Monday, September 7, 2009

Easy Enviormental Choices

I would not call myself an environmentalist. But I would call myself cheap. Or rather Thrifty. It’s funny how the two can intertwine. Many things I and others do to help Mother Earth are done not so much as for their so called “green” effects, they are done because we are cheap.
Ed Begley Jr. Likes to talk about starting by picking the low hanging fruit as a way to “green” up your life, by Low Hanging Fruit he means the simplest things to do to save money and energy. The underlined words being saving money.

10 “Low Hanging Fruit Suggestions” that are painless, simple and even a 5 year old can do:

1. Take a commuter mug or a reusable water bottle everywhere. I take my “muggsly” everywhere; can use it for coffee, water and any beverage. I figure I have not thrown away over 1,000 paper cups and plastic lids in a year’s time this way. Romeo even has his own “Kleen Kanteen” type water bottle, kept on his leash as well as a portable water bowl- Savings: I drink at least three mugs of water a day, which are 16 oz so on a 365 day X 3 calculation- $456.25 over buying bottled water at work. And as Condo Blues points out there are many alternatives to “Kleen Canteens” out there. Cost of a mug or water bottle- $0- $20 depending on the mug. Muggsly is priceless but you can find his brothers and sisters on ebay for around $45-50, I have had him so long that I figure he cost $13 when I bought him. You gotta love a commuter mug that appreciates in value! Many places give commuter mugs for free, and as for water bottles, old jars are free. Or check the thrift stores- I have seen acceptable water bottles and commuter mugs for as low as .69 cents. BENEFITS- some coffee shops give you a discount for using your own mug, less waste
2. 5-Minute Shower- I get wet, turn the water off. Lather, shampoo my hairs (both of them) then rinse.
Save the shower warm up water in a bucket, and reuse for watering plants or flushing toilet. Estimate savings-120 gallons of water a month or 1440 gallons per year Cost to do- Nothing, Benefits- Lower energy and water bills and usage
3. Take my own bags to the store- I have many shopping bags but that’s okay as I use them- I keep two in every car, and one on Romeo’s leash. Cost- 2.95 and up, but many stores have them for as low as $1. Or you can make a donation to to your local NPR fund drive and probably get one. My KPLU Premium Bag cost me a $45 donation- but I would have made that anyway. And I refuse the premiums as a rule. Benefits- lower prices (some stores give you a nickel to a dime discount for using your own bags, less plastic in the waste stream
4. Plan your trips wisely- Chile would suggest getting on a bike and parking the car at home. Nice thought and even though public transportation is all the rage, the true fact is that it is not usable for all of us. One little trick I do to save on gas is plan where I need to go- then park at one central location and walk to the rest. I have been seen parking the car (or truck) and walking all over Burien for things like trips to the post office, restaurants, the farmers market, the grocery and the pet supply stores. Cost to park and walk- Nothing, Lower gas costs, lower carbon emissions
5. Buy local produce- of course a “Farmers’ Market” is the easy way to do this- but most stores and green grocers are getting in on the Buy Local campaign and at least telling you were your produce is coming from. Pick local apples over Chilean apples, for example. Local means Local, within 200 miles at best. And if possible, pick organic local produce. The savings are the petroleum used to ship the produce; organic means that pesticides where not used to control bugs, etc. Cost to implement- nothing, maybe a few cents more for organic local produce, But I find it costs the same or less Benefits- better produce, lower carbon emissions sue to lower gas useage to deliver goods
6. REUSE - reuse those glass jars. They make great containers for leftovers for lunches, I even take the one quart jars and make Sun Tea, by the glass. The advantages to making sun tea in smaller jars is you can drink out of them as well! Cost to Re-use contaniers- nothing- benefit - Less trash, less plastic
7. Turn Down Your Hot Water Thermostat- despite what you think there is very little difference between 120 degree water and 140. Turn it down- you will save a great deal on your electric or gas bill - Cost to do- $0 Benefit- less energy costs

8. Heating and cooling - 65 is a great warming temperature. A/C can be kept at 80 or higher. And try using fans to re-circulate your air. Ceiling fans are a great way to do this. And try a programmable thermostat. I have two, making a poor mans attempt at "zone" heating- 1 in the dining room/kitchen area, one in the living room (since I have “electric” fan forced wall heaters) and it lowers the temperature setting automatically when I go to work or go to bed.Usually leave the heat off in the bedrooms. Cost to lower the thermostat- $0, Benefit- lower heating costs! Cost to add a programmable thermostat- $45-100, depending on the thermostat. And yes, they have them for baseboard heaters now, too! Benefits- lower heating cost, automatically controls the temperature of your house.

Motion Detector on my laundry room light
9. CFL- Compact Fluorescent Lights- a great way to save on electricity. LED lights are better but damn they are expensive. Another energy saving trick to lighting, if you are like me and have areas where CFL’s just wont work is to install motion activated light timers- I have one in my Laundry room that just screws in to the socket, turns the bulb off after a few minutes, or in the bathroom a wall motion activated timer will work fantastically Cost to add CFL's the cost of the bulbs which are coming way down- probably as low as $2 a bulb although I have gotten my last four free from City Light at different functions, motion activated timers- $20- $50 depending on the timer. Benefits- lower electrical bills
10-Wear a Sweater- Mr. Rogers cant be all wrong- well minus that pretend neighborhood- since fall is upon us and the temps are starting to drop, you feel a chill- Put on a sweater. Or wrap up in a snuggy blanket. Cost- A sweater or a sweathirt bought a thrift store costs a couple of bucks- payback- warm body. Benefits- warmer body, lower energy bills

There now I can step off my personal soapbox- what low cost tips do any of you have for greening up your life?

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