Green Deeds That Save You Money

10 11 2008

In the current economy, it’s harder to be consciously green. Some of us (myself included) might feel guilty when we can’t afford the organic this or the non-polluting that. There are, however, eco-friendly actions that can make a difference while saving us cash, and that’s something to be proud about. Below, five frugal ways to care:

  • Stop the bottled water habit. Invest in a Brita-style water filtration system to cut down on needless resource and money waste.
  • Buy fewer convenience foods. Look up recipes online for your favorite frozen or canned prepared meals and learn to cook them yourself for a lighter grocery bill and landfill load. Be careful, though; the ingredients you buy for some foods, like pizza, may add up to more than the prepared version’s price, so shop carefully.
  • Unplug sleeping appliances. Summer’s fans and the T.V. in the guest bedroom aren’t doing your electric bill any favors, so unplug appliances not in use to save between 6 and 26% on your monthly payments.
  • Keep your tires inflated. It might be a small difference, but improving your gas mileage is always good news for you and the planet, and it’s doesn’t cost much if you’re already at the gas station.
  • Make it last. In our consumer society, folks are often more inclined to throw something away when the going gets tough than to attempt a repair. Next time your favorite clothes get ripped, stained, or too small, consider learning some basic sewing skills and care techniques to extend their life. Also, it may be cheaper to repair an appliance with a simple problem than to send it packing, but according to Nick Harder of the Orange County Register, “If the cost of repairing the appliance is more than 50 percent of its replacement cost, buy a new appliance.” Consult an expert when diagnosing the problem, but if it’s really time for it to go, don’t throw it away–recycle!

Small Ways People Waste BIG Money and Resources

22 08 2008

We’ve all heard that small things can add up fast. Here, in my completely subjective list, are the biggest money-and-resource wasters of our modern lives, in no particular order:

1. A daily coffee shop habit. Every time you pay $2.50 for a double skim latte (or whatever), you could be making that puppy at home. For a lot less money. And if you don’t bring along a reusable mug or cup, you’re wasting more than money. Try saving the coffee shop trips for special days and time with friends and family.

2. A weekly take-out habit. Obviously, a similar principle applies here as above: choose the DIY version more often, and you’ll be surprised how little you miss spending the extra cash. Still don’t want to cook? That’s okay–store-bought convenience foods, if chosen wisely, can still be fast, yet cheaper and with less packaging.

3. Idling a vehicle. My husband and I never cease to be amazed at the ways people waste gas and hard-earned money by idling cars: in the drive-through lane; at notoriously long traffic lights; while waiting for their spouse to deposit checks/buy the milk–you get the idea. It doesn’t hurt your car to turn it off, and it pays in the long run. Try it; you just might like it.

4. Throwing things away unnecessarily. When I was in elementary school, someone told me that you need to get new things for school each year, regardless of how well the old things are holding up.
I see this attitude in the trash piles of neighbors–perfectly good items cast off for the new. In college, my friends and I watched as other students placed year-old appliances and furniture into dumpsters to make moving easier. Clearly, the scrimp and save mentality is no longer in vogue, but it’s not dead if we don’t want it to be.

5. Buying what you won’t want later. Avoid guilt and waste with a little forethought. Will that slushy maker pay for itself? Do you need the 10-oz steak? Will one doughnut suffice? You can also try the time-honored trick: If you go away from the item and still pine for it a month later, it might be a good investment. Of course, it’s still a good idea to think about any impact on the earth before you buy.

6. Fearing public opinion. And by public, I mean your parents, your best friend, those neighbors your don’t even like . . . most of the time we overestimate in our minds how much people will actually notice about our lives and choices, anyway. But even if people take notice when you start bringing your own coffee or buying less stuff, the important thing remains: how you feel about these choices.

A new approach to driving

9 07 2008

Within the last week, National Public Radio did a retrospective on the Ford Model-T, remarking that the assembly-line car domesticated driving and changed the landscape of America, in addition to contributing to the very fuel situation in which we now find ourselves. This highlights a feeling that has grown in me over the past month, as I react to the way people are not changing their habits.

