A Green Conscience

I guess if you don’t have a “green” conscience these days you should have a “guilty” conscience. Everywhere I look I find another article on “going green”. I think it’s an excellent idea and a lot of the things they suggest we do I’ve been doing for years.

One of the first things we can begin to do is recycle. Don’t know what you need/can do? Try getting in touch with your local agency regarding separating your garbage. If you don’t know who to call, you can always to online to www.earth911.org or www.nrc-recycle.org to find out where the recycling centers are in your area. Most places will gladly give you an instruction pamphlet letting you know exactly what you need to do and what can be recycled. Here, also, common sense must prevail. A pizza box covered in stuck on cheese or saturated with grease from the pepperoni probably isn’t recyclable because it can’t be cleaned to reuse in something else and because it can contaminate other papers. Also, cans and bottles should be rinsed so that there is no sticky residue to attract fruit flies or other critters. You should also crush aluminum cans as they are less bulky that way and take up less space. Light bulbs should be disposed of properly – check out www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling. I sometimes think it’s a pain keeping so many different cans/tubs for the different recyclable things but the benefits/payback is worth it in the long run. Plus, it goes a long way to give me a good feeling about playing my part for such a small price.

Do you have a home office or work in an office where you have opportunities to recycle – the tons of paper we use and then don’t need, for example. Plus I saw a new stapler that instead of using staples actually punches a hole in the paper and then folds it back to keep the papers together – the way we did in elementary school. What a neat idea. How many staples have you thrown away in your lifetime – or paper clips? I shutter to think in my 35 years of office work how wasteful I’ve been. I take all my leftover papers (misprints or things I no longer need) and cut them into quarters and use them to take notes by the phone instead of buying notepads. Then when I’m done with the notes it goes into the recycle bin. I get double duty and then give them to someone who can create other things with them. Again, this helps my “green” conscience.

Almost everyone wants to save on their electric bill for the improvement of their billfold. So if we can do “double” benefits by improving our environment and saving our money, that’s another good way to have a “green” conscience. The first and foremost thing we can do is not turn on unnecessary lights and not leave them on when we’re done. For those lights we use, switch to the new compact fluorescent bulbs. Not only do they save on electricity but they last a lot longer than regular bulbs so we save two ways. And the light is softer to our eyes, I think. Here’s another idea – put dimmer switches on the lights in your bedroom or anywhere you don’t need “full light” all the time.

How many chargers do you have in your house? Let’s see – I have 2 cell phone chargers, a charger for my label maker, a charger for my two laptops, a charger for my husband’s remote control car – those are just the ones off the top of my head – oh, and 2 sets of walkie talkies. I started plugging them into a surge protector and turning the protector completely off when not charging – that way they aren’t continually drawing current. Oh, and we can shop for energy efficient appliances when we need to replace them. Here’s a couple more things – get a programmable thermometer for your furnace (they are relatively cheap and can be installed by a DIY (Do It Yourself) person), check to make sure your house is well insulated, install low-flow showerheads to reduce your hot water heater usage, dust the coils on your refrigerator and freezer every few months, use your dishwasher because its actually using less electricity than hand washing dishes, and use your microwave for reheating food and your oven for actually cooking food. All of these common sense things save on electricity and your money.

Let’s talk about our cars. With gas prices at right around $3 a gallon we all need to look at ways to improve our gasoline consumption. Obviously, we can buy more energy efficient cars, but for some that isn’t an option right now. Here’s a few others – don’t sit with your car idling – turn it off, combine trips so that you aren’t going out several times and using up your gas. I know that takes planning and thinking ahead but it will work. I live 30 miles from everything – groceries, gasoline, doctors, shopping – so I plan my trips to do everything in one direction on the same trip so I’m not driving that same 30 miles roundtrip several times a week. Here’s a common sense one – check your tire’s pressure – being off can cause your car to use more gasoline. Plus, get tune-ups regularly. Watch the gas prices and shop when it’s the cheapest during the week and watch which places are consistently the cheapest. That way you can take advantage of any savings. But be sure it’s beneficial. To drive 5 miles out of your way to save 3 cents on the gallon is actually more expensive. If your car gets 25 miles to a gallon and you drive 5 miles out of your way you’re using 20% of a gallon of gas to save 30 cents if you have a 10 gallon tank. At $3 a gallon you’re using 60 cents worth of gas to save 30 cents on a fill up. By the way, we’re not just talking gasoline in your vehicle – what about mowing the lawn. Let it grow a little taller and mow a little less often.

Everyone has to clean their surroundings. Did you ever think about the chemicals you’re cleaning with? As an asthmatic, I have to think about them because they cause me breathing problems. Here are some ideas of ways to clean without those chemicals that I use:

Use salt – it’s a great abrasive to clean gunk from baking dishes, the dog’s water bowl or your wooden cutting boards. Baking soda is a great cleaner – its better to use that to get rid of odors than to spray some of those room deodorizers – put it in your shoes, the kitchen trash can, cat liter box (although you can buy some liter with it already in it). Did you know that cornstarch absorbs oil and grease spills on your clothes? Rubbing alcohol and lemon juice help clean too. I also use hydrogen peroxide in my bathroom to kill mildew, as well as on those plastic cutting boards. You can also buy “green cleaning products” now, which is a help. I found a lot of things at www.shopnatural.com that are now environmentally friendly. But there’s one that’s been around for 50 years or more – Bon Ami to clean your bathtub, sink, etc. is biodegradable and safe for us.

You can also buy “green cleaning” products now. Here’s a list of 5 that ranked tops by Good Housecleaning:

1. LAUNDRY: Arm & Hammer, Essentials 2X Concentrated and Purex Natural Elements

2. DISHWASHING: Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid

3. ALL PURPOSE CLEANERS: Sun & Earth All Purpose and Green Works Natural All-Purpose

Remember to use a common sense approach and give yourself credit for the things you’re already doing and your “green conscience” will be “raised” to new levels.

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