I was honored to be asked to speak at a local High School’s Parent/Teacher/Student Association (PTSA) meeting on Wednesday on “How to save money while living green.” As you can imagine, I had so many ideas in my head whirling around, dying to be let out. I produced a comprehensive slide show and was able to keep the audience from falling asleep while I enthusiastically share my green ideas. I wish I had another hour but it was getting late. I even brought some eco-goodies that I made and donated as raffle prizes. ZJayne from etsy donated three T-shirt bags for the raffle as well and I can’t thank her enough for her generosity.
The coordinator who organized the talk even bought the book that I reviewed here, “How to sew a button…” by Erin Bried as per my suggestion. That was cool. (Oh, by the way, I will be posting an interview I did with Erin Bried next week.)
To keep the rest of the school community who couldn’t attend the meeting abreast of the information I shared, my money saving tips will be published in the next PTA newsletter. And I thought I’d share them with you. You can’t never be reminded often enough, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to save money….and if you are going to contribute to saving the environment? Even better. So here is my tip on 20 ways of saving money while living green.
1. Reusable Grocery Bags
Cost: 0 if you use it enough to get back what you paid for the bag
Paper or plastic? Nether. Twelve million barrels of oil were used to make the 88.5 billion plastic bags consumed in the United States last year. And it takes four times more energy to make paper bags.
The best choice is reusable shopping bags made of cotton. Cotton is biodegradable and is very strong. Put a few reusable shopping bags in your car so you have them handy on your next shopping trip. And if you happen to forget your reusable bag (as we all do!), buy one from the grocery store for 99 cents and if your store is like mine, the store will deduct 5 cents every time you use the reusable bag, you’ll be actually making a profit if you use it more than twenty times. Check here for some awesome reusable t-shirt bags.
2. Carry a reusable water bottle
Cost: $14.98 or less for stainless steel water bottle
Did you know that it takes 26 bottles of water to produce the plastic container for a one-liter bottle of water, and that doing so pollutes 25 liters of groundwater? Don’t leave a trail of plastic water bottles in your trail! Stop buying bottled water. Use reusable water bottles instead made from materials like stainless steel or aluminum (without BPA lining) that are not likely to degrade over time. If you choose a plastic water bottle, make sure it is marked #1, #2, #4, or #5. But do I do. Buy a stainless steel bottle. Read my post here about Sigg aluminum water bottle that had a BPA lining. And read here on my review of Zero Water Filter system.
3. Stop Junk Mail
Each year, 19 billion catalogs are mailed to American consumers. All those catalogs require more than 53 million trees and 56 billion gallons of wastewater to produce — and many of us don’t even know how we got on so many mailing lists! So grab that stack of catalogs piling up on your coffee table and clear out the clutter. Visit CatalogChoice.org to put a stop to unwanted catalogs. Within 10 weeks, your mailbox will be empty of unwanted catalogs. A less cluttered mailbox means less pollution, less waste and less of the pollution that causes global warming.
4. Use Non-Toxic, biodegradable cleaning supplies
Cost: $10.25 for one 112-oz box
Many natural detergents today are made to clean clothes just as effectively in cooler water temperatures. Choose detergents and other laundry products that are plant-based, concentrated and biodegradable. They will be gentler on your skin and the environment. And what’s better - now you can find them cheaper in wholesale clubs where you can buy bigger bottles with less packaging. Also, use vinegar and baking soda for all your cleaning needs. They are cheap – less than $3 for both – biodegradable and non-toxic.
5. Wash Laundry in Cold Water
Front loading washing machine uses less water and did you know that only 10 percent of the energy used by a typical washing machine powers the motor? About 90 percent of the energy is used to heat the water, and most clothes will come clean in cold water. So switch your washing machine’s temperature setting. For heavily soiled clothing, spot clean the soiled clothes with detergent and wash them in warm water, but otherwise try to wash and rinse most of your clothing in cold water. Read my post here on how to maintain your front loading washing machine.
