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Shortcuts: Going green

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(CNN) -- Global warming is doing irreparable damage to the world's environment, according to climate experts and Al Gore. So what can you do to save the planet? Well, for starters...

At home: The home is probably the easiest place for the green convert to start -- and you'll probably save some money too, allowing an opportunity for a double dose of sickening dinner party smugness. Even before the possibilities of roof-mounted wind turbines, solar panels or solar-heated water systems are considered, you can make instant inroads into your carbon use just by changing your lightbulbs -- energy efficient bulbs requiring around a quarter of the electricity as regular ones. The other easy fix is to get your loft insulated properly. Boilers are notorious energy guzzlers -- if your response to winter is to turn your home into a Swedish sauna then drop the thermostat by a few degrees and buy a nice sweater instead. In most places you can also sign up for an energy supplier that uses renewable sources. Finally, minimize waste as much as possible. If you're making tea only boil as much water as you need. Keep lids on saucepans to make them warm up quicker. Oh, and never leave your TVs or computers on standby. One survey in the U.S. estimated that the amount of energy wasted by electrical devices on standby was equivalent to the output of 18 power stations.

Shopping: If you must participate in the endless carnival of consumerism that is modern life then at least shop with some dignity. That meal-for-one chicken korma that looks so tempting on the way home from work is hardly going to provide spiritual nourishment for the aspiring eco-warrior. And the plastic casing that could be used to insulate the space shuttle is only going to stink out your bin for the next week and then rot in some smelly landfill hole for decades to come. Stick to local, seasonal produce as much as possible. Sign up for a vegetable box scheme, which will offer you the chance to sample such exotic fare as January cabbage, cosmos potatoes and green Batavia. Plastic bags are the enemy. Of course ethical shopping throws up dilemmas of its own: should you go for fair-trade bananas or organic bananas? We'll leave that to your conscience...

At work: It's no use being green at home if your workplace continues to be an ecological Chernobyl. Computers were supposed to herald the age of the paper-less office. In fact the volume of paper printed by the average worker is around four times what it was in the seventies. And some 70 percent of office waste is high-grade white paper -- the most sought after type for recycling. Many of the same rules apply at work as at home -- don't get lazy just because you're not paying the bills. Turn off computers, lights and photocopiers and recycle waste. Make proper tea in proper mugs rather than enduring the tepid, Styrofoamed tyranny of the vending machine.

Travel: We hate to spoil the fun, but flying budget airlines from London to Spain for the weekend for a couple of cents each way really is out of the question for anyone with even a flickering eco-conscience. Flying has become the modern world's greatest indulgence -- even if you don't own a car you'll blow a year's carbon allowance on just one long haul return flight. Train travel was once the preserve of emperors, kings and princes and is still an effortlessly elegant way to cross countries and continents. If you're a driver, small compact cars are better than large energy-guzzlers and SUVs are positively criminal. You should probably slow down too -- a car traveling at 50 mph uses less fuel than one traveling at 70. Of course, there are only two modes of transport that won't do any harm at all to you eco-credibility: by foot or by bike.

Greenpeace protesters in Hong Kong -- body paint and Bermuda shorts optional.


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