A Guide to Going Green

(Dry) Clean Up Your Act: About 85 percent of dry cleaners in the U.S. use perchloroethylene, a volatile organic compound linked to respiratory problems and increased risk for several types of cancer. Go to greenearthcleaning.com to find a cleaner near you that uses earth-friendly processes.

If you can't find a green alternative, at least forgo the clear plastic bag-both to save resources and air out the chemicals-and return the wire hangers for reuse. (More than 3.5 billion wire hangers end up in landfills each year.)

Replacing your toilet? Opt for a low-flow model like the Toto Aquia Dual Flush (from $395; totousa.com for stores). Or, trick your toilet. Most standard models require 3 to 5 gallons of water to function properly, but you really only need 2. By placing large rocks or a sealed 1-liter bottle filled with sand in the tank, you can displace a couple of gallons and use less water.

More: Water Conservation Tips

Make Your Bed with Bamboo: If you're in the market for new linens, consider a sustainable material like bamboo. The fast-growing plant is cultivated without pesticides and requires less water than conventionally grown cotton. Bamboo sheets look and feel like satin, wick moisture, and are naturally antimicrobial.

Become a Locavore: There's a reason the Oxford American Dictionary made this term-defined as someone who eats only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius-its word of the year. The average American meal travels 1,500 miles to the plate. When you consider how much fuel is consumed and greenhouse gases are emitted as a result of that travel, eating foods grown closer to home is a smart move for the planet.

More: Green Nutrition

Be Selective About Seafood: It's vital to know how and where the fish you're ordering was caught and how well the populations are doing, so you'll have that fish well into the future. Seek out varieties that are low in contaminants, like mercury, PCBs and dioxins, and have been caught with hooks and lines (which has a minimal impact on the ocean habitat). Consult nrdc.org/mercury or seafoodwatch.org for tips on choosing healthy, sustainable fish.

More: Eat Green

Commit to Composting: By keeping food scraps like fruit and vegetable waste out of landfills, you can reduce greenhouse gases on two fronts. One of the benefits of composting is that it can replace petroleum-based fertilizers, which generate pollution and contaminate the water supply. Get a backyard bin, such as the Gaiam Spinning Composter ($179; gaiam.com), or place a trash can-size container like Naturemill's composter ($300; naturemill.com) in your kitchen.

More: Green Your Kitchen

Rethink the Sink: Hand-washing a huge pile of dirty dishes can require up to 20 gallons of water, more than five times the water used by most EnergyStar-certified (deemed energy-efficient by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy) dishwashers in a single load. But rinsing them before you load them can suck up almost as much.

Most dishwashers today are strong enough to remove the food residue from plates. If yours isn't, take advantage of your appliance's rinse cycle, which uses less water than hand-washing. And always wait until the dishwasher is full before running it.

Switch to Recycled Paper Products: It takes 40 percent less energy to make paper from recycled stock than from virgin materials. Easy swaps to make today: Use paper towels and toilet tissue from earth-friendly companies like Seventh Generation.

Get "Green" Electronics: Computers and other gadgets gobble more energy than you might think, and many are made with materials that can be hazardous to the environment after they're thrown away. To help you find better alternatives, the Consumer Electronics Association has put together a guide to earth-friendly devices. So if you're thinking of buying a new laptop, cell phone or TV, go to mygreenelectronics.com to study up. There you can calculate how much it costs you per day to run the machines you currently own-that will probably persuade you to spring for a greener replacement or two.

More: Why You Should Ditch the Tunes

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