Green is not just the color of money, it is the color of social-responsibility

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dim Bulbs, Old Clothes, and Hairballs

Three questions .......... 

Do I save electricity when I use a dimmer switch on my lights? Or am I using the same amount of electricity no matter where I have it set?

Unless your dimmer dates to the 1970s, it will save some energy. The more you lower the lights, the less power they use—although the savings won't be as large as the reduction in brightness. (At a light level of 50 percent, you'll be using more than half the electricity.) If you're using incandescent lights, a dimmer switch can also extend the life of your bulbs. According to Francis Rubinstein, a lighting researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, an incandescent bulb that's kept at 50 percent brightness should last roughly 10 times longer than one burning at full capacity.

Things are a little different with compact fluorescent bulbs. In the first place, not all of these work with dimmers. Among those that do, the energy savings are a little better, but you won't get any extension in bulb life. At the lowest dimmer settings, an incandescent bulb will cast an especially warm glow, but the quality of light from a CFL remains the same no matter how it's set. There may also be some flickering with the fluorescents. However, if saving energy is your main concern, ditch the old-fashioned bulbs: An incandescent will always be less efficient than a CFL, no matter what kind of light switch you're using.

Can you recycle clothes?
Yup. Textiles that are still relatively intact can be cut up into wiping rags, which are sold to gas stations and paint shops. Ratty clothes are shredded, and the resulting fibers can be used in things like carpet padding or soundproofing insulation. Some fibers, like wool, can be re-spun, re-dyed, and re-woven into brand-new clothes.

Unless you live in one of the handful of counties that has curbside textile recycling, it may be tricky to get your closet cast-offs to the people who recycle them. Many organizations that collect used clothing, like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, have relationships with textile recyclers, which take anything the charities can't sell in their stores. But it's not always a good idea to drop a bag of single socks or tattered gym clothes at your local charity shop. For one thing, not all of them have agreements with recyclers—which means your discarded duds could end up in the trash—and second, overtaxed workers might not appreciate being asked to sort through your detritus, only to discover that they can't sell any of it. (Stained or unstylish clothing is usually OK, but a sweater your dog mauled probably isn't.)

If you can't find ways to reuse the clothes in your own home, the Lantern recommends calling the shops in your area to see which ones recycle their unwanted donations and whether they'd be willing to take what you have. Sometimes you can send your stuff directly to a recycler by using their 24-hour drop-off bins in parking lots and other central locations. You can find local listings for both charity shops and drop-off bins on (Meanwhile, if you have old, hole-y athletic shoes of any brand, Nike will take them off your hands.) Just make sure your clothes aren't moldy, smelly, or wet—even recyclers will toss those in the trash.

What's the most environmentally friendly way to get rid of the hair from my brush or comb? In lieu of trashing it, I've been flushing it down the toilet, but something tells me that can't be right.
Trust your instinct: The toilet is not the proper place for hairballs. First of all, it could lead to
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