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.