot weather, dusty air, mountainous terrain and carrying heavy loads." The benefits of frequently changing your vehicle’s oil, according to Steve Christie, executive director at Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA), "include more lubrication for your engine, better gas mileage and decreased emissions."
"Oil will turn into sludge," Christie says, "and stop being effective when the additives in it break down." Although each car manufacturer may offer slightly different advice, after every 3,000 to 4,000 miles service is recommended.
If you change the oil in your car yourself, be sure to dispose of it properly. Take it to a collection site (located at many gas stations), quick lube center, or automotive dealership with hazardous waste disposal. Safety-Kleen, to cite just one example, collects approximately 250 million gallons of used oil throughout North America each year and produces more than 80 million gallons of re-refined base lube oil.
"The use of synthetic oil in your car can extend between-service time up to 7,500 miles," adds Art Garner of Honda. But, don’t push it. Driving with dirty oil only eats up gasoline and pours poisonous carbon dioxide back out the tailpipe.
Jiffy Lube International
Tel: (800) 344-6933
Tel: (972) 458-9468
I have been looking desperately for an environmentally and socially responsible shoe. Are there any companies out there?
—Jason Smerdon, Ann Arbor, MI
Our feet are the most environmentally sound source of transportation we have. Even so, there are environmental ramifications to what we put on them. In addition to humane issues, turning animal hides into leather for footwear involves the use of such potentially dangerous substances as chromium, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives and cyanide-based dyes.
In response to the "sole searching" of concerned consumers, several manufacturers have focused on using natural and non-leather materials. Mephisto makes shoes with a 100 percent biodegradable latex midsole, a natural rubber sole, and a footbed made of pure natural cork. Birkenstock also uses a cork footbed, offers non-leather materials such as wool, felt and EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) and will repair shoes cutting down on land-filled footwear. England-based Ethical Wares and Heartland Products, Ltd. both produce a variety of non-leather boots and shoes as well. If it is athletic sneakers you want, Tretorn offers a canvas court shoe and New Balance, a non-leather cross trainer. Arthur Schwartz, president of Aesop, which also produces non-leather shoes and accessories, says, "Many people are interested but need more exposure" to the options that exist.
Tel: (617) 747-4466
Tel: (800) 597-3338
Tel: (800) 441-4692