Friday, February 29, 2008

What I've done so far

So far in our efforts to reduce our impact, we have done some basics. Remember we are renters so our list of changes may not reflect what you can do in your situation. For example we....

-Replaced our light bulbs with energy efficient CFL's. I know these are generally more expensive then incandescents initially, however over time they can save you a lot of cash. In fact, using the calculator at the Energy Star website I find we will conservatively save more then $800 over the life of the bulbs. That is using their best case life expectation for the incandescents (1,000 hours) and their worse case for the CFL's (6,000 hours). You can also lower your up front cost by watching for sales and checking out those stores that sell buyout items from other stores like we did.

-Improved our recycling habits. We have actually been doing this for years, however by changing some of our purchasing habits as well as continuing to teach our kids what goes where we have gotten much better. In fact our family of four can often go a month without needing to take our trash container to the curb. The only downside is our recycling container fills faster then the twice a month pick up.

-Began gardening this past summer. You can read about my lazy square foot garden, but for starters we had some fresh veggies on our back porch and some shade helping to prevent heat radiating into our living room which in turn lowered the need for our air conditioner. This year I hope to do better and will plant things to grow directly in front of those windows.

-Started using Freecycle which helps to keep items you no longer need in use by someone who does. This means preventing, or at least postponing when it goes to the landfill. It also means a new item does not need to be made to replace it.

-Stopped buying stuff. Not completely of course, but now we really think about whether we really need the item. Does it really fill a need or are we getting it because everyone else has one? In addition we have scaled back on services we use. I will talk more about that later too, but basically we decide if the cost justifies the time we must work to pay for it. I think going green is not just about direct environmental impact, but also in how the decisions you make will affect the time you have to spend working to pay for the things you buy.

-Are using energy efficient front loading washer and dryers. Not only do they use less electricity and water, but we run it with cold water saving energy and money that way as well. In addition, we wash the laundry using the detergent made for the machine in half the recommended amount. To increase the cleaning power, we use between 1/4 and 1/2 cup baking soda bought in bulk. This gets the clothes nice and clean without making them smell perfumey as well. If the clothes smell strong, we add a half cup vinegar to the wash. The vinegar also prevents static if you have a problem with it and we no longer need softener. This saves money, the clothes smell better and they last longer as well (fabric softener breaks down the fabric fibers, that's why they feel softer).

-Run our dishwasher on time saver mode and air dry. Our machine seems to work just fine with a basic wash, and we are not in such a hurry that we need to spend more money and energy on running the dry cycle. Some people think you can save water by doing it by hand, but I read a report a bit back that shows modern machines use less then the average person because we tend to let the water run between dishes. In other words, we are generally less efficient then the machine now days.

-Have placed gallon jugs in the water tanks of our toilets saving one gallon of water for every flush. Not only does this save water, it lowers our sewage bill since that is based on our water consumption. Why pay for that extra gallon twice when it isn't needed in the first place? If we were home owners we would invest in low flow toilets as funds allow.

Photography by Bill Davenport

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