A new kind of outlaw exists in America today. That person is not a killer, as such. Not a thief, exactly. Yet that person is slowly but steadily killing our environment, robbing us of vital resources that cannot be replaced.
That person is the American homeowner. You know the type. The one who throws aluminum soda cans in the trash. Dumps house paint down the drain that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. Saturates the lawn with chemicals. Flushes the toilet once, twice, three times a visit. Hasn't a clue as to how Styrofoam is made.
This outlaw lives in your neighborhood, on your street, and possibly right in your house.
Oh, it's hard to be good, ecologically. To separate your green glass from your clear glass from your brown and haul it over to Memorial Stadium. To say no to take-out restaurants that encase a minute's worth of French fries in a container that takes 10,000 years to decompose.
If you feel guilty, you can assuage your bad habits by equipping your home with one or more environmentally friendly tools and devices. Here are some suggestions:
*Batteries. The average household has nine to 22 battery-powered gadgets and buys 30 to 92 batteries a year. Disposable batteries contain cadmium and lithium, so they are like little chemical bombs when incinerated or tossed in landfills.
Rechargeable batteries are the more globally responsible way to go. Millenium Power Cells, by Gates Energy Products of Gainesville, Fla., is the first line of rechargeable batteries with a lifetime guarantee. Their no-nonsense warranty says each battery will accept a charge indefinitely or you can return it to the manufacturer for replacement.
Says Tim Hill, Gate's marketing director, "For a typical personal headset stereo used eight hours a week, using Millenium batteries can save more than $500 over five years compared to the cost of disposable batteries."
For $15, you get two AA's and a charger that rejuvenates them in less than five hours. Extra AA's are $7 a pair. They come in all sizes, including camcorder size. Look for them at the hardware store, or call the company at (800) 67-POWER, weekdays.
*Grocery bags. If you brought two reuseable grocery bags into the market each week for one year, you would save one tree.
The ECOSAC Marketote reusable grocery bags are slightly larger than standard brown paper supermarket bags. They are moisture-proof, machine washable and made from polypropylene, a material reclaimed from certain industrial processes. Lightweight, yet tough, they can hold about 100 pounds of groceries.
Unlike brown paper bags, they have handle straps, to make carrying less of a strain, particularly if you walk from the market.
They are two for $16.95, postpaid, four for $26.95 and six for $36.95 through Personal Statements, Department TBS, P.O. Box Merrimack, N.H. 03054.
*Light bulbs. You may scoff at a $25 light bulb. But these not only last longer, they use less electrical power.
The Dulux EL is a fluorescent bulb, usable in most incandescent sockets. For example, the 7-watter shines as brightly as a regular 25-watt bulb; their 20-watt bulbs have the luminosity as one of your 75-watt bulbs.
This means a lower electric bill. Also, says the manufacturer, Osram, Inc. of Montgomery, N.Y., the bulbs last 13 times as long as incandescent bulbs. They will also, over their lifetime, keep out of the atmosphere a ton of carbon dioxide -- a cause of global warming -- and 20 pounds of sulfur oxides -- which cause acid rain.
To order these bulbs, call Real Goods Trading Co. at (800) 762-7325.
*Improving the toilet. The average toilet holds five to seven gallons of water. The average household toilet gets flushed 23 times a day. In fact, the toilet uses 40 percent of all water that comes into your house.
There are ways that not only help you use less toilet water but also lop big bucks off your water bill.
Toilet dams, for example, save up to four gallons of water per flush. That's about 20,000 gallons each year. A dam is a simple rubber device that goes into your flush tank and modifies the amount of water your toilet uses without inconveniencing your family. In fact, no one will know it's there. But eventually you will notice your water bills are lower.
Toilet dams are $6.50 through Seventh Generation catalog ("Products for a Healthy Planet"), (800) 456-1177.
The Ifo Cascade Ultra-low-flush toilet flushes a mere gallon of water. This toilet is used in 50 countries, yet it is virtually unknown here. It costs $243 -- not exactly a home-center's special -- but, again, over time your water bill will plummet. And you'll rest assured that fresh water is being conserved.
The Ifo is available through the People's Energy Resource Cooperative, 354b Waverly St., Framingham, Mass. 01701 or call (508) 879-8572.