Consumers have incredible power to help the environment through their buying habits.

If we set standards for our purchases, stores will respond by making more eco-friendly products available.

First, we should only buy fast-drying towels because it takes less energy to dry them. They are surprisingly absorbent and luxurious. Second, to reduce plastic pollution, we can buy certified compostable green bags for our trash and pet waste. Other plastic bags should be recycled.

Reusable products have been around for many years. We can replace plastic water bottles with reusable water bottles that don't contain harmful chemicals like phthalates. Although disposable water bottles are recyclable, many end up in the ocean, our neighborhoods and trash bins, contributing to overcrowded landfills.

We can also bring our own food storage container to restaurants for leftovers, to avoid Styrofoam containers that may contain benzene, a cancer-causing chemical.

To help preserve our forests, we could use cloth napkins instead of the disposable paper kind. Cloth napkins can be washed with the permanent press clothes, so they don't use more water. If you need paper towels, buy only the pick-a-size variety so you don't use more than you need.

Also, check the back of greeting cards to see if they are made from sustainably managed forests or at least from recycled paper. Using our own reusable, washable bag for shopping can also save trees.

These are simple things we can resolve to do to improve the environment, not just for Earth Week, April 19 to 22, but for the future of our planet.

Linda Newton

Fountain Valley

Self-absorption leads to distracted driving

We frequently read about the controversy between bikers and drivers as they struggle to share the road. I have been on both sides and have come to realize it's not bikers or drivers who are wrong. People are the problem.

People are becoming more self-absorbed, or there are more self-absorbed people on the road these days. Frequently the people who cause the problems that lead to accidents, road rage and fatalities are either inattentive, road hogs or dismissive of traffic signs and laws. These are the actions of people who are losing sight of what it means to live within a society.

The number of people who drive while talking or texting remains unacceptably high. Whether I am driving or biking, I can count multiple other drivers who are talking while holding mobile phones — despite a law prohibiting the habit and countless media stories about the dangers of such distracts.

Bikers and drivers who race through red lights, drivers who speed through school zones and don't use their turn indicators, and bike groups that fail to yield to other bikers or drivers are at epidemic levels.

I would ask everyone, as we all become increasingly inwardly focused, to apply some time to self-reflection.

If people want to enjoy the fruits of society, such as roads, people need to do so within the context of society. Watch out for others, watch out for yourself and stop blaming other people.

Andrew Barnes

Costa Mesa