Rodale editors offer environmental tips
Earth Day was officially recognized last week, but there are small steps you can take every day to improve the world around you. Some of Rodale's editors from leading magazines offer a few easy-to-follow
ideas on how to "go green."
Jonathan Dorn, Executive Editor, Backpacker
Hold a dirty sock contest
Do this with a bunch of friends or coworkers in a parking lot to
demonstrate how auto emissions affect air quality. Each contestant places a
clean white sock over his or her car's exhaust and runs the engine for 30
seconds. The contestants with the cleanest and dirtiest socks earn prizes,
like a free dinner for the winner and a tune-up for the loser.
Stencil storm drains
Discourage dumping of harmful waste in public sewers by stenciling "This
drain leads to such-and-such watershed" beside local storm drains. A simple
reminder that someone else's drinking or swimming water may be on the other
end of that drain can make a big difference. Ask your local water company for
permission -- and supplies.
Make a pledge
This is a great way to teach your kids about small habits that -- when
added up -- can make a big difference. Have the entire family sign an Earth Day
pledge that includes statements like, "I will turn off the lights when I leave
the room," "I will turn off the water while shaving or brushing my teeth," and
"I will wear a sweater rather than turn up the heat." Post the pledge on your
refrigerator or in another visible place.
Organize a hike
Getting 20 people to explore a local forest or wetlands that are at risk
for development will create 20 new advocates when the issue comes up for
public debate. Plus, the fresh air will do everybody good. Best strategy: Work
with a hiking club in your area to coordinate the event (find one at
Rosemary Ellis, Editorial Director, Prevention
Here are a couple of tips from Prevention's April and May issues that
will save money and keep you and your home healthy:
Wash 'em, don't trash 'em
We're talking about those plastic Zip-lock bags you use for storing
everything from lunches to frozen foods. Save money and the planet's resources
by using the nylon Bag-E-Wash gadget. It snaps into your dishwasher rack to
hold bags open and secure them for easy cleaning and drying. One box of 30
plastic bags washed and reused 10 times each will save you $30 -- and keep 300
bags out of landfills.
The best green cleaners
A 2003 study found that women who clean houses for a living have a 46-
percent-greater chance of having asthma and a 61-percent-greater risk of
chronic bronchitis than women in other professions do. Most green cleaners
contain no phosphates, chorine, petroleum, distillates or carcinogens -- in
fact, no hard-to-read chemicals at all.
Jeanie Pyun, Editor, Organic Style
Tips on how to make a difference on Earth Day and every day!
Support your local farmer
What do all the top chefs have in common? They all rely on local produce.
It makes perfect sense: Vegetables raised nearby are fresher, and they taste
better because they're bred for flavor and not for their ability to hold up in
transit. By buying from farmers nearby, you'll not only cut down on pollution,
you'll also keep money circulating within your community.
Change your bleach
Cleaning with chlorine bleach is a dirty job, potentially toxic and
dangerous. Gentler and just as effective, choose hydrogen-peroxide-based
bleaches (Chlorox 2) or borax, like Earth Friendly Oxo-Brite Non-Chlorine
Bleach (available at Whole Foods) and 20 Mule Team Borax (available at any
The lightbulb that makes YOU brighter
Three great benefits to compact fluorescent bulbs: One, they last 10 times
longer than an incandescent bulb, so they rarely need changing. Two, they use
1/3 of the electricity of a regular bulb, cutting pollution and saving you
about $7 per fixture a year. And three, they cost less than the 10 ordinary
incandescent bulbs they replace. Look for models with the energy star label,
which are guaranteed to last at least 6,000 hours.
Scott Meyer, Executive Editor, Organic Gardening
Five steps to a better, more natural lawn:
- Mow high. Set your lawn mower at its highest setting when you cut the
grass -- taller grass has deeper roots, which are better able to draw
up nutrients and moisture from the soil. (And taller grass looks
- Leave the grass clippings. Rather than bagging the clippings, let them
fall on the lawn and they'll add nitrogen to the soil, and you'll only
need to fertilize your lawn once a year.
- Feed sparingly, and when you do, use a slow-release natural
fertilizer. High-nitrogen, fast-release lawn fertilizers are like
steroids -- they pump up the grass's growth (so you have to mow more
often), and they make the lawn susceptible to diseases. (They also
contribute to freshwater pollution.)
- Water when necessary. Newly seeded lawns need to stay consistently
moist while they are getting established. After that, don't water
cool-season grasses in summer; they're dormant and the water makes
them susceptible to stress. Unless you have an extended dry spell, an
established lawn with the grass mowed high almost never needs
watering. When you do water, don't sprinkle it lightly and often --
this encourages the grass to grow shallow roots. Rather, give the lawn
a good soaking infrequently.
- Sow your grass. Whether you are seeding a new lawn or just trying to
make an existing lawn thicker, you want to plant varieties that suit
your conditions. In the North, use cool-season grasses, such as
Kentucky bluegrass, turf-type tall fescue and perennial ryegrass.
These varieties grow vigorously in spring and fall and go dormant in
the heat of summer. Check http://www.organicgardening.com for more
details about what grows best in your neighborhood.
Steve Madden, Editor-in-Chief, Bicycling
Once you learn, you never forget
Try riding your bike to work at least
one day a week. Americans make 4.5 billion car trips each week; the average
one is 9.86 miles long. If we all replaced at least one car trip per week,
we'd reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.4 million tons/week; 126 million
tons/year and lose a collective 37,714,286 pounds/week.
Find out more about how a bicycle can help the environment -- and your
health -- by visiting Bicycling.com.
Stacy Sindlinger, Creative Director, Organic Style Boutique
Trust What's Inside
I suggest "instinct math." When you make any purchase, check the labels,
and if you don't see answers to the What, Who and Where questions, ask (or
better yet, get your kids to ask -- they will love it!). Once you know what the
product was made from, who made it, and where it was made...let your
conscience be your guide. Your instincts will tell you if it's a good buy,
and you'll be amazed at how great it feels to start "voting with your
And, to bring a little more style to your home this Earth Day, try rifling
through your jewelry box full of inherited clip-on earrings and pins that are
"not-quite-you" but full of sentimental meaning. Consider adding them to
curtain tie-backs, lamp- or overhead-light chain-pulls.
This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.