Tuesday, September 4, 2007

finally, something you can use

A Top Ten List of energy/trash/money-saving products and tips, from what we've learned so far:

  1. Compost! Even if you're like us and freaked out about vermin in an urban-suburban area, you can get a recycled plastic compost tumbler that screws shut to keep out garden pests. Search for one on Amazon and you'll come up with something. And there is a ton of information online about what you can and can't compost.

  2. Use power strips. We have our TV, VCR, DVD player and stereo hooked up to a power strip to stop the drain of idle current--when they're not on, the power strip goes off. Unplug the microwave and the coffeemaker when they're not in use, too--chances are you've got another clock in the kitchen.

  3. Use a tank bank or other water displacement device in your toilet tank and reduce the amount of water your toilet uses to flush.

  4. We found this little gem on GoodCommonSense.net--the shower saver shut-off valve. It stops the flow of water (or brings it to a trickle) while you're shampooing or soaping up in the shower, and when you flip it back on, the water temperature is the same as before. It's inexpensive and super-easy to install. Using it every time you shower adds up to a lot of water saved.

  5. Recycle--really. Check with your local department of sanitation and see what they'll take and what they won't. The hardest thing for me to remember to recycle is paper--things like gum wrappers, small receipts, Band-Aid wrappers and other stuff you'd just toss in the trash. But it doesn't take long to make it a habit. We now both compulsively save recyclable materials that we acquire outside the house and bring them home to recycle. Cut down on the paper that's going into the recycling by canceling catalog subscriptions--you can shop online!

  6. Switch to fluorescent lighting. People have been saying this for years, but now compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are becoming more available and more affordable. Besides, the higher upfront cost is nothing compared to the money you save on your electric bills. GoodCommonSense has a great selection of dimmables and hard-to-find sizes (and some LED lighting too), but for the basics we just head to IKEA.
  7. Note: make sure that when your CFLs finally burn out (I don't think any of mine have yet), you dispose of them by taking them to a hazardous waste collection day or back to IKEA. CFLs contain mercury and should not be sent straight to the landfill with your household trash.

  8. Reuse! Any time you're about to use a disposable plastic zip-top bag, see if you can use a sealable plastic container instead. Or do what Jacob does and reuse the bag. Switch to cloth napkins and use handkerchiefs instead of tissues--I have to say this is easier if you have an in-house washer and dryer, something we didn't have up until recently. If you're a woman of menstruating age, consider switching to a cloth pads or a reusable menstrual cup (this may cross your personal Grossness Threshhold, but really: they save tons of trash and money). Use reusable shopping bags when you go to the grocery store--they're more comfortable to carry anyway. Or if that's not good enough, use them when you go to a store that's not the grocery store. Refuse a plastic bag if you're buying one or two items that you can really just carry yourself. Don't buy water in plastic bottles--get one bottle and keep refilling it. Buy used materials, too--why buy new what you can get at the thrift store or on craigslist?

  9. Wash your clothes in cold water. I switched a while ago and I really haven't noticed any difference at all in how clean they get.

  10. Avoid your car. We are lucky enough to have moved to a neighborhood where we can walk to the grocery store, the pool, the library, the post office, and the bus that will take us to the Metro station. Now if only I could get Baltimore to move down here... Anyway, even if you don't live in a city like ours, carpool or use public transportation if walking or biking isn't an option. Drive part of the way and take the bus or the train the rest of the way. And here's Jacob's favorite: slow down. The faster you drive on the highway, the worse your mileage will be. Make an effort not to go over the speed limit on your next long drive and see if it makes a difference.

  11. Eat locally. Think of where your food comes from and what it took to get it to where you bought it. Support your local farmer's market. Buy groceries in bulk if you can. Grow your own food (or even just a small herb garden) if you can.
This is what I could think of off the top of my head. We don't do all of it all the time. I happen to like certain effects of globalization--being able to buy avocados, bananas and coconuts in Maryland, for example (although having an avocado tree would be swell). But we try to contribute in ways that we can.

What would you add to this list?

1 comment:

Bill said...

NIce list. There's more under "What You Can Do" here: http://www.heartsandminds.org/environment/index.htm