With all the talk about rising costs here and every newspaper and magazine carrying articles about how to reduce use and stretch the dollar we're re-thinking our daily lives and have come up with some ways to reduce in our own home. This is by no means a complete list, just some of the things we've done recently. Every day I try to think how I can save more, or do just one more little thing that will translate into a bottom-line savings by the end of the year, either for us, or for the environment. So here's some ideas - if anyone has any more, let me know!
Reduce the plastic-bag-at-the-market waste: I've purchased 4 or 5 of the re-usable bags from the grocery store - the ones I got from Trader Joe's are the best! Did you know that you can fit 3 or 4 times the amount of "stuff" in them? So rather than bringing home 10 flimsy plastic bags that rip and tear, you bring home 3 or 4, and there's no waste. And occassionally, if I do get a drippy pack of chicken, I'll put that in a plastic bag, sure. But then when I get home, that plastic bag gets used as a liner for Matthew's trash can where his diapers go, or a liner for the bathroom trash can.
Light bulbs - I never thought I'd do it - I hated flourescent light. But the ones they have out now you can hardly tell the difference! There's a slight delay when you flip the switch, but after that it looks just like incandescent. Yes, they're tons more expensive at the outset. But they last for years, and save you money for every minute they're on.
Paper towels - whew we do go through some paper towels around here. But lately I've challenged myself to see how FEW I can use in a day, or a week. Whereas I used to make a salad and use one to catch all the peels, seeds, etc..., I now just use a cereal bowl and scrape the bowl right into the trash. Where I used to use one or two to clean up the kids after a meal, I now use a separate dish rag and launder it every other day or so. And spills? Well, why NOT dirty up a clean dish towel and toss it in the laundry? That's what they're for! I surprised myself - I tried to go a whole week by only using one paper towel a day, and wound up only using about 4 the whole week!
Plastic baggies - okay, ziplocs have their place, for sure. And we try to re-use them whenever we can and whenever it's practical. But when you're packing lunches and putting sandwiches, chips, fruit, etc...ALL into little individual zip-loc or other plastic bags, that's a bit of a waste. I try to now use waxed paper for most stuff - it's more biodegradeable. And I've purchased some re-usable plastic containers for things like sandwiches and snacks...not the MOST environmentally friendly choice - plastic to replace plastic...but at least it's not winding up in a landfill everyday.
The dishwasher - HAS an air dry cycle. We never used to use it. We do now. If we run a load after dinner, before we go to bed we remember to crack open the door to the washer and voila! By breakfast time, all the dishes are dry. If I have to run a load after breakfast, I do the same thing and they're dry by dinner. We also never run half-loads, and we never bother with pre-rinsing - it's just not necessary anymore. We also have an Energy-Smart dishwasher - courtesy of the previous owners of this home, so at least I can feel good about that!
Leftovers - this may be a no-brainer, but in the pre-kid days, we used to eat out so much that leftovers would go to waste too often. I can recall pulling the trash can over to the refrigerator and just dumping huge loads of food. Occassionally, I still need to "clean out the fridge" where I'll find a half of a lime leftover from a recipe where I only needed a tablespoon of lime juice, and a jar of salsa that is about 1/4 full and a bag of carrots that has one or two carrots that are starting to turn black. But usually, that's about it. Leftovers around here get eaten. Mostly it's because we eat out less, so there's more opportunity to get creative with last night's dinner. But more often, it's because in my head, I usually have a plan when I cook. I make herb chicken breasts one night, and the next, I'm cutting up the leftover chicken and sprinkling it in a salad. I also go to the market with list in hand, dinner ideas scrawled out in some fashion. It doesn't ALWAYS work out, but it's gotten MUCH better over the years!
So there it is. The list is ever-evolving. Some things we've always done like using cloth diapers part-time, and turning out lights when we leave a room, and setting the timer on our thermostat. But other things, we've needed to make some adjustments. Hope this list inspires you a bit!