Things that we already do include fairly fastidious shutting off of electronics and lights when not in use. This even extends as far as Michelle frequently completely unplugging the microwave and her computer. Sounds nutty, but devices still use power even when off. Standby consumption can be equivalent to a 75 or 100 watt bulb continuously on. Of course, there are power strips that will serve the same purpose, but we have not went that far yet. I didn't just want to get a cheap strip that doesn't do what we need it to.
During the summer and when we're not in the house, our thermostat is set at 84. Even when home, we rarely set it below 80. We have always used the local electric company's "Time-of-Use" plan which rewards you shifting some of your electricity usage to off-peak times. We have used compact fluorescent bulbs for years.
Just this week, we've stopped using paper napkins (and will try to stop using paper towels) and will use cloth napkins. We're even going to order hemp napkins. You can't get much more birkenstocky than that. In shopping around, I found several pretty cool sites that sell organic items:
Grassroots Natural Goods
Every year, we try to use our tax refund to get something that improves the efficiency of our house. A few years back, it was high-efficiency, low-water Bosch appliances. This year, it was going to be something along the lines of solar power. Nothing major, maybe just a panel that could power a few devices. But, unfortunately, it's not quite that simple and not that cheap. To really get something that will generate any sizable amount of power, you've really got to spend some money (on-grid residential solar). There a lot of incentives from the electric company and from both local and federal governments that reduce the price, but you are still talking a big outlay. If we had it all to do again, we'd have set it up at the time of building our new house. It's disgusting that in Arizona, where the sun pretty much shines all the time, solar power is pretty much an afterthought.
There's a cool tool at Nature Conservancy that helps you estimate the impact that you are having on the planet with your choices. With each change that you make, you can get a tangible feel for how much of an effect it makes.
This is not about doing something because it's trendy or because you think you are viewed better for doing so. Or at least it shouldn't be. But too much of anything - even a good thing - is a problem. Here's an interesting article that likens the selling of carbon offsets to that of the Catholic Church's selling of indulgences before the Reformation:
Carbon-Neutral Is Hip, but Is It Green?
That's like a double-bonus for me ... making fun of the Catholic Church and trendy hypocritical hipsters at the same time.
The environment and conservation weren't always "liberal" issues. You know, "stewardship of the earth", and all that crap. Conservative and conservation didn't use to be mutually exclusive. When did it become a partisan issue? Morons like Rush Limbaugh certainly have accelerated the process. Look, I don't care if you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, whatever. I don't care if you believe in God, Vishnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I don't care if you don't believe in global warming. It's just smart to conserve what you have and to not crap in your own house. The earth is our house.
If you have 1 kid, don't have a 4,000 square foot house and a Hummer that you only drive to the grocery store. Don't be wasteful just because you want to get back at Democrats. Shopping and consumerism, despite what W says, aren't "patriotic". Don't be a friggin' skidmark on the Earth.
I'd be interested to know any further suggestions that you guys have. I know some of you don't have cars. Some telecommute. Some are vegetarians. (all things that reduce your carbon footprint)