Make It Simple 

But don't go all green.

How many times do you need reminding? If it's yellow, let it mellow. That's right. Say so long to the ick factor: Cut back on the 30 gallons of water you, an average American, flushes down the toilet every day.

And how many times do you have to be asked "paper or plastic"? How many times do you answer "neither"? That canvas bag you're using at the grocery store is reducing the 100 billion plastic bags Americans throw away every year.

But say you say "plastic." Go ahead, but get some use out of it. Use it also to pack your lunch, pick up after your pooch, line your bathroom trash can, or return it to your supermarket for recycling.

And while you're at it, do something about those ghosts robbing you blind — the electronic "ghosts" that, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, account for 20 percent of your household energy bill. Unplug the toaster. Try turning off the clock display on your oven. And disconnet any charger not in use. (Extreme measure: Switch off the power strip to your computer and printer before you're out the door.)

Simple stuff? Yes. Obvious stuff? Not if you're a knucklehead who needs to be told to switch to lighter sheets in the summer and to open your windows when the weather permits. But the simple, the obvious, and, what's most important, the doable stuff: They're all outlined in Simply Green: Easy, Affordable Tips for Eco-Friendly Families (Citadel Press/Kensington) by Melissa and David Seligman.

They're a married couple in Kansas — he's in the army, she's a stay-at-home mom — with two kids, and they're not out to change the world ­— just that piece of it they can change. And that includes you. But they're not out to berate you. Or preach to you. Or scare you to death with Armageddonesque images. Or burden you with overwhelming statistics. What they're hoping to do is serve as a reminder:

"You don't have to do everything to be green. You just have to do something." That includes, for starters, stopping smoking.

  • From Captivating Combinations

According to the Seligmans, cigarette butts, with their nasty plastic component, are the most littered items in the world. Overwhelming statistic: 4.5 trillion thrown down annually. Ten to 12 years: That's how long that plastic survives in the environment.

How much green, though, is too much green? Norman Winter says, yes, green's mandatory. He even writes that "the bones or foundation from green must be in place." But he disagrees with another authority who once instructed a symposium audience that "green is the only color you need. Let color come from your friends and visitors."

Who is this disagreeable Norman Winter, and what the hell is he talking about? He's the "Southern Garden Guru," from Mississippi State University. He's talking about plant color. And he's written Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden (University Press of Mississippi), but you don't need to have a green thumb to appreciate Winter's eye for spectacular plants and for rich, colorful combos, revealed in more than 200 full-color photos.

And on the subject of colorful combos: Sid Yiddish (aka Charles Bernstein) is a self-described poet, actor, throat singer, tap dancer, and possible spy. Mykel Board is a novelist with 17 titles to his credit and a columnist with more than 20 years' experience writing on politics and sex for Maximumrocknroll. He's also a travel writer, and he wrote of his travels in Mongolia in Even a Daughter Is Better Than Nothing (Garrett County Press) in 1995. That's where Board recounts his adventures teaching English at the National University in Ulaanbaatar and his overcoming multiple hazards, among them participation in a sheep-killing ritual and suffering from chronic constipation.

Xanadu is in Mongolia. Xanadu's in Memphis too: Xanadu Music & Books at 2200 Central. So it makes sense: Board will be signing Even a Daughter Is Better Than Nothing (and signing his collection of columns, I, a Me-ist?) at Xanadu on Monday, April 20th, at 6:30 p.m. Call the store at 274-9885 for more information. Look for Yiddish (aka Bernstein) to be on hand too for maximum mishegas.

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