We are not the perfect “green” family, but these are some things that we do to reduce our impact on the environment and bonus – some of these things help our balance sheet too!
1. Backyard Composting – Currently, I have 2 composting bins. I just finished adding components to the square bin and I’m going to let that cook and hopefully by the end of the summer or fall I’ll have finished compost…if I remember to turn it regularly. I just emptied the round bin of finished compost and started it up again. I will add to that until it is either too full or when the square bin is empty. I have been composting kitchen scraps, leaves and garden waste for years. I took a seminar through our county’s recycling department and received the round bin for free. The square one cost me $12 through the same organization. They are fairly easy to maintain and my garden loves the finished product.
One lesson I have learned: DO NO COMPOST WEEDS! (Take it from someone who is constantly weeding her garden.) Organic Gardening magazine’s site has a lot of useful information about composting.
I throw the kitchen scraps in the freezer in a plastic container and when it is full I take it out to the compost. This way I am not running to the bins everyday and the scraps don’t smell or get too ripe in the freezer.
2. Rain Barrel – We have city water, so we pay for usage and I am always looking for ways to cut down on our consumption. I bought this barrel for $25 through a promotion our county’s conservation district was sponsoring. Local high school students made the barrels for the program and they did a great job. You can buy “pretty” ones at big box stores, but you’ll pay dearly for them. You can also do some research online and find information on making your own barrel.
My plants love the rain and I love that I can water my garden for free.
3. I have been taking reusable bags to the grocery store for years, long before it became fashionable. I switched from my small canvas bags to the store bags because they are roomier and lighter in weight. I love my pink bag that my grocery store sold as a promotion during October’s breast cancer awareness month. I keep them on a hook where I keep my handbag and keys so I don’t forget them when I go shopping.
4. Speaking of grocery bags, I try to avoid plastic bags. But, unfortunately we do acquire plastic bags from our newspaper, toilet paper packaging or maybe I forgot to take my own bags to Target or Kohl’s. We recycle plastic bags through the grocery store’s recycling program. I also use plastic bags as trash bags in our home instead of buying them. The stuffed plastic bag on the left in the picture is for recycling and the bag holder on the wall on the right in the picture is for bags that we will reuse around the house. This is definitely an area where we could improve upon. There are too many plastic bags in this picture.
5. Tap water – We do not buy bottled water. We don’t need to because we have a reverse osmosis system that makes our tap water very tasty or should I say “tasteless”. Honestly, our city water doesn’t taste very good, so I might be tempted to buy bottled, but we don’t need to because we all have personal water bottles that we take with us everywhere. This also prevents us from wasting money by buying drinks when we are away from the house. I often hear from the back seat of the car, “I’m thirsty, mommy”. The reverse osmosis faucet is in the middle of the picture. We do have to buy filters yearly for the system, but we still save money by not buying bottled water…we drink alot of water.
6. I started switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs several years ago.
Energystar.gov states, “CFL bulbs use 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulbs.” My husband doesn’t like the mercury issue that the bulbs have, but I think I have come up with a way around that. I keep a sturdy cardboard box in the garage for old batteries and CFLs to be recycled. This reminds us not to throw the burned out CFLs in the regular garbage. Contact your local recycling authority for recycling locations for your cfls and your old batteries.
7. Junk mail – Long before the credit crisis, I stopped getting credit card applications. All applications have a phone number somewhere near the bottom of the letters to call to remove your name from their mailing list. I called and I’m amazed at how much less junk mail I receive now.
8. We avoid paper products whenever possible. This has cut down on our grocery bill and our trash. We have been using cloth napkins in place of paper towels and napkins for almost 10 years. We received some as wedding gifts and we have been using them ever since. I keep a big pile handy to clean up spills and messy little fingers and faces. I have had one roll of paper towels under my sink for about a year.
I also try to avoid paper plates. I bought this stack of plastic compartment plates at a yard sale several years ago and we use them when eating outside on our patio and to take on picnics. My kids love to eat off of these plates.
9. From April – October, I hang my laundry outside and avoid using my electric dryer. This habit has by far been the biggest money-saver. I definitely notice a difference in my electric bill when I don’t use my dryer. You can read more about my adventures in outside-drying here.
What are some things that you do around your home that protect the earth and your balance sheet? Let us know in the comments.
For more green ideas, check out Your Green Resource at The Greenbacks Gal.
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