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Earth Day 2007: Take action to help prevent climate change

Scientific consensus has demonstrated that our climate is changing, and that human activities are contributing to this change. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this past winter marked the warmest on record. Now that it's springtime and Earth Day 2007 is here, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) encourages the public to consider the many actions individuals can take to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Below are 10 actions we all can take to help protect our planet from global warming:

1. Recycle as much waste as possible. Recycling saves energy! Goods made from recycled materials typically require less energy than goods created from virgin materials. Additionally, recycling diverts materials (that would otherwise be thrown in the trash), reducing greenhouse gas emissions from waste combustion, and reducing the methane that would be released if these materials decomposed in a landfill.

The average person in Massachusetts recycles seven pounds of paper per week and eight pounds of containers per week. Annual carbon dioxide savings from recycling: 700 pounds. By increasing your recycling by one more pound of paper and one more pound of containers per week, you can contribute to an additional 50 pounds of carbon dioxide savings per year.

2. Avoid products with excessive packaging. This simple step can reduce the amount of trash you need to recycle or throw away by 10 percent. Buy products in bulk, avoid over-packaged items, or purchase items with recyclable packaging. Estimated annual carbon dioxide savings: 1,200 pounds.

3. Drive less. Walk, ride your bike, carpool with a friend, or take mass transit whenever possible. Learn more about transportation options in your area from MassRIDES. Annual carbon dioxide savings from avoiding just 10 miles of driving per week: 500 pounds.

4. Vacation closer to home. Air travel is growing in popularity and jet fuel combustion is a major contributor to climate change. Carbon dioxide savings from not taking one round-trip flight of 1,600 miles: 720 pounds.


5. Change a light bulb. Replace regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps. New fluorescent bulbs use 60 percent less energy than old-style bulbs and last 10 times longer. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 300 pounds.

6. Set your thermostat two degrees Fahrenheit lower in winter and two degrees higher in summer. Heating and cooling account for half of all energy use at home. Or, install a programmable thermostat and save 10 percent or more on your monthly heating bill. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 2,000 pounds.

7. Wrap an insulation blanket around your water heater. While you're at it, set the unit's thermostat to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 1,850 pounds.

8. Use less hot water. Heating water consumes a lot of energy. Try installing a low-flow showerhead and washing your clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 850 pounds.

9. Turn off electronic devices you're not using. Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you're not using them will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

10. Plant a tree. A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Shade provided by trees can also reduce your air conditioning bill by 10 to 15 percent.

There are dozens of local and regional recycling and climate change events happening in conjunction with Earth Day 2007. For a listing of Earth Day events in your area, turn to: and then click on "Earth Day Events in Massachusetts."

For more information on how to participate in your community recycling program, and to learn more about what can be recycled, visit MassDEP's web site at: or

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.