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Web Sites Help Build Greener Neighborhoods and Homes

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By Stephanie I. Cohen

RISMEDIA, August 29, 2007-(MarketWatch)-Being environmentally conscious and conserving energy doesn’t have to mean radical lifestyle changes or saving a rain forest halfway around the world.

A number of creative Web sites are helping consumers take small steps locally — in their neighborhoods and at home — in an effort to promote energy efficiency and lower individual consumption of fossil fuels.

Neighborhoods that make it easy to go car-free

As oil and gasoline prices continue to push new highs, some city and suburban dwellers may consider trading in their car keys for walking shoes. A Web site that can tell you whether you live in a “walkable” community is www.walkit.com.

Entering your address pulls up a Google map of the neighborhood and highlights all of the stores, restaurants and businesses within walking distance. The site also gives the address a “walk score.”

Peeping at your neighbors’ solar system

Keeping up with the Jones’ is getting easier in eco-conscious San Francisco. If you want the rundown on a neighbor’s solar-energy system, sf.solarmap.org lets residents hone in on any residential solar system in the neighborhood.

An interactive map of the city highlights each home with a solar system and lets users click on individual addresses to get information on the size of the system along with the company that installed it.

The site is a project of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. The city has set the goal of installing 10,000 solar rooftops city-wide by 2010.

Swapping a billion bulbs

For people who want to reduce the amount of energy they use and find a challenge to be the best motivation there is www.onebillionbulbs.com. The site is tracking, based on user input, the number of standard incandescent light bulbs that have been replaced in each state with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. The site let users scroll over a map of the U.S. and see how many light bulbs have been changed.

Philips Electronics, a major manufacturer of compact florescent bulbs, is hosting a similar site — www.asimpleswitch.com — that tracks pledges.

At www.18seconds.org, users can see how many energy-efficient compact florescent lights have been purchased in each state and where a state ranks.

Computer friendly

The site www.greenprint.com wants to help consumers save paper and eliminate all the unnecessary pages that are often printed out with a document. The software costs $35 but the company claims the average user saves $90 a year in paper and ink (and the software lets you track your savings).

If energy savings is a bigger concern and cost is an issue, www.localcooling.com offers free software to improve the energy efficiency of PCs. The site wants to eliminate the more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours of energy wasted by computers that remain on when they are not being used.
The software selects a more effective power-save mode for computers when they’re not being used. The goal of the site is to have 100 million users download the software.

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