While it is very trendy to be “green” these days, you may have found that many green alternatives to everyday products and processes are quite a bit pricier. Whether this is the mark of corporations cashing in on a new fad (organic cotton bedding at upwards of $400!), or a reflection of the cost of new processes that haven’t quite been made affordable (hybrid cars), many people may not feel that they can afford to be green. Here are some simple things that you can do around your house that are affordable and in some cases can actually save money.
1. Keep Cool.
If you have central air conditioning, do not turn it off! Now, I’m not talking about year-round, or when it’s nice outside. There is nothing wrong with opening windows on a fabulous 70 degree day. However, when the heat of the summer hits and big electric bills are getting the better of your check book, resist the urge to turn off your a/c whenever you leave the house. Whether you are going on vacation or just to work in the mornings, leave your thermostat at around 80 degrees (and if you have programmable thermostat, that makes it even easier!). “But why should I leave the air on when no one is home?”, you may ask. Unless your house has some kind of super insulation that holds all of that bought air inside, your house’s temperature will most likely go up substantially within a few hours of shutting off the a/c. Once you return home and fire the a/c back up, your system then must work much harder and longer to get the house livable than it would had you kept it working intermittently throughout the day. Keeping the temperature in your home regulated enables your a/c system to turn on less frequently with less effort. This ensures a longer life for your a/c system, and over time less money out of your pocket. And, of course, less energy used is always better for the planet.
2. Become a fan fan.
It’s kind of a no brainer, right? Fans use less energy, so they are an obvious green option. But ceiling fans not only blow air that cools you off, they also circulate air which is helpful in both the summer and winter months. In the summer they disperse the cooler air around your house, giving your a/c fan some much needed help. In the winter, a ceiling fan run in reverse can help alleviate some of your heating woes by circulating the heat that naturally rises in your house.
3. Let your home vent.
This goes back to how hard your air conditioner/heater is working. Many people close off the vents in unused rooms with the assumption that the cool/warm air will be re-routed back through the house to the rooms that need it. Unfortunately, central air and heat systems aren’t that rational. When you close a vent, the air does not re-route, it only builds up behind the closed vent. Your system will still work to cool/heat the entire house, whether you have all of the vents open or not. It is your choice to get your money’s worth.
4.Pot size = burner size
Most stove tops feature two small burners and two larger ones. When cooking, simply match your pot or pan size to the corresponding sized burner. Doing this keeps heat from being wasted (and it also keeps your kitchen cooler!). This may seem very simple, but it will conserve energy with little to no effort!
5. Don’t double wash
Don’t wash your dishes by hand and run them through the dishwasher. Pick one or the other. Chances are if you have a fairly new dishwasher it will be able to get the job done. This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions for that food encrusted casserole dish that has been sitting beside the sink for a few days, but for the most part let your dishwasher do it’s job. If you do not have a dishwasher, wash dishes by filling one side of your sink (or, if you have a sink with only one basin, invest in a small plastic tub to act as a second basin), and wash all of your dishes in one soapy bath rather than running continuous water from the tap to both wash and rinse. You will conserve both money and water!
6. Your Home: Unplugged
If you aren’t using it, unplug it. Whether a gadget is on or not, if it is plugged in it still manages to pull a fair amount of energy. Something as simple as pulling out a plug can help to both save you some money when the electric company comes calling and make your household a little greener.
7. Breathe new life into old stuff
This is where you can get creative. Have unruly cords around your house? Try using an empty toilet paper roll to corral them. Once used zipper seal bags can be used to organize your “junk” drawer or a purse. Use old or mismatched socks to pick up dust around the house. Reuse old plastic grocery bags when you go to the store (an empty tissue box makes a great dispenser!). If you’re a crafty person, practically anything can be made into a work of art. Just use your imagination!
8. Just say “no” to more trash
This is a big one, and it just involves making different choices. For example, reusing old grocery bags (as mentioned above), or investing in cloth grocery bags that have an even longer life can do wonders to eliminate plastic waste around your home. Many places like Wal-Mart and Half Priced Books sell these bags for $1 each! And if you can’t find them at these stores, many craft stores sell plain canvas bags at low prices. If you live in a home with wood/tile/laminate floors, try switching from a sweeping product like Swiffer (which creates a lot of non-recyclable waste) to a mop with a reusable microfiber cloth that can be tossed in with the laundry. When at the store look to see whether or not the products you buy have a lot of packaging, and if so, try to find a comparable product with less or one packaged in recyclable materials. For example, eggs can be purchased in recyclable paper cartons many times for the same price as their environmentally unfriendly Styrofoam cousins. If you have curbside recycling pick-up, there is no excuse for your trash bin to ever be fuller than the recycling bin! Many people just don’t know what is safe to recycle and what isn’t. For a list of recyclable products visit your city’s website, or www.earth911.org/recycling.
Attach an aerator to your kitchen faucet for a forceful spray that requires a fraction of the water. By pumping running water with air, you no longer need to run the faucet full blast to get decent pressure. Aerators can be purchased for around $3-$5 on sites like Amazon.com and can save you money on your water bill as well as conserve.
Freecycle is a group of like-minded, conversation conscious folks in your area that, instead of throwing old or no longer needed items in the trash, post them to a list serve in hopes that other members can use said items. This is a great way to ensure that old clothes, books, electronics, etc. are given good homes without a lot of effort. For more information on a group in your area, please visit the www.freecycle.org.