It’s Not Too Hard Being Green

So perhaps you’ve seen An Inconvenient Truth or you plan to. Maybe you have no intention seeing it because you’re convinced this is just all a bunch of bunk. Either way, being green doesn’t have to mean giving up a comfortable life style and taking the kids to live in a cave somewhere. As a matter of fact, one of the single best advantages of making the green shift is that, with a little bit of extra work and know-how, you can actually save yourself some money. Even when our conscious isn’t poking us in the back or we just don’t think highly politicized science is convincing, our thinning wallets can convince us to take action.

What You Buy

You can reduce your current spending some and reduce some of your environmental impact at the same time, so let’s talk about that up front. First, you should know that rushing out to buy the new, shiny gizmo that promises to save the planet isn’t always the most responsible thing to do. Is it replacing something that already works okay and could just be made better? Performing some maintenance and some elbow grease can make some things run with less energy or have a whole new life. You can recycle your own things even easier than someone else can do it for you. What are you going to do with the old item? Sending it to the landfill is probably far more harmful than any benefits your new toy will offset.

Well, if you’ve convinced yourself that spending some money on something new might be the best course after all, can I interest you in something slightly used? eBay, Craigslist, yard sales, and so on may require some more hunting to find the deals, but you’ll be requiring less production energy (it was already made) and you’ll save big off of that new sticker price, and that’s always a great place to start. However, some things just need to be bought new (like underwear). This is where you should start with some planning. Spend some time thinking how you can get the most bang for your buck. For example, if you want to replace you old incandescent light bulbs with some new fancy compact fluorescent lights, consider starting with the bulbs that get use the most: bathroom, living room, kitchen. Take functioning old incandescent bulbs out, but don’t throw them away yet. Just hold on to them to put in less used sockets, such as a lamp in a side room or your backyard shed. That way, you’ll start seeing the reduced energy bill now but won’t have to fork over quite as much for so many new bulbs.

Also, consider looking for less packaging. Geeks have known that buying OEM saves big for a long time, and you can use the same principal elsewhere. Why pay for stuff your just going to throw away as soon as you get home? Ask about display models at stores (big discount there) and look for things like contractor packs at the hardware store (you don’t think contractors like to pay extra, do you?) or just larger containers at the grocery store with higher product to packaging ratios. You’re paying for the packaging each time, so unless you’ve got a good use for that box, don’t buy it. Another great way to avoid paying for useless packaging: buy digital. He, ones and zeros do very little harm to the environment and why buy a CD that you’re just going to take home, rip over to your iPod, and promptly lose? Upset about DRM, well there are plenty of places that won’t force it upon you.

Around The House

I’m not sure when we all, as a society, decided that we should never suffer anything but 72° F temperature around us, but is that really nunnecessary You own sweaters and you own shorts, so use them. Drop the thermostat in your home and office a couple of degrees in the winter and raise it the same in the summer. Chances are, you won’t even notice, and if you do, you’re probably just not dressed appropriately anyway. I mean, what happens if you go outside? Well, if you’re dashing off to your vehicle to avoid the discomfort of 75° F this month, here’s some good news: you should run your air conditioner when driving above 50 mph. Your car was designed to drive at speed as a closed box and rolling down those windows while singing along with your favorite InIndieand at the top of your lungs actually costs you some extra fuel, and at today’s prices, you can’t afford to show off your American Idol-worthy voice. Also, when you do get home, rest your throat and breath clean air by replacing your air filters more often. You don’t drink your coffee through the swswizeltick cause you’d bust a lung, but that’s the kind of load you’re putting on your air handler by using dirty filters. Clean ones help to pay for themselves and help keep you out of the clinic with a soar throat.

One thing a lot of my environmental friends say is to take shorter, cooler showers. Well, I don’t like cold showers but I also know that my clothes generally don’t mind them. Separate out anything that must be washed warm and you’ll see that most everything you own can save you some money buy taking the cold wash cycle. Of course, your dishes will need some of the warm water love, but don’t waste money buy using the heat dry option (there are products that will do a better and cheaper job of reducing spots, anyway). Also, unless you just love household chores, only wash full loads in both the clothes washer and the dishwasher. One last way to save some on they electric or gas bill, hang your clothes to dry on a clothesline when you can. You’ll get less wrinkles from the gravity action and any you do get, a quick tumble in the dryer will knock out.

So, you drive a big SUV or a four-dour sedan and you really don’t plan on giving that up anytime soon. Well, at least listen to your dad: keep your tires inflated and change the oil on schedule. You’ll get improved mileage and, well, I don’t have to say that again do I? Also, time is as good as money, so consolidate your trips. Pick up your lunch on the way to work instead of an extra trip at noon (unless your walking, which is good for the health benefits) or plan all your Saturday errands ahead so you can do them all in one excursion (although, hopefully not a Ford Excursion with gas at over $3/gallon). Also, consider making part of your big day out to your local hardware and garden store(s). Get some of that cheap foam that goes around the doors and windows. You’ll find it costs you less if you put that up to keep the house at your required 70° – 74°, you fragile thing, you. While at the garden center, get some trees for the yard. They’ll look great and you could use the sun since you apparently have some aversion to being exposed to the outdoors. Just be sure to buy local stuff, since there’s no good reason to pay extra for something that got trucked in from two states over.

When it comes time to eat, I can’t think of anything better than fresh food. Buy some local meats, fruits, and vegetables (like your grandparents did). You’ll feel better about what you feed your family and you won’t be paying for all that transportation, cooling, and storage (and usually packaging). Also, consider making more stuff at home. You’ll eat better knowing what goes into your food and you’ll save money. Oh, the environment? Well, it’ll get the benefit, too. Sorry, I hadn’t realized you getting so concerned as to remind me of the topic. I’ll keep that in mind next time.

Well, hopefully you can see just how you can make some impact on the environment by thinking of yourself and your bank account. Some simple planning and extra effort can save you some money, just like your parents told you. You can also do right by your children and help out the environment at the same time. Heck, they’ll probably appreciate the fact you took them outside and started letting them wear shorts again in the summer.

Cross-posted from my Newsvine Column.

3 thoughts on “It’s Not Too Hard Being Green”

  1. The following is not meant to sound like a smartass:

    I do like to think that I am not a huge producer of earth killing dirtiness, but the article seems like it is touting a normal way of living or at least a normal one for me. These suggestions seem to be common sense. Of course this may be because for most of my life up to this point I was more concerned about paying the bills and making ends meet than I was about saving the planet (I know, I need a spanking), but something felt weird while reading this article… then I figured it out. This article was not written for me.

    It was written for the people that go through life without the cares of making ends meet. It was written for the people that are not informed on frugality. This was written for the people with excess, which of course most Americans fall into now once you really think about it.

    So, I suppose this article was for me. It was for me because I can feel good that I’m helping save the world because I’m trying to be frugal. Now what else can I, the cheap bastard, do?

    Jason,
    Thanks for posting the article and even if it sounds the opposite, I do think it is a good idea to see where a small switch in the normal operations of daily living can cause a ripple down the line. I suppose that should be what I take away from this.

    Long post = Long comment

  2. Zone, you’re always welcome to leave long comments here and when you write long long posts on your blog, I hope I can add as much as you just did to them. I’d like to say (and I meant to at the end of this post here) that this is really the first step towards us doing something. The next is tougher, because it may involve us actually giving up things or changing our lives in substantial ways. It also involves us putting out money where our mouths and hearts are.

    I’m glad you got something out of it, although I’m pretty sure that you two are actually very conscious and good people in being world citizens just because that just like you guys in everything else, too.

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