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Our planet is under duress. It is contaminated–and it is up to you to help save it now.

That declaration might sound like an overture to a superhero movie, but experts have long known that how we live, shop, eat, and produce goods can harmfully affect the Earth.

“African Americans, especially, should not treat environmental issues as insignificant, but as a necessary source to save money,” says Norris McDonald, founder, president, and director of the African American Environmentalist Association, based in Fort Washington, Maryland. “The African American consumer market is the profit margin for most products and services. So our purchases and lifestyle habits can make a difference in what distributors offer.”
As African Americans have become more urbane, McDonald says, farming and natural lifestyles aren’t as appealing and have been replaced with modern lifestyles and technology. However, reverting back to these rich traditions is necessary to reverse the damage being done to the environment. “It cleans up the planet and it saves money,” he says.

If you doubt that you’re having a real impact on the environment, measure your carbon footprint–an assessment of your impact on the environment as measured in units of carbon dioxide–at www.carbonfootprint.com. Your results may be alarming.

If consumers make at least one simple lifestyle change in their homes each week, they will save trees and animals, help slow global warming, and protect us and our children from the health hazards arising from exposure to a contaminated environment. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Paper or plastic bags? Neither. Use re-useable, inexpensive canvass or cloth bags instead.
  • Drink filtered tap water in refillable jugs instead of bottled water to manage landfill waste.
  • Buy from local farmers’ markets to lower transportation costs and support small food producers.
  • Adjust thermostats by one degree: Lower the heat and wear more clothing; turn the air conditioner temperature down and use fans.
  • Recycle books, paper, plastic, batteries, and clothing, and buy recycled products and consignment.
  • Go paperless. Receive and pay bills online.
  • Use less water: turn off while brushing your teeth and lathering in the shower. Check water drips.
  • Unplug cell phone chargers and other appliances that are not in use.
  • Turn off lights and replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs to use 75% less energy.
  • Improve your home’s insulation by checking the weather stripping around windows and doors.
  • Buy or make natural cleaning products.
  • Apartment tenants, encourage landlords to fix leaks and insulation gaps to prevent rent increases.

Learn more about greening your home at www.greenhome.com, www.thegreenguide.com and www.greatgreenpet.com.