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Five Everyday Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

A guide for Simsbury residents to making green choices in daily life.

Reducing your carbon footprint may involve big choices and lifestyle changes, but it can also involve small choices that add up day after day. Here are five everyday ways you can be greener in Simsbury:

1. EAT LOCAL: There are many places to get local food in Simsbury. The at 255 Farms Village Road, West Simsbury, sells fresh produce, farm-made ice cream in season, and its own grass-fed beef. The George Hall Farm at 180 Old Farms Road has a seasonal farm stand. (Both farms also sell shares in their programs.) You can also buy fresh, local eggs at , 7 Shingle Mill Road, West Simsbury — and don't forget to drop off your old egg cartons to be reused. The Simsbury Farmers Market is held every Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m., June 2 to Oct. 13, at Simsmore Square, 540 Hopmeadow St.
How it helps: The closer the source, the less energy is used to transport the food. Keep in mind, however, that the total carbon footprint of a piece of produce also depends on how it was grown. A tomato from a local greenhouse may ultimately cost far more in energy and carbon than an imported field-grown tomato.
More information: Flamig Farm, www.flamigfarm.com; George Hall Farm, www.georgehallfarm.com; Tulmeadow Farm, www.tulmeadowfarmstore.com ; Simsbury Farmers Market, simsburyfarmersmarket.com.

2. BICYCLE: Last year Simsbury became the first town in Connecticut to earn a "bicycle-friendly" designation from the League of American Bicyclists. The town has several miles of rail trails for pedestrian and bicycle use and this year it's marking 14 miles of town roads with "sharrows," bicycle symbols painted on the pavement to remind drivers to share the road. It's an open invitation to leave your car at home.
How it helps: If you drive, your car is almost certainly your biggest contribution to carbon dioxide emissions. Using a bicycle for transportation, not just exercise, can reduce the impact.
More information: League of American Bicyclists, www.bikeleague.org

3. SWAP & FREECYCLE: At the town's Swap Shoppe, a shed on the  Simsbury Transfer Station property, residents may leave usable items they no longer need and pick up items they want. Take the idea to the Internet and you get the freecycling movement, which encourages people to find new owners for the things they don't need. Join the Simsbury Freecycling group and you can post notices of things you want to give away and request things you need. It's not just environmentally friendly, it's charitable and frugal. All sorts of items are offered to the first taker, including furniture, household goods, clothing, electronics and sometimes even fresh garden produce. 
How it helps: The manufacture of just about anything uses energy and contributes to carbon emissions, and disposing of it can pollute. Reusing an item instead of throwing it away is the most basic form of recycling.  
More information: Simsbury Freecycling, groups.yahoo.com/group/SimsburyFreecycle

4. WASH IN COLD: Not you — your laundry. You can conserve electricity and reduce carbon emissions by washing your laundry in cold water with a cold-water detergent. Washing full loads also cuts overall energy use. And bypassing the dryer to hang the laundry out just adds to the greenness.
How it helps: About 90 percent of the energy that a typical top-loading washing machine uses to clean a load of laundry is consumed by heating the water, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
More information: Project Laundry List, www.laundrylist.org

5. AIR DRY THE DISHES: If your dishwasher has an air dry option, use it. If not, turn the machine off before the drying cycle, prop the door open and let your dishes air dry. The Department of Energy also recommends that you avoid using the “rinse hold” for small quantities of dirty dishes because it uses extra hot water. (Experts generally agree that washing dishes by hand consumes considerably more energy and water than machine washing, by the way.)
How it helps: The drying cycle uses about 15 percent of the energy it takes to clean a load of dishes, according to the Green House Project.
More information: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Savers, www.energysavers.gov/tips

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