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Guest Column

Lose weight, save the planet

By AUTAR KAW
Published June 12, 2007


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Finally, the late-night shows have stopped making fun of Sheryl Crow's environmental rant about the overuse of toilet paper. She suggests one square per bathroom visit is enough. I say do not give her a hard time, even though the rest of us think in terms of mega rolls and jumbo packs.

Conservation does not work unless it is pricey to be otherwise, or if the government mandates it. Waste is a sign of prosperity. Show me a country with low energy use per capita, and I will show you a poor country.

No matter how much we conserve, our energy demand only goes up. Look at nanotechnology, in which you want to manipulate a material molecule by molecule.

Imagine how much energy that would consume on a per-unit volume basis.

But we all are on the conservation bandwagon, and even I wore a green shirt recently.

How can we go green?

Here are some examples (not all serious):

1. Stop hunting. We all know drivers who circle around parking lots to hunt for the nearest spot to their final destination. Start issuing antigreen tickets to these drivers. You could make a killing.

2. Impose a minimum weight-of-driver to weight-of-vehicle ratio. A 100-pound driver in an 8, 000-pound SUV is just plain wrong on so many levels.

3. Use those ugly CFL bulbs. They give you the light equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent lamp for only 13 watts of power. But remember that the bulbs have as much as 5 milligrams of mercury. If the bulb breaks, good luck getting your home insurance company to pay for the cleanup. Five years from now, when the burned-out bulbs are disposed off, mercury pollution in your groundwater would become a reality.

4. Use wind energy. Modern windmills are quieter, and the energy is renewable. For any environmental club member who is losing sleep over windmills' killing birds, here is news for you: every year, cats kill more birds than windmills do.

5. Stop drinking bottled water. You are getting clean water, even cleaner in many cases, from your tap. All the energy spent in bottling, transporting and recycling is unnecessary. When a bottling company ad said "because it's not bottled in Cleveland, " a comparison found 6.3 micrograms of arsenic per liter in the bottling company's water while Cleveland's water had no measurable arsenic.

If you are still not convinced about the safety of your tap water, buy your next refrigerator with a filter or get a portable filter pitcher.

6. Lose weight. As Steve Polzin of the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research writes, more than 50 percent of American adults are overweight, and if they lose just 20 pounds each, we will annually save half a billion gallons of gas - a small dent in our yearly 150-billion gallons of gas consumption.

7. Turn off vampire devices. Even when not in use, rechargers and plugged-in TVs, CDs and VCRs consume energy. Put them on outlet strips that are turned off at night or when not in use.

8. Have a clothesline. All homeowner associations reading this are giving a collective cry of despair. God gave us the sun - nature's own clothes dryer. You not only save the energy, but your clothes last longer, maintain their colors and get sanitized.

Autar Kaw is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

[Last modified June 11, 2007, 23:27:16]


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