As we head into the last month of winter, being mindful not to waste (the Jewish principle of baal tashchit) and to care for the Earth should still be on your mind. Even in the cold months, there are things you can do to use less energy and find winter-friendly products that are less harmful to the environment. Below are a few suggestions:
- User safer antifreeze: Just 2 ounces of the standard ethylene glycol antifreeze can kill a dog. Propylene glycol offers a much less toxic alternative (although with fossil fuel origins, it’s hardly eco-friendly). Since both kinds pick up hazardous heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and chromium during use, recycle spent antifreeze to minimize impact. Ask your repair shop about on-site recycling or find a local collection facility at earth911.org.
- Fight frost naturally: To prevent ice from covering home and car windows, rub the inside of the glass with a saltwater-soaked sponge; dry with a clean cloth. You won’t see it, but a residue from the salt will remain to ward off frost. For extra oomph, spray a solution of three parts white vinegar and one part water on the outside of the glass, then wipe dry.
- Use better de-icers: Steer clear of rock salt (sodium chloride) and urea-based de-icers. Not only can they pollute habitats with plant-killing runoff, but they can also corrode concrete, destroy your lawn (even a snow-covered one), and contaminate water supplies. Better bets? Sand, which provides traction without damaging salt-sensitive landscapes, and calcium chloride, which may still hurt vegetation, but is free of the cyanide present in rock salt
- Don’t idle your car: Don’t let your car idle for more than 30 seconds. Beyond wasting fuel, excessive idling strains cylinders, spark plugs, exhaust systems, and engines, which work best in motion — not in neutral. The best way to warm up the car? Drive it.
- Let in the sun: Even in winter, the sun’s rays provide a fair amount of warmth. Take advantage of this free heating by opening blinds and curtains on the windows that receive the most light (usually on the east side). At night, draw heavy insulating drapes to help preserve warmth, or invest in “low-e” Energy Star-certified windows (especially on the north side of the house). Learn more at energystar.gov.