Top Picks From `Ecologue'

Compact fluorescents: The yearly dollar savings from buying fewer bulbs and less electricity is $4 to $6 per bulb. Over its life, each bulb saves the combustion of 500 pounds of coal at a power plant. Each bulb cost about $20. Honda Civic: Our favorite ... is the Honda Civic CRX. Yes, the Geo Metro XFI gets better mileage (58 m.p.g. on the highway versus 49 for the Civic), but our testers tell us that it does so at the expense of power (the engine is 33 percent smaller) and general handling....

Grocery tote bag: ``Which is better for the environment,'' I'm frequently asked, ``paper bags or plastic?'' The easy answer is paper. A good case can be made for plastic, too, but I'm still not convinced. In fact, neither is acceptable. [A canvas bag is best.]

Caulk and weather stripping: Most of our houses are so full of holes they're virtual sieves in terms of heating; just as fast as we pump heat into them, it leaks right out again. There is nothing you can do that is more cost effective for reducing heating and cooling bills than to thoroughly caulk and weather-strip.

Sunfrost refrigerator: Our major appliances are energy guzzlers, and most so-called energy-efficient versions are only modest improvements. ... The Sunfrost is the stellar exception. [It] uses about one-fifth the energy of the old-fashioned rig in your kitchen corner. Is it magic? Nope. Just common sense in the form of thicker insulation and tight door seals.

Bat houses: I've learned a lot about bats. The first is that they have extraordinary ``radar,'' and the last thing they want to do - or will do - is fly into me. The second is that most bat species are voracious bug eaters - consuming up to 600 mosquitoes per hour. Since I hate pesticides as much as I do mosquitoes, putting up a bat house to encourage these mammals to move into my neighborhood was irresistible.

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