Friday, September 12, 2008

Save Some Money, Save The Environment

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!


Ohighway said...

I commend your efforts. It's all these little things that add up, and can really make a difference especially if everyone does their part.

I do not profess to be an Ed Begley about all this, however I do try and do my part. But I have to wonder if people in general are really getting the message. The demographics of the area I'm in would suggest a higher than average level of education than average. Yet I encounter things that make me wonder.

Last week, when picking up my girl from daycare, I noticed, --yet again--, the car of another parent idling in the driveway. No one was inside. This is a daily occurance.

When I politely mentioned the fact that she was wasting fuel by just letting her car idle outside I got the following responses: 1)An intense hate stare 2)A matter of fact "I heard that it wastes more gas to shut your car off then start it again if you're only gonna' be a few minutes." Whaaaat??? Are you kiddin' me? I'm no math wizard but running an engine combined with no forward progress = ZERO mpg. (on top of that her "few minutes" is regularly 15-20 minutes of jaw flapping before she leaves)

In my neighborhood we have one recycling day, and one trash day per week. As a family of six we generate, on the average, two trash cans of paper and two small bins of cans/bottles/plastic per week. We generate one or two cans of trash a week. Conversely, many of our neighbors, with smaller families, generate one small bin of recycling per week, and at least four cans of trash per week.
I've really gotta' wonder.....

Unfortunately things can get muddied. Plastic(baggies,containers) becomes a tricky subject. As if we didn't have enough problems.......
There's mounting evidence that storing and/or cooking food in plastic containers is hazardous to your health.

So, we keep trying to do the right thing, and wade through the complicated balancing act of recycling correctly, and storing food correctly.

It gets to be a bit much at times, eh?

Rebecca said...

Ah, yes, the plastics debate. I've already tossed all the plastic sippy cups and replaced them with the stainless steel variety. And I never store food in plastic anymore. I have ceramic and glass dishes for leftover items. Yes, the sandwich container is plastic, but the sandwich gets wrapped in paper before it goes in there.

I think for the most part, the message has been HEARD, but not always put into practice. Where we used to live in Anne Arundel county, the county provided recycling bins so you could fill it and leave it by the curb once a week. You didn't even have to sort! People still ignored it. Here in Allegany, not only do you have to haul your own recyclables, but your own trash as well unless you're willing to contract trash haulers on your own dime. We finally broke down and hired our trash to be picked up twice a week, but we still take all our recyclables to the local dumps, and wouldn't you know it? The lines are long, the bins are full.

You know, this is giving me an idea for another blog post. Stay tuned. And thanks for the inspiration.

Ohighway said...

I should clarify a point in case it wasnt obvious. We generate two trash cans full of paper per week for -recycling-, and one or two bins of bottles, cans, and glass for -recycling-. (please don't ask where all the paper comes from...I don't know. We don't even subscribe to a newspaper !)

Thats in comparison to one or two trash cans of true (non recycleable) trash.

Rebecca said...

Oh, there was no confusion - I see what my family of 4 generates in terms of cardboard, magazines, paper, etc..., and it's amazing how it all adds up. I believe every bit of it!