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Earth Day tips to help protect environment

On a day set aside to celebrate Mother Earth, it is important to remember that there are all sorts of little things each of us can do to protect our environment.

Conserve energy

· Replace your four most-used 100-watt incandescent bulbs with four comparable 23-watt compact fluorescent bulbs and save up to $82 over three years.

· Use ceiling fans when it's warm because they not only provide additional cooling, they also provide better circulation.

· Clean and replace air conditioner filters monthly. Maintain conditioning equipment with a professional tune-up.

· Install a programmable thermostat to automatically coordinate indoor climates with daily and weekend patterns.

· Close blinds and shades on the south- and west-facing windows of your home, or install shading devices when it's hot outside. Plant vines and trees to create extra shading and cooling.

· Shift energy-intensive tasks, such as laundry and dishwashing, to off-peak energy demand hours.

· Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.

· When you leave a room, turn off lights, TVs and music systems. Shut down computers if you'll be away for a long period, or activate the unit's sleep mode for a short-term break.

· About 15 percent of your energy bill is for heating water. Lower the temperature on the water heater to 120 degrees and wash clothes in cold water to save money. Low-flow showerheads and sink aerators pump out less hot water.

n Weather-strip your windows and doors. It's inexpensive, easy to do and one of the best ways to trap warm air indoors.

· Seal joints in exposed ductwork in the basement and attic.

· If you can afford it, replace your windows with more efficient ones. If that's too expensive, install storm windows or smooth plastic sheeting over the panes. Both can reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent.

· Dress in layers when it's cool and throw an extra blanket on the bed so you can turn the thermostat down a few more degrees. When it's cool, set your thermostat at the lowest setting that still feels comfortable. Each degree above 68 degrees adds about 5 percent to your heating bill.

Conserve water

· Make it a full load in the dishwasher or washing machine. Run your dishwasher only when it's full; use the rinse-and-hold dishwasher feature until you're ready to run a full load.

· Be sensible. Buy water-efficient fixtures and products. The WaterSense label helps shoppers identify water efficient products and programs.

· Shower. A full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower saves water by using 10 to 25 gallons.

· Don't be a drip - fix that leak! Leaky faucets can waste thousands of gallons of water each year, like money down the drain. Repair or replace old or damaged fixtures.

· Don't pre-rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher. Pre-rinsing doesn't improve cleaning, and by skipping this step, you'll save as much as 20 gallons per load, or 6,500 gallons per year.

· If you're buying a new dishwasher, consider a water-saver. The most water-efficient models use only about 4 gallons per wash - about a third of what the least efficient models use.

· To reduce the amount of water you use on your lawn, adjust your lawnmower to cut grass no shorter than three inches. Taller grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil to reduce moisture loss.

· Add compost or peat moss to soil to improve its water-holding capacity.

Reduce/reuse/recycle

· Allow grass clippings to stay on the lawn, instead of bagging them. The cut grass will decompose and return to the soil naturally.

· Proper maintenance reduces waste. Maintain and repair products. Keep appliances in good working order. Follow manufacturers' suggestions for proper operation and maintenance.

· Don't trash it - reuse it! Be creative about reducing waste. Give pet hamsters or gerbils cardboard tubes to play with. Use an egg carton to plant seedlings.

· Just bag it. Take reusable bags on shopping trips. Keep them in your car or near your door to remember. You can also reuse paper or plastic shopping bags.

· Wait for the storm to pass. Don't fertilize before a rain storm. Your fertilizer - along with your money - washes down storm drains and can pollute rivers and bays.

· Compost it. When properly composted, kitchen wastes can become natural soil additives for lawns, gardens and even house plants.

· Travel green. When you travel, stay at hotels that use less water or energy. Before you go, unplug your VCR or other electronics that use electricity even when "off."

Tips are courtesy of Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation and www.epa.gov/earthday.