Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

You can't go a day without reading an article or seeing som
ething 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: 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.


Jen said...

We made a commitment to recycling last year and cut our curbside garbage by 2/3 and it's really not been difficult. We don't have curbside so I have to haul it to the recycle center but still...Hey, here's a tip. All the free bags you get from RWA and elsewhere make great shopping bags.

Barbara Vey said...

I love the author bags. I use them for everything and I give them as gifts. At home, I believe in the layered look and got a heated mattress pad so I don't have to heat my whole house. My thermosat is at 60 (and it's 4 below this morning), but I just dress warmer. Small changes.

Rhonda Nelson said...

I can handle being colder in the winter--our thermostat is never higher than 67 in the winter. But 78 is the summer??? I'd fry. I can't sleep when it's hot.

Angel said...

Rhonda, we're just the opposite. I'm fine with 78 in summer--we keep the ceiling fans going all the time. But 67 in winter! In this new house, I feel cold all the time! No matter how many clothes I put on. And if I snuggle under a blanket, I'll just go to sleep.

But I do turn it down several degrees during the day while no one is here.


Instigator said...

No baths?!?!?!?! I'm not sure I can do that :-) I love my baths.

We have a programmable thermostat. I always turn it down 2 to 4 degrees when no one's home and at night. But I can't stand for the house to be cold when I'm home.


Kathy said...

That was my first thought. Instigator was not going to give up her baths. :-)

We keep our thermastats low in winter and use the heat from our wood stove but somehow I think we're defeating the purpose by burning wood. Hmmmm. Summer, we keep the stat on a higher setting and use ceiling fans. Thankfully, we face north and south so our home stays very cool on the first floor.

We recycle on Fridays too. When I can, I buy products in plastic containers that can be recycled instead of cardboard (which a lot of refill products come in).

I still have a problem remembering to bring my grocery bags to the store with me. I'll see them and want to slap my head. Oh!!!

Problem Child said...

Cloth napkins. Real plates instead of paper. I've always done those things--so I'm not just being trendy (or prissy, as some folks think).

I have two recycling bins--the one that goes to the curb, and the one that I take every two weeks to the recycling center (that's glass, mixed paper, cardboard, etc). Counselor Shelley used to complain about my "complicated garbage rules," but it wasn't that difficult to get used to.

Using cloth shopping bags is great! You can fit more in each bag and they're much easier to carry than the plastic ones. The other day I took mine into the Kroger and the cashier was so pleased to see me using them that he found a $7 off coupon and gave it to me AND gave me two of the cloth carry bags with dividers for free! I helped the environment, saved money, and got a freebie! Score! (And trust me, if stores would start charging for those plastic bags, more people would remember to bring them.)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Great ideas, PC! In Germany, we had three trash cans. One was for plastics and aluminum, one was for paper, and one for biodegradable trash. The Germans were serious about their trash, and it wasn't hard to get accustomed to what went into which can. Then we moved to Hawaii.

It's a little island, for heavens sake! You'd think they'd be on the trash issue like white on rice. Um, no. There was a bin for plastic bottles, which we used, and fortunately a recycle center was close by so we took our glass and aluminum over there.

But our neighbors didn't recycle. Couldn't be bothered to throw the plastic away and then remember which day it went out. Until Hawaii started charging a refundable .05 deposit on plastic and cans. Then we had neighbors stealing our bottles out of the bin so they could go get the money. Sheesh!

I always recycle, though I've been bad about taking glass to the center since moving here. :( You have shamed me. I forget the cloth bags all the time, too.

I do keep the thermostat on 68 in the winter, but no way am I doing 78 in summer. Just can't do it. I have a front-loading washer that uses lots less water than a top load. It's pretty awesome, in fact.

Oh, and hubby bought a hybrid, which we love. I leave the car, which requires premium gas (no, really, it's in the manual) in the garage as much as possible.

robynl said...

We car pool whenever we can; a good friend of ours often comes with us to shop in the city b/c dh goes to the same places as he likes to go to pretty much. Last time he and I had appointments on the same day without knowing it and it worked very well.

Vanessa said...

I do a lot of these things. I also grow a few vegetables in my back yard and also have a herb garden. That way I don't have to buy them at the store and then get rid of the packaging.


Playground Monitor said...

Uh... where's the recycling center where I can take glass and cardboard? Sheesh! I should know this.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

PM, I believe they will pick up cardboard if you leave it beside the bin. At least they do in this town....

Betina Krahn said...

Wonderful suggestions for helping the environment!

I personally love turning the thermostat down, but the Squeeze is a southern boy through and through. He likes it WARM. I bought him two sweaters for Christmas and the bribe wouldn't work.

I also LOVE the reusable grocery bags. But I struggle to remember to put them back into the car after each use. . . otherwise I'll be kicking myself when somebody says "paper or plastic?"

:) Betina

catslady said...

We've gradually been replacing all our light bulbs with those long-lasting fluorescent ones. Our home has a gameroom that has a lowered ceiling with maybe 3 doz. bulbs - we leave some unlit.

We have done the regular recylcing for years but they only do the No. 1 and 2. We found a place that takes 4, 5, & 6 and also cardboard (it's amazing how many foods are packaged in cardboard) and newspapers. I really try to buy items with the least amount of packaging.

I even reuse all the paper and envelopes that come with all that junk mail for lists, etc.

I've always washed plastic zip lock bags until they fall apart.

I reuse all bags since I have 7 cats and have to get rid of the litter - I'll even use their food bags.

I guess since I'm a bit of a pack rat, I've always tried to reuse as many things as possible :)