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Individual Action

What You Can Do | Individual Action | Community & Beyond

Reduce the amount of water you use.

On average, each US citizen uses more than 180 gallons of water per day. This high demand for water leads to constructing more dams and reservoirs, drilling more and deeper wells, and withdrawing more water from available freshwater bodies. Dams and reservoirs fragment water courses, slowing freshwater's natural cycling processes. Drilling more and deeper wells means increased withdrawals from underground sources, including some that are not renewable. Our heavy use of water causes pollution from various sources to be distributed widely. Conserving water can improve the quantity of existing water supplies and reduce the need for new reservoirs.

Turn off the tap.

A standard open faucet lets about 5 gallons of water flow every 2 minutes. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving. Save water in the kitchen, too. If you wash dishes by hand, try filling the sink or a dishpan with water rather than running the water continuously. If you use a dishwasher, remember that 10-20 gallons of water a day can be saved by running the dishwasher only when it's full.
Learn more about our water supplies.

A wealth of information about water and its use in the United States is available at EPA's Office of Water web site. You can find out the source of your drinking water and tips on how to conserve it.
Use water-conserving plumbing fixtures.

Conventional toilets use 3.5-5 gallons or more of water per flush; low-flush toilets use 1.6 gallons or less. For showerheads, standard 4.5-gallon-per-minute varieties can be replaced with 2.5-gallon-per-minute heads, which cost less than $5 each. This change could save a family of four about 20,000 gallons of water per year.
Find a water-conserving plumbing supplier in your area.

At the WaterWiser site you can search by zip code for a water-conserving plumbing supplier near you. WaterWiser is a program of the American Water Works Association operated in cooperation with the US Bureau of Reclamation.

Reduce the amount of energy you use and the amount of money it costs you.

The average US household spent $1,338 on energy in 1997. More than 45% of that cost was spent on energy used to run appliances and lighting; space heating accounted for another 30%. Water heating and air conditioning expenditures accounted for the remaining energy costs. But there are many ways to decrease your energy consumption. The Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network offers information at its GreenPower site about energy conservation, including where to buy electricity supplied by renewable energy sources.

Use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

Although they're more expensive than incandescents, a single CFL bulb saves $25-$50 in bulb and electricity costs over its lifetime and avoids electricity generation that would have emitted 8-16 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 1,000-2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most abundant greenhouse gas.
You can buy CFL bulbs in most local home improvement stores.

Here are just two of many online sources: Find out how much energy you could save by changing just three incandescents to CFL bulbs.
Use Energy Star products.

Energy Star is a program started by EPA that was established to promote the use of energy-efficient products. An Energy Star-qualified refrigerator uses half the electricity of a standard 10-year-old refrigerator and can reduce the average electricity bill by $35-$75 per year. Clothes washers that qualify for Energy Star certification use 50-70% less energy than other models and can save up to $90 per year in energy and water costs.
Learn more about the Energy Star program

If all US consumers, businesses, and organizations chose Energy Star products over the next decade, we could reduce the national annual energy bill by about $200 billion.

Reduce the amount of agricultural chemicals polluting freshwater systems.

Approximately 2.6 billion kilograms of pesticides are annually dispensed on the world's farms, forests, and household gardens. Exposure to pesticides can have mild to acute health consequences for humans, yet avoiding exposure altogether is difficult because pesticides are now in many of our food and water supplies. Furthermore, pesticides are used in the vast majority of US gardens. These chemicals seep into the soil and water and they're carried on the air.

Lower your pesticide intake.

. More than half of all pesticides used in agroecosystems are used on US crops. Exposure to some pesticides has been found to cause cancer, lung damage, reproductive dysfunction, and dysfunction of the immune system. Buying and eating organic food — i.e., food grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers — can lower your pesticide intake.
Find organic food suppliers.

. Many community or small-scale farmers as well as community markets provide fresh organic produce. Here are some sites to aid your search.
Reduce the risk of exposure to toxic pesticides in your garden; don't use them.

Keep weeds at bay by mulching with organic groundcovers like straw, grass clippings, leaves, and shredded bark. Keep pests off plants with row covers, or try biopesticides; they're based on naturally occurring insect diseases and effective against the target pests but nontoxic to humans, pets, wildlife, and beneficial insects. You can also fertilize nonchemically. Fish, bone, or blood meal fertilizers are excellent as are organic composts. Make your own compost out of leaves, grass clippings, plant based kitchen waste like vegetable and fruit scraps and rinds and manure.
Learn how to garden responsibly.

. Many state university systems offer extension services that provide information about best gardening practices. A few online gardening sites are listed below:

Individual Action, page 2 »

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