6. Trade In Your Mower
Older gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and smog-forming volatile organic compounds, causing more pollution over the course of a year than you would driving a new car. Electric models are quieter, far cleaner, and often easier to use. The South Coast Air Quality Management District holds events every summer, at which residents can pay $100 to exchange any working gas mower for a high-quality cordless electric model that lists for $400. If you don’t cut your own lawn, keep a mower handy and request that your gardener use it on your property.
7. Find a Haz Bin
Landfills aren’t equipped to handle the toxic trash we’re generating in increasing amounts. Electronic equipment often contains lead and mercury, among other nasty substances, which can leach from landfills into groundwater. The Computer TakeBack campaign offers a list of manufacturers that allow you to return obsolete equipment, and the Wireless Alliance might mail you a postage-paid envelope for that old cell phone, depending on the model. You can also dump electronics at the various S.A.F.E. Collection Centers in the city (800-98-TOXIC), or head to one of the county’s roving hazardous material collection events. They’ll unburden you of everything from old fertilizer to drained batteries to moldering paint cans. Wait a minute—you haven’t been throwing that stuff in the trash, have you?
8. Restock Your Fridge
It’s no secret that eating organic is good for you and the environment. So is eating locally. Since much of the agricultural world is in California, there’s no reason to buy lots of food shipped from thousands of miles away. Shop at the weekly farmers’ market, where produce has been transported from within the state on the same day. (Keep in mind that some vendors follow organic gardening practices even though they lack certification.) For a more intimate relationship with your food, join a community-supported agriculture group, such as the nonprofit Tierra Miguel Farm near Oceanside (760-742-4213), where a quarterly fee entitles you to a weekly or biweekly assortment of farm-grown organic produce delivered to various pickup spots throughout L.A. and the valleys. More convenient still, services such as Organic Express (310-674-2642) will bring a weekly or biweekly box of fruits and vegetables to your door from farms around the state.
9. Stop Fuming
Anyone who has endured time in a home recently coated with standard paint knows about the often stomach-churning, headache-causing noxious odors. They are usually a sign of other unsavory stuff: scores of chemicals, including a group known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are still emitted well after the paint has dried. There are alternatives: natural paints such as milk paints and low- or no-VOC paints. Even such large manufacturers as Dunn-Edwards have added the latter two to their mix, but making environmentally sensitive paints (with none of the formaldehyde, ammonia, or acetone that show up in some brands) is all that San Diego-based AFM Safecoat does. You can find Safecoat at Par Paint (1801 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., 213-413-4950) and Livingreen (10000 Culver Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-8442).
10. Waste Not
Recycling may seem old hat here, but we’re still tossing tons of reusable materials into landfills. As the state’s Department of Conservation notes, the water bottles alone discarded in California over a ten-year period could pave a two-lane highway the length of the coast. So put your rubbish to work. Along with its blue bin program, the city maintains a list of recycling centers on its Web site. You can drop home-related items at one of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores, and the ReUse People will reclaim scrap building materials from remodeling jobs. You already recycle? Then try making less trash to begin with. Buying reusable grocery bags (Trader Joe’s sells them for 99 cents and $2.99) is one way. Here’s another: File a request with the Direct Marketers Association to force companies to stop sending you junk mail.