After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

What Can Each of Us Do To Save the Bay?

(Posted by Gerald Winegrad)

On December 9, 1983, 27 years ago, I was one of 700 enthused, hopeful participants to witness the signing of the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement. The Governors of three states and other officials solemnly committed to restore the Bay and the Bay Program began. I was there as a member of the tri-state Chesapeake Bay Commission and was then a Maryland State Senator.

Despite 27 years of efforts, the Bay recovery is badly lagging and living resources are declining.

Clearly, bold decisive actions are needed to control growth and require reductions in farm pollution and we have detailed the critical 25 measures necessary to restore the Bay. But each of us has a role in reducing our Bay pollution. What can we do individually to save the Bay?

Conserve Energy

Energy conservation is the most critical way each of us can act to better protect the Bay. Besides saving money, remember that 48 percent of the electrical supply we are using comes from burning coal, spewing mercury and nitrogen into the Bay, and adding to global warming.

Speaking of saving money, how much was your electric bill last summer? I live in a 22-year-old, two-story house of 1,760 square feet. And my electric bill for 32 days last summer was $18.26. (Read all about it here.)

My wife and I are not ascetics . We just use common sense: We wear sweaters in cold weather, and let the sun in during the day. In warmer weather, we do the opposite.

When it’s hot, we use fans in the rooms we’re using, and set the AC to 80 degrees. In winter, we keep the thermostat at 60 at night when sleeping, and at 65 during the day.

Other ways you can reduce your energy consumption: Replace energy inefficient windows and sliding doors with energy efficient ones. When away for three days or more, turn off all lights, hot water heaters, and all else except your refrigerator. And regularly replace furnace filters.

Call Your Electric Company

In Maryland, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company provides an energy-saver program that cycles your A/C and water heater on and off in 15-minute intervals during peak demand. This is a painless way to save money and energy. In all the time I’ve had it, I never knew when my service was on or off.

Contact your local electric company to see if they offer a similar program.

Other ways to save energy at home:

Insulate and seal cracks. Properly insulate the attic and crawl spaces and seal all cracks. Avoid using kitchen and bathroom air ventilators when heat or AC is on. Close fireplace dampers in winter and open in summer. Place a thermal blanket on the water heater, insulate the pipes, and keep water temperature at 120 degree.

Conserve water. Put flow restrictors on all faucets and use water conservation shower heads. Repair leaking faucets and toilets.

Buy energy saving appliances. Buy only energy efficient appliances (Energy Star), especially heating and AC systems. Keep temperature settings in energy conservation mode and not too cold for the freezer and refrigerator. Use dryers and washers with full loads, clean the lint filter, and use only cold water. Consider purchasing an electric lawn mower.

Buy compact fluorescent bulbs. Replace your lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs and never leave any lights on when not in a room. Home computers now use 9%-10% of all energy–turn them off when not in use and turn off the power bar, too.

Recycle. Aim to recycle at least 80 percent of household waste, including yard waste. Use your own grocery bags and always recycle plastic bags and coat hangers. Purchase recycled paper and other products.

Minimize car emissions. Use fuel-efficient vehicles and always carpool and use public transit when you can. Minimize car trips and idling, keep cars well tuned, tire pressure checked regularly, and keep unnecessary weight out of the car.

Reduce chemicals. Avoid using chemicals (solvents, Freon, and pesticides) harmful to the environment. If you must use pesticides, use according to label requirements. Recycle used motor oil and never place hazardous household substances in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Try not to fertilize lawns, but always test soils before fertilizing. Clean up after dogs and cats (pet waste pollutes our Bay). Do not allow them to run at large. Cats roaming freely kill hundreds of millions of birds and small mammals. Use rain barrels to hold stormwater from your roof. Plant trees.

Once you, your home, and your car are energy and pollution efficient, work to do the same in your office, school, and church.

Each of us pollutes the Bay with our daily activities, so let’s all work to reduce that pollution to as little as possible so that more of our Bay critters can thrive.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides a list of organizations in every state that provide weatherization assistance—in many cases for free.

Posted by Gerald Winegrad

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