I want to offer a public service announcement, if you will, about our nation’s driving habits. It is true that our choice of vehicles–their overall size, fuel economy, and emissions–and our driving patterns–making fewer trips–have changed in recent times, mostly due to rising gas prices. This is to be cheered. But there are still some who insist on driving large, military-style vehicles when they truly don’t need them; some who still deny that their actions affect others. I want to say, for anyone feels the same, that you do not really need to waste that much gas. You can change. You do not need to continue taking your 13 mpg vehicle down the street to mail a letter. You do not need to continue driving it separately when you could carpool. You can trade it in; you can get a four-while drive vehicle to replace it, if you truly need that feature, but you might not even need that feature, either. I do not deny that some need to haul things and drive in more rugged places. I do, however, call to account those who are now affecting us all out of a style preference.

It is time to recognize that every time we use more gas than necessary simply out of laziness, we are hurting the entire world supply of fuel. That includes, eventually, our own. The prices will continue to rise. Gas will become prohibitively expensive for all but the most wealthy, and that includes those who now say it doesn’t matter to them because they have enough wealth to absorb the increase.

The bottom line is, unless you are conducting tank maneuvers or bushwacking through the Amazon, you can change your fuel intake. You can recognize that the amount you use today is only contributing to the price hikes. Until all of our vehicles use alternative fuel sources, we must work together toward stretching the remaining supply. It is so easy to become selfish in trying times. What we need now is intelligence and compassion. You can change your habits, and it won’t change your life as much as you think.

I just thought I would say it, once and for all. What do you think?

Regis and Kelly Go Green

25 06 2008

Today’s Live With Regis and Kelly show is part of a “Green Week” series, and it featured several of the tips I’ve discussed here for saving money while going green: cutting down on junk mail to reduce spending; buying in bulk at the grocery store; and using clean greening products (bought or made). Other great ideas include eating out less for lunch to reduce paper (and money) waste and taking fewer short trips by car in favor of bicycling or walking. I was a bit disappointed that the recommendation to plant trees and shrubs around one’s house for greater heating and cooling economy didn’t caution against non-native species, but the intentions were good.

Check out the full list of tips here at the Green Week site by clicking on “Save Money.”

Driving Saner

27 04 2008

It’s time to face facts, friends. By all accounts, gas prices aren’t going away. While you can chase the best prices near you with, the more time-efficient solution to saving money at the pump is watching your aggressive driving. You may immediately say, as many people do, that you are an above-average driver who doesn’t speed or tailgate or commit any other bad road behavior. But if you really think about it, when was the last time you drove with a little chip on your shoulder? Today? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. With all the other aggressive drivers surrounding you on the roads, it can be hard not to blend in with the crowd in the name of self-defense.

Think with me now, however, of the benefits of conscious driving. Hopefully you are already aware and alert behind the wheel; I am talking about a reflective driving style that pays off in dollars and sense. and both offer excellent online resource centers about increasing gas mileage, and besides keeping your car’s maintanance current, I think the most important takeaway messages are these: drive slower, and idle as little as possible.

Most people know that driving over 55 mph decreases your overall gas mileage, but the rate of acceleration is also a large factor. Hasty acceleration and braking simply use up more gas, which means lost fuel efficiency. Examine your own habits and you’ll probably laugh: how many times do you rev up the engine when you know you’re going from one red light to the next? And do you really need to go 70 up that hill? Allowing yourself to take it slow(er) will benefit your bank account and your peace of mind: by dropping out of the literal race on the roads, you are buying yourself some (relatively more) tranquil moments.

Idling is a more little-known gas waster, but it’s a serious problem, both environmentally and practically. Consider these startling facts from IdealBite: “An idling car creates twice the emissions of a car in motion.” “Idling 15 minutes per weekday can cost you up to $100 in wasted gas over the course of a year.” And, “American drivers use more than 2 bil gal of fuel each year while idling.” (Read the rest here.) The facts speak for themselves: turn off your car if you’re going to be stopped for a few minutes. I’ve even turned off my car at a really long light. Restarting your car is not bad for your engine (as some have thought), and unlike idling, it doesn’t waste some resources (oil) while damaging others (air and water).

I hope driving more mindfully brings greater peace into your commute and trips both near and far.

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