6. Line dry your clothes
Dryer is the second biggest energy user in your house, next to the refrigerator. Overdrying your clothes can end up costing you money as well. (As much as $70,000 over your lifetime, according to Daily Green.) An electric dryer operating an extra 15 minutes a load can cost you up to $34 a year in wasted energy; a gas dryer, $21 a year. When using the dryer, clear the lint filter after each load and dry only full loads of clothes. Dry heavy fabrics separately from lighter ones, and don’t add wet clothing in the middle of the drying cycle. And remember that hanging clothing outside in the sun and air to dry is the most energy-efficient method — or use a folding indoor rack all year long. Or do what I do. If you don’t have a clothesline, damp dry your clothes. Drying your damp clothes not only add humidity to your house, the clothes will not get wrinkled, which will save you from ironing them. Ironing uses a lot of electricity too and even if you have to iron them, still, you won’t have to iron them that long if they were dried from hanging on hangers.
7. Fix your water leaks.
Most of us would be surprised to find out that one in every five toilets leak, and since the leaks are usually silent, you probably have no idea if your toilet is leaking. A leaking toilet can waste anywhere between 30 and 500 gallons of water every day, so any leak should be repaired. To see if your toilet is leaking, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the dye shows up in the toilet bowl after 15 minutes or so, the toilet has a leak. Leaking is usually caused by an old or poorly fitting flapper valve, which can be replaced by any amateur DIY-er! If you have a leaky faucet, fix it. It could be as simple as replacing a rubber ring in the faucet.
8. Buy recycled toilet paper
Cost: $2.96 for 4-pack, 260 sheets
Believe it or not, switching to recycled toilet paper can change the world. If every household in the United States bought just one four-pack of 260-sheet recycled bath tissue, instead of the typical tissue made from virgin fiber, it would eliminate 60,600 pounds of chlorine pollution, preserve 356 million gallons (1.35 billion liters) of fresh water and save nearly 1 million trees. And the best news is that a four-pack of recycled toilet paper costs about the same as a four-pack of conventional toilet paper. Oh, and read my post on how to hang your toilet paper correctly. Really.
9. Kick the paper towel habit
No matter how you look at it, paper towels create waste. Cut up used old worn out t-shirts into 18″x18″ squares and use them instead of paper towel. Cut the squares a little larger to be used as a mop. Keep them in a drawer so that everyone in the family know where to go get them. When you absolutely have to use disposable towels, look for recycled products. If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels (70 sheets) with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees.
10. Use your dishwasher
If you have dishwasher, use it. Running a fully loaded dishwasher — without pre-rinsing the dishes — can use a third less water than washing the dishes by hand, saving up to 10 to 20 gallons of water a day. Simply scrape large pieces of food off your dishes and let the dishwasher handle the rest. And by using the air-dry setting (instead of heat-dry), you will consume half the amount of electricity without spending a dime. If you don’t have a dishwasher, use a dishpan or a large pot to wash your dishes. Do not wash and rinse individual dishes. Here is a great post by my good bloggie friend Green Leaf Reviewer on how to maintain your dishwasher so that it will run efficiently.
11. Maintain your refrigerator
As one of the biggest appliances in your kitchen, the refrigerator is also one of the most power hungry, accounting for 10 to 15 percent of the average home energy bill each month. Get your fridge running in tip-top shape. First, set the refrigerator thermostat to maintain a temperature between 38 and 42 degrees (F). This temperature will protect your food from spoiling while saving electricity. Twice a year, clean the condenser coil at the back of your fridge. Condenser coils tend to get dusty, making them less efficient. Check here for tips on how to maintain refrigerators so that it will last longer. In fact, read her series of maintaining appliances so that they can last longer.
