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Avg. Carbon Footprint: 17 tons

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    Vampire Appliances

    In the old days, an "off" switch meant just that. The machine in question was no longer thinking, no longer needed power.

    These days, unfortunately, most everything is designed to be always-on, comes with a remote control, or offers functions that require a constant "listening". You never knows when you might wake up from a deep sleep and want to nuke a burrito, or fire up that blender! Your DVD player can't be sure when you'll press Play. Your cell phone charger sits at the ready, drawing a small bit of power in hopes you might match it up with your phone. And your PC faithfully blinks at you, ready to boot up at a moments notice.

    (Assistant: "Sir, these lights keep blinking out of sequence, what should we do?" Shatner: "Get them to blink in sequence!")

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    Meat Me Half Way

    Most footprint calculators, including ours, take into account the basics: home energy use, vehicles and air travel. But a good portion of your greenhouse gas emissions come from what you choose to consume - jeans, ipods, and most importantly, the food you eat. Your choices on what to eat happen multiple times each day, far more often than choosing which brand of jeans to buy - unless you are Paris Hilton.

    Looking for local and organic are both good measures to reduce food-related pollution. But the biggest environmental gains in this area come from choosing to eat less meat.

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    Cold Laundry and Warm Coke

    When Procter & Gamble -- makers of Tide and Ariel laundry detergent -- set out measure the carbon created throughout their laundry supply chain, they were surprised to discover that the single biggest source was not packaging nor manufacturing, but people. Washing clothes in hot water uses a lot of energy, and energy generates CO2. A test ad campaign in the UK convinced a million British consumers to go from hot water to warm, eliminating enough carbon to fill up 500 million washing machines!

    Similarly, Coca Cola discovered that it was not shipping, manufacturing, or plastic bottles, but rather vending machines (all 10 million of them) that most contributed to its carbon footprint.

    The little things really do add up.

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