It’s Blog Action Day! If you don’t know what that means, click on the ad in my previous post.
Since so many (thousands of) people are going to be writing about the environment on their blogs today, I’m not going to pick from the top issues as I see them: global warming and/or the Nobel Peace Prize winners, and the dangers of industrial farming.
Instead, here’s a short list of simple things you can do to reduce your “carbon footprint” and save a little money at the same time. And I won’t say a word about insulation or planting shade trees, since a majority of my friends are renters without a lot of extra cash.
Hope you enjoy–and do something, too!
1. Use the clothes dryer less.
How many of you live in an apartment building with a tiny, awful, coin-operated washer and dryer? After years of slavishly dropping quarters in the slots for fifty minutes of dry-time (which was always too long or not long enough for my loads of laundry), I said no more.* After washing a load of clothes (a cool buck fifty), I bring them back upstairs and hang them to dry. There’s a whole list of reasons why this is a good idea:
- Each air-dried load of laundry saves $1
- The washer and dryer in our building are actually wired to my apartment, so not only do I have to pay the fee to use the machines, but the electric that powers them, too. It’s in the lease. So I also save however much the electricity for the machine costs.
- Clothes last longer when you hang them to dry.
- In warm weather, the breeze from open windows dries the clothes quickly. In the winter, dry, furnace-warmed air dries the clothes quickly–and boosts the moisture level in the air.
Not convinced? Look at the great use of binder clips! (Note: Wanda found this all too odd, and gifted me some “Family Values” clothespins–which have been put to use along with Chicky’s gifted binder clips.)
*Well, almost. There’s no room to hang sheets, so they still go in the dryer.
2. Take your own bags to the market and grocery.
I have a large plastic bag filled with smaller plastic bags in a closet, and despite my re-use of them as trash bags, the pile doesn’t seem to shrink. Over the summer, I invested in a shopping bag, with the thought that I must use fewer plastic bags. Now I carry this bag to the market every week, and I sometimes remember to bring it to the supermarket, too. Obviously I’d like to change that “sometimes” to an “always,” but it”s a start.
Fewer plastic bags in your home is a good idea, but it also translates into fewer plastic bags being purchased by stores, and fewer being manufactured. Think about a big grocery trip and the pile of plastic you wind up with when you finish putting the food away. If you take your own bags to the store–whether they’re cloth or paper–you have fewer bags, and you put them away too, for future use. An added bonus to bringing your own bags is that Kroger–and maybe other grocery stores–give you a small discount for each bag, as long as you remind the cashier that you brought your own bags.
When I go to the farmers market, vendors are always eager to put their produce in plastic bags for me, despite the cloth bag on my shoulder. I have to specifically ask them to keep their plastic. Why is this? I don’t know, really, but I imagine that bringing home local produce in plastic bags made from petroleum somewhat negates the local purchase. Cloth won’t save you money at the market, but it’s the better thing to do.
I bought my green bag–made of 100% hemp–as a vacation souvenir, but you don’t have to spend much to find these. I know people who have more canvas bags than they know what to do with, and Goodwill stores certainly have these. For me, finding a bag that I like carrying helps insure that I’ll actually remember to carry it. Maybe you’re not so picky.
3. Walk or ride your bike when you could drive.
This is simple, but it requires a time–and a physical–commitment. Is your bank within walking distance from home? So many times, “going to the bank” is the one errand in a day that causes me to get in my car. There’s a new branch, however, that I can walk to–if I devote the twenty minutes to walking. Consider changing your bank or pharmacy so you can walk or ride your bike there.
4. Compact fluorescent light bulbs.
They look weird and they’re more expensive than traditional incandescent light bulbs. But they’re better for the environment, cheaper to operate, and last substantially longer. They give out good light and produce less heat than incandescents. There’s no reason not to replace your old bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. I don’t feel any need to help out my landlord by creating a more green apartment for him to rent when I leave, so I started with my lamps, and then only replaced the bathroom bulbs that are used often and that are easy to remember to take when I leave.
5. Recycle–but not just cans.
I assume everyone uses recycling bins, but the concept of recycling goes beyond paper, plastic, and aluminum. If you need to buy something, try to buy it used. Go through your closets and cupboards, and if you’re not using things, give them to an organization–like Goodwill–that can. Utilize Craigslist and make a bit of money from the things you no longer use. In the past couple of months, I’ve sold a guitar, two coats, silver jewelry, and some clothing on Craigslist. The money is less satisfying than knowing someone really wanted something that’s just been sitting in your closet. Take your lightly used items to a consignment store if you don’t want the hassle of selling them yourself, and receive a portion of the proceeds. Most of the time, buying new just isn’t worth it. Recycle your things and feel good about commerce.