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Eco Etiquette: 5 Wacky Ways To Go Green In The New Year

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It seems like I keep hearing the same green advice over and over again: I already unplug my electronics when I'm not using them, bike commute to work every day, shop at the farmers market, and use canvas bags for errands. Any new and interesting ways to go green? I need a challenge!

-Ryan

There's a lot of fascinating innovation out there in the world of green -- algae-based sustainable biofuels, bacteria that can digest plastic waste, city buses powered by human sewage -- but most of us don't have a direct hand in such exciting advancements, unless our job title includes the words biochemical or engineer. Nah, the average greenie who wants to feel empowered is given the option of swapping bottled water for a Brita pitcher, or screwing in a (CFL or LED) light bulb. Both are important actions that can collectively can change the world, but let's be honest: They're not really all that exciting or conversation-sparking, are they?

The reality is, we're going to need both excitement and conversation in order to keep the heat on (sorry) global warming and other essential environmental issues. Sure, there will always be some individuals committed to making the world a better place because it's the right thing to do, but there are a lot of Lindsay Lohan antics to compete with on the front page of even this newspaper; the way I see it, the more interesting and inspiring green can be, the more motivated the average person will be to step up and take action (and to tell his friends about what he's doing). Herewith, I offer five innovative and slightly wacky green ideas to keep all of us on the move for our planet in 2010.

1. Go to bed an hour earlier. Does your bedtime keep approaching ungodly hours? I know, it's hard to say lights out when there are so many episodes of The Jersey Shore waiting for you on the DVR. But by staying up and keeping the TV/DVR on, not to mention all the lights in your home and your computer, you are literally burning the midnight (fossil fuel) oil. Imagine how much energy could be conserved if every American went to bed just an hour earlier. If you need another reason, consider the mounting evidence that people who get adequate sleep each night are happier, healthier, and skinnier.

2. Stop using shampoo. Conventional shampoo and conditioner send a potentially toxic cocktail of chemicals into our bodies and pollute our waterways; even eco-friendly shampoos still come in that not-so-eco-friendly plastic bottle. Even so, when a friend told me that a lot of people she knows are now forgoing shampoo to help the environment and their hair, I was skeptical. But she swears that after the initial month-long adjustment period, your hair looks magnificently healthy and shiny. After all, shampoo as we know it didn't even exist until the 1930s, and people had clean hair before then, right?

3. Eat a PB&J sandwich. Most of us know by now that a less meat-intensive diet is good for the planet, but not everyone has the time to prepare well-balanced vegetarian meals or is willing to embrace a diet of lentils and tofu. That's why the PB&J Campaign is brilliant in its simplicity. Can't commit to a full Meatless Monday? Swap out a few turkey sandwich lunches each week for a PB&J (with natural peanut butter, of course). It's easy, it's recession-proof, and you'll feel like a kid again.

4. Pee in the shower. Urine is sterile, nontoxic, and an estimated 42 percent of Americans already do it, so why not feel justified in saving up to 1,157 gallons of water a year per household by forgoing just one flush a day? Environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica encouraged Brazilians to "xixi no banho" with a hilarious commercial last year; we might do well to pay mind to a country that is also taking the lead on energy independence. (I won't tell if you won't.)

5. Recycle used pens. Looking to take your biodiesel Benz to the next level of green? Take a cue from the crazily creative Mercedes Pens, a 300 SD Mercedes that's completely encrusted in used pens and markers. Not that ambitious? Recycle your worn-out writing utensils by mailing them to green artist and Mercedes Pens creator Costas Schuler, for his other pending pen projects. He's well on the way to his goal of diverting 1 million used pens from their landfill fate.

Got your own original, wacky ways to go green this year? Post them in the comments section below!

Send all your eco-inquiries to Jennifer Grayson at eco.etiquette@gmail.com. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

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