12. Adjust your thermostat by 2 degrees.
Electric power plants are the country’s largest industrial source of the pollutants that cause global warming. By snuggling under a blanket on the couch on a snowy winter night instead of turning up the heat, or enjoying the breeze from a fan in the height of summer instead of turning up the air conditioning, you can save pounds of pollution, as well as some money off your utility bills. Set your thermostat in winter to 68 degrees F (20° C) or less during the daytime and 55 degrees F (13° C) before going to sleep or when you are away for the day. And during the summer, set thermostats to 78 degrees F (26° C) or more.
13. Stop dry cleaning your clothes
Until recently, almost all dry cleaners used a cancer-causing chemical called perchloroethylene, also known as Perc or TCE. Traces of this toxic chemical remain on your clothes after dry cleaning and will evaporate into the air in your car or home. Look for green dry cleaners in your neighborhood or if you have to use a traditional dry cleaner, take your dry cleaning out of the plastic and air it outside or near a window before hanging it in your closet. To avoid the need for dry cleaning at all, make customer care a part of your clothing purchase decisions and choose fabrics that don’t require dry cleaning at all. It will save you money and the environment.
14. Maintain your car
Increase your gas mileage by checking your tire pressure. More than a quarter of all cars and nearly one-third of all SUVs, vans and pickups have under inflated tires, according to a survey by the Department of Transportation. If every American kept his or her tires properly inflated, we could save 2.8 billion gallons (10.6 billion liters) of gasoline a year — and help curb global warming pollution — so inflate the tires on your car or truck and continue to do so once a month or as necessary. Read my post here on green driving.
For every trash can of waste you put outside for the trash collector, about 70 trash cans of waste are used in order to create that trash. To reduce the amount of waste you produce, buy products in returnable and recyclable containers and recycle as much as you can. The energy saved from recycling a single aluminum can will operate a television for three hours! If your community doesn’t provide containers for recycling, designate a bin in your garage for recyclables to make it easy for you and your family to recycle things like the newspaper and aluminum cans. It doesn’t cost you anything to recycle but in the long run, it will save you money because if EVERYONE recycles, most of the items you buy will probably be made of recycled materials and they may be cheaper.
Borrow, rent, buy used, and barter. They all require using whatever resources that are already available and not using up NEW resources. Borrow books from the library, use Freecycle to find what you need and get rid of things you don’t need. Barter services with your neighbor. Rent tools. Buy from eBay or Amazon at less than half of the cost of buying new.
17. Change incandescent bulbs to CFL bulbs.
90% of electricity is lost by heat in incandescent (regular) bulbs. Energy-efficient bulbs produce the same amount of light using about 25% of the energy. There are energy-efficient light bulbs for every kind of fixture, providing a spectrum of watts, hues and ambience. There are even light bulbs that last 20,000 hours that’s 5 hours a day for 11 years. Just one of them will replace 26 store-bought light bulbs. Just be careful to dispose them when they do burn out as they contain a small amount of mercury. Read my post here to find out how to dispose them.
18. Green your house, literally and filter indoor air naturally.
Or less depending on what type of your plant you buy but plants act as air filters. EPA estimates indoor air to be two to 10 times more polluted than the air outdoors. Building materials, furnishings, carpet backing, cleaning products, computer circuitry and printers continuously release pollutants. Plants are not only nice to look at, they are also great, natural air purifiers. While opting for non-toxic products will help control indoor pollution, populating the house with plants is a fantastic way to “grow” fresh air every day.
Unplug dead appliances – the ones you are not using. Also, turn off the power strip when not in use. Put computer in auto sleep mode so that when not in use, it’ll go into sleep automatically. And lower the brightness on the LCD setting. It will use so much less energy. Charge laptop at night when the rates are lower and use the charged laptop until the battery is drained. Save files as pdf files and print only when you need to print – double sided . Put the printer and fax machines on energy saver. Fax directly from computer.
20. Ditch the car
Ditch the car and walk. If you can walk to work or school, that’s great. If you can combine all your errands to one trip, consolidate them all so that you are not driving more than you have to.