Photo by Tracy Olson
When people asked me what I believe in, I tell them I believe in family, friendship, and sense of self. But I also believe that living green makes sense. In fact, I believe Green makes cents.
Before you pooh-pooh me, realize being green does not mean you have to live in an extravagant green home as you might see on television, have the newest green tech toys, or follow Hollywood’s latest trend. I am talking real dollar to dollar savings based on good, honest thriftiness and back to nature living of our grandparents. Follow along and start adding up the dough.
I have extensively written about how to save energy by simply buttoning up your house. A little weather-stripping and caulk can go a long way to close up those drafts. Insulate your attic floor in accordance with Department of Energy’s guidelines and seal around those protrusions in your attic. Before you know it, the money that went up the chimney, will be staying in your house.
Consider using no added formaldehyde free insulation such as Johns Manville’s or, a fiberglass and formaldehyde free, itch-less option (albeit more expensive) Ultra-Touch cotton insulation. For more information on how to make your home energy efficient, see my articles, here, here, and here.
Don’t stop at those drafts. Consider your appliances. Make your appliances work for you. Clean the filters of your refrigerator and stock it to make it more efficient. If your appliances are over ten years old, consider replacing them with energy star appliances. Not only will you have new appliances, but they will save you money as well. Check to see if any governmental rebates are available.
Oh, while we are in the kitchen, don’t forget to install an inexpensive aerator for your faucet to reduce your water usage as well as your bill. Don’t stop there. Plants need water? Water them with leftover cooking water or half drunken glasses of water.
Zap those energy suckers. Unplug used electronics in the house. This goes for televisions, play stations, computers, faxes, and printers. If you just can’t muster the energy to do this, consider purchasing either a Smart strip, which automatically powers down the appliance or an outlet strip so you can turn off several electronics with one switch.
Hey, we are not done yet. Before you leave the room, turn off the lights. How easy is that? While you are at it, replace your light bulbs with CFLs. Light up and save. However, don’t forget to take them to Home Depot, IKEA, or your county for recycling. Pitching them in the garbage is a mercury no-no.
Although these are only a few energy saving suggestions, you get the picture on how to save money by just doing the little things.
Improving Air Quality
Do you realize how many chemicals are in our household products? What can you do about it? First, take your shoes off when you come into your house, so you don’t track pesticides and other outside toxic chemicals into your house.
Secondly, be mindful what you bring into your house. Wonder why when you go into some furniture stores, your eyes water or you get a headache? You smell chemicals off-gassing. More and more medium priced furniture companies such as Lee and Viesso are making furniture with organic cotton, water based adhesives, FSC certified wood, and low voc stains and sealers. There are a multitude of green fabrics as well. (See my green fabric articles here, here and here.) When you are visiting such stores as Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, ask them which furniture is eco-friendly. (Be sure to ask about all the parameters I mentioned above. The use of natural latex is an added bonus.) You might be surprised.
But to be ¨ϋber green, consider antiques and used furniture. (See my article about the hunt for used and antique furniture.) I love garage sales, EBay, Craig’s List, and FurnitureFindex. Not only will you be lowering your carbon footprint by using something that is already here, you will be spending less money for quality. I tend to purchase high end used timeless furniture since it is more affordable than buying new. Think antiques are only for your parents? Think again. Many interior designers combine the new with the old to give a room that lived in look.
Now, that I have you sold on what to bring into your house, don’t forget how to clean your house. Throw out all those toxic cleaners that you have, and consider using three things: baking soda, vinegar, and Bon Ami. That’s it. Here are some recipes from Annie Bond of Care2 to make your own cleaners.
My friend and fellow green mom carnival member, Karen is not only a green blogger, but a Shaklee distributor and wellness consultant. She swears by their products. Check out her website for more information about Shaklee.
Moving on from indoor air quality to the garbage can! Let’s see how reducing your garbage can save you some money. Just take a peek inside. What do you see? Perhaps, single serve wrappers, plastic water bottles, plastic forks and knifes, napkins, paper towels, veggies and fruit peels, so on and so on? Sound like your garbage can?
Where to begin? Single servings may make life easier, but in reality they cost more, and deplete natural resources. Every individual serving size has plastic all around it. Plastic is made out of petroleum products and does not degrade for hundreds of years. Consider buying in bulk and creating single servings when you want that particular item.
Use this same logic when buying single servings of yogurt, potato chips, popcorn, cheese, and other single serve items. Buy a large container or bag. Consider putting what you want to eat in small containers to be re-used day after day. For those opposed to plastic, consider using stainless steel tiffins. See Beth of Fake, Plastic Fish’s review of stainless steel tiffins she liked. (Another fellow green mom carnival member. Who else are you going to trust?)
Okay, let’s not forget the endless plastic bags for the lunch and from the grocery stores. Consider using containers or sandwich wraps for lunches and storage containers in lieu of plastic baggies. Just think how much money you will be saving by not buying that endless supply of plastic baggies.
Back to the trash can. Did you reach in and grab a plastic bottle or two? Perhaps you recycle them, which is commendable. However, think of all the money you spend on supposedly better water? Consider a stainless steel water bottle instead that you can re-use over and over again. Concerned about your own tap water? Filter it so that you can kick the plastic water bottle habit, in which millions go into a landfill every year. Using a Brita filter? Now you can recycle them.
How about paper napkins, paper plates, and utensils? Green answer: napkins, disposal compostable plates like Verterra (made out of leaves) or biodegradable corn or sugar plates, provided your area has a commercial composter to send those biodegradable corn and sugar plates. (How do you know? Check here.) Veterra will compost anywhere.
Entertain a lot? Consider buying a bunch of mismatched table settings at a thrift shop to add to the festive nature of your parties. Same goes with utensils. I actually have had the same box of plastic utensils forever, since I wash mine and re-use them over and over again. (Can’t you just hear ca-ching every time I throw you an eco bone?)
How about those spoiled veggies and fruits? Try and buy less, so less spoils. Think of all the money you throw down the drain. Want to buy on sale, but worried about spoiling? Freeze extras with those leftover spaghetti sauce jars. I have a bunch of green peppers, herbs, and tomatoes in my freezer that I use for cooking as well as an on occasion spoiled bananas for muffins. If you must use plastic baggies, wash them and re-use them.
What about all those potatoes and carrot peels? Send them to your composter so you can have sweet compost for your plants. Don’t forget to collect free leaves in the fall so that you can have the right mix of brown and green to make compost. Your lawn loves compost as well. And by the way, don’t forget to sprinkle your used coffee grounds around your plants. They will love you for it. (How can coffee grounds help your plants? Read my much read article, using coffee grounds for your plants.)
Are you getting the picture? See, I told you. Being green made cents, and I have barely scratched the proverbial green iceberg. What suggestions do you have?
This month on the Green Moms’ carnival the discussion of “I Believe” is being hosted on Jennifer’s The Smart Mama’s website.
Update: 11/15/2009: This post is also being use for Green Mom ‘s carnival for how green make sense being hosted by Lisa at Condo Blues.