Wednesday, January 30, 2008
It's Not Easy Being Green
You can't go a day without reading an article or seeing something on television about being green. The earth has finite resources and landfills everywhere are overflowing with things that won't ever decompose.
But just what is "being green?" There's not enough space on this blog to go into all the different things you can do to help the environment, but I'm going to hit on a few that we've incorporated at our house.
* Recycle and Freecycle. We have curbside recycling in our town and we've participated from its inception. Every item that's recyclable through our system goes in the blue bin and then out to the curb once a week. Items we no longer need are donated to a thrift store. Or another option is something I just learned about: Freecycle.org. This is a nationwide organization that operates through Yahoo groups and is a place where people can offer or request items. The only hitch is they must be offered free. We had an old computer monitor that had conked out during the warranty. The company replaced it but the old one had been in our attic for a year. Last week I pulled it out, posted it on Freecycle and had a dozen folks ask for it. Freecycle is a great way to get rid of items without putting them in the landfill. One man's junk is another man's treasure.
* Insulate your home. Double pane windows or storm windows, caulking and weatherstripping, proper floor, ceiling and wall insulation can reduce your heating and cooling costs. It's an inexpensive solution with big returns.
* Turn down the thermostat. In winter, set your thermostat to 68 degrees. Put an extra blanket on the bed. Wear a sweater in the house. A two-degree adjustment to your thermostat setting can reduce heating costs by 4%. In summer, set it to 78. Use ceiling fans to circulate the air and keep rooms cooler. Depending on the type of heat you have, a programmable thermostat that automatically turns down the setting at night and/or while you're at work may work for you. Heat pumps don't benefit from them, but other types of heat do. Also, remember to change your furnace filters regularly. If you use the cheap ones, change them monthly. If you use the more expensive ones or the ones you can wash, follow the manufacturer's suggestions for when to clean or replace.
* Use the power of the sun. If solar power is available to you, use it. But you can use the sun's power to your advantage without ugly panels on the roof. Open curtains and blinds in the winter to let the sun heat your house. Likewise, close them in summer to keep out the hot rays.
* Wash only when full. Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when full. Use cold water when possible to wash clothes. Obviously, the dishwasher won't work with cold water, but you can turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees and still safely clean your dishes.
* Paper or plastic? Neither. Many grocery stores now offer inexpensive reusable shopping bags for around $1. This, of course, is the no-frills model. You can buy all styles and colors for more, but they all accomplish the same goal -- to keep plastic out of the landfills. Of course, remembering to take them is my biggest challenge. I've also started using cloth napkins at the dinner table. They are a dark color so they don't show every little thing. And the DH and I aren't that messy either. I keep lots of cleaning rags on hand to use instead of paper towels. I've discovered microfiber towels and they rock! I can clean a mirror and leave it streak-free with nothing but a little water. We do use facial tissues and toilet paper. I'm not fond of carrying a snotty hankie around and well... they don't make the Sears catalog anymore. ;-) Use resealable plastic containers to store leftovers instead of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Use them to pack lunches instead of resealable plastic bags
* Watch those miles. Drive a car that gets good mileage whether it's a regular gasoline burning engine, bio-diesel or hybrid. Consolidate your errands to minimize the number of trips you make from home. Carpool if you can and if available, use public transportation.
* Be cyber-green. Use your ATM card and online banking and bill paying to reduce the number of checks you write and bill payments you mail. And if you use a program like Microsoft Money or Quicken, your bank transactions will download straight to it, which helps a lot at tax time since you can categorize your expenditures into deductible and non-deductible items. That will feed into most tax software programs, most of which allow you to file online, again saving paper and postage. And if you're getting a refund, you can opt to have it deposited directly to your bank account.
* Don't take a bath. Bubble baths might be fun and relaxing, but showers use less water, especially if you've installed a low-flow shower head.
Are you trying to be green? Wouldn't you like to shower with Matthew McConnaughey? Give me your best "being green" tip and I'll pick one commenter and mail them $2 to buy a reusable shopping bag. That will use less packaging than mailing you a bag. *g* But you gotta promise to buy and use the bag.
P.S. Our winner from yesterday is Rita. Please contact Problem Child with your full name and snail mail info to claim your prize.