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Environment

It’s easy being green

10 ways to make your life more planet-friendly right now

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Going green? Come on, who are we kidding? This is Las Vegas. The land of consuming mass quantities, blasting the air conditioning and using our cars to drive to the mailbox ’cause it’s too hot out. Most of the things the Al Gores of the world want us to do to reduce our carbon footprint are just not practical to our everyday lives. And since it’s doubtful that every Las Vegan will start wearing hemp shirts and buying vegan cookbooks tomorrow, we’re going to have to figure out easier, less lifestyle-intrusive ways to go green. Luckily the Weekly’s done the ground work for you with 10 tips to green-ify every area of your lifestyle.

Your sex life Nothing says responsible lover like condoms, and nothing says responsible planet lover like green condoms. French Letter condoms, to be more specific. It’s part of the Fair Trade movement (fair prices for producers in developing countries coupled with sustainable practices), which involves primarily coffee, tea and produce. Oh, and now apparently romance. All the rubber (No, it doesn't quickly biodegrade. Wouldn't make very good condoms if it could, would it?) is supplied by Fair Deal Trading, which began its sustainable practices in 2004. Thanks to its ethical practices, rubber tappers in South Asia are paid fairly and honorably, and if you follow South Asia at all, you’ll know how amazing that is. You’ll have to buy these online, unless you want to take a trip overseas to buy them in person, but how can you not feel good about yourself after this? Frenchlettercondoms.co.uk.

Your dog Many communities throughout Las Vegas offer free baggie stations to clean up your dog’s scat, and that’s a good thing—until those plastic bags hit the landfills. You’re already at the stage where you’re responsible. Take it the extra step and purchase Olive Super Poop Bags, made from corn starch and vegetable oil. These babies compost within 50 days. Yeah, the plastic bags that sit in landfills forever are free, so this one will cost you money you wouldn’t ordinarily spend, but hey, you’re already buying that gourmet dog food. Is price really an issue? Olivegreendog.com.

Your air conditioning “You keep your thermostat at WHAT?” Never hear those words of guilt from your friends again. NV Energy now offers Cool Share, a program in which they will install a web-programmable thermostat in your home and control the temperature for you. How much will this save you every year? For starters, the thermostat, which normally costs $300, is free (one for every A/C unit in your home). On days when energy demand peaks, NV Energy sends a wireless signal to your unit to put it into conservation mode. As a homeowner, you’ll barely notice the changes (especially if you’re at work), but the collective lessening of energy demand saves the utility bundles by reducing the need for electricity generation. And that savings is passed onto you, to the tune of 20 percent. Given that energy bills in the summer can reach into the hundreds of dollars, that’s some serious coin. To enroll, call 402-1111, or go to nvenergy.com.

Your breakfast It’s an idea so simple, you wonder why someone didn’t think of it decades ago. Breakfast cereal is a big seller, but that translates to tons of cardboard boxes being needlessly produced and potentially NOT recycled. So why not buy the cereal ... without the box? More and more companies are selling their products in the plastic bags within those boxes. Three Sisters (available at Whole Foods) is a big champion in this movement, but others are starting to jump onboard. It hasn’t caught on fully yet, no doubt because companies feel the packaging is part of the selling point. But hey, your children only see it in the bowl, so what do they care if a cartoon bear is involved?

Your personal hygiene This one’s aimed squarely at treating your water supply better. All those chemical-based cleaners you use end up in the same place—back in our water system. But there are alternatives in almost every aspect of personal hygiene products, particularly hand soap. With ingredients such as earth salts, lavender oil, chamomile oil, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed and vitamin E, these will get your hands clean just like the “real thing,” and put nothing nasty back in that water you later use to cook your macaroni. Some of these will run you a bit more than their counterparts, but here’s the good news—they actually work. Hand soap brands include Alba, NutriBiotic, Shikai, Sonoma Desert Essence, Dr. Bronner’s Magic, Kiss My Face, South of France and Depth, and can be found at Whole Foods.

Your alcohol Saving the planet while getting shit-faced? Believe it. You can do this one of two ways when it comes to beer—buying organic brands (in which 95 percent of the ingredients have to be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and must not be genetically engineered) at outlets such as Whole Foods, or patronizing local breweries, thus reducing the energy needed to transport beers to our city. Don’t worry, you’ve got lots of choices: Big Dog’s Brewing Company, Tenaya Creek Restaurant and Brewery, Chicago Brewing Company and Boulder Dam Brewing Company among them.

I should, however, add that the quality of organic beer is spotty. Of the four brands tried—the UK’s Samuel Smith, Oregon’s Deschutes, Germany’s Pinkus and Belgium’s Joseph—none ranked a 5 on a 1-to-5 scale. The product either had far too much carbonation (Joseph’s Spelt Ale being the biggest offender) or none at all (Pinkus pilsner unfiltered). Worse, some had absolutely no taste (Samuel Smith’s Tadcaster and Pinkus dark lager) or no head of foam (Pinkus pilsner unfiltered). The closest to perfection was Deschutes’ organic ale, with a dark amber color, respectable head and great finish, although the carbonation was sadly absent. A close second was Samuel Smith’s cherry fruit ale, an extremely pleasant drink, but probably not one to attract more traditional beer drinkers. As with any other purchase, when it comes to organic beers, do your research.

Your barbecues Most of you won’t even be touching the stove this month, opting instead for the grill and, no doubt, paper plates and plastic forks and spoons. You save on energy costs, but all that stuff you’re eating on costs the planet’s landfills, especially the plastic cutlery. Luckily, you can easily replace everything with its biodegradable twin. Companies such as Branch have large lines of earth-friendly plates and bowls, as well as corn-based spoons, forks and knives, all of which are compostable. I mean, come on—whoever pays attention to what they’re eating their food on, or what they’re eating it with? This might be the easiest way to be green this summer. Branchhome.com.

Your computer use Why not make your computer an instrument of good? Purchase a “green” computer battery, such as the Enviro Series Notebook Battery ($150), which works in most Hewlett-Packard laptops and eschews the use of environmentally harmful products normally used in batteries, including PVC and heavy metals. Its performance far outlasts is competition, as well, and it has a three-year warranty to boot, meaning you won’t be throwing as many batteries into landfills. To order the Enviro, go to boston-power.com.

Your home life Little by little, you can significantly reduce carbon emissions through the slightest changes in your home life: Washing your laundry with cold water; lowering the temperature on your water heater; installing low-flow showerheads; making sure your air conditioning is well maintained; drying your clothes on a line or rack once in a while; unplugging what you aren’t using; changing your air filters regularly; stuff like that. This falls under that “It ain’t a lot, but if everyone did it, it would be a lot” category.

Your car “Drive like a human being.” I heard this from a cop once during my learner’s permit years, and truer words were never spoken. Not just for the safety of your fellow travelers, but for everyone else as well. As much heat as President Obama took for telling everyone to check the air pressure in their tires, he’s right—spongy, squishy tires cause your car to use more fuel. It’s a fact. And while we’re at it, going the speed limit has been proven to maximize fuel efficiency as well. No matter where you are, hit the speed limit, then set your car on cruise control. Goodbye tickets, hello more money at the end of the month for green condoms. Everybody wins!

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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