Go Green... or Go Home!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I suppose this post would have been more timely if I had posted it a few weeks ago (Earth Day!), but I guess there's really never a bad time to talk about "going green," is there?

Within the last year or so, I've become more and more conscious about "being green." Thankfully, I live in a county that has always had recycling, so it's not that I was ever ungreen. But I've started to realize that we can definitely do more.

As far as recycling... we have always been extremely diligent about recycling every single thing we possibly can. All paper, cardboard (including cereal boxes, pasta boxes, etc.), packaging, plastics, etc. All of that has always gone out to our blue recycling bins to be taken away by the recycling collectors. The nice thing is that we don't have to sort. All recyclables go in the same blue bin and for us, there is no fuss.

In addition, we have to pay a $0.05 deposit on soda and beer cans/bottles, so we've always recycled those, too. We have to return them to recycling centers at our local grocery stores to get our $0.05 deposits back! The $0.05 on every can and bottle really adds up over time, so it's so worth it to return them--not only is it green in terms of the environment, but it results in a bit more green for your wallet, too!

When we moved into our house in 2005, we installed a programmable thermostat right away. In the winter, we keep it at 68 degrees when we're at home, but drop it down to 56 (yes, 56!) when we are in bed (under our nice, fluffy, cozy, completely warm down comforter), and also while we are gone to work. The thermostat timer bumps it back up to 68 degrees about a 1/2 hour before we wake up, and again 1/2 hour before we come home from work, so we are never freezing waiting for the temperatures to come back up.

In the summer, we do the same for the air conditioning--keep it at 78-80 degrees when we're at home, but let it get up to 85 degrees while we're at work. I'll admit that the main reason we installed the programmable thermostat was for money savings, but it's certainly good for the environment as well.

OK, so those are things we've been doing for years. Now onto the changes we've made more recently.

We have started using reusable bags almost exclusively--for groceries, trips to Target, BJ's, etc. We have four of them, and it is the perfect number for my weekly grocery trips. The groceries for the two of us always manage to fit inside the four bags (aside from gallons of milk, bags of apples, cartons of soda, etc. which we never bag anyway). We bought the reusable bags probably a year ago now, but we weren't always great about using them. We've recently become really committed to it, and I feel great about that--especially after seeing a special on TV about how horrible plastic bags are for the Earth. I was actually quite horrified by it, to be honest.

Related to the plastic grocery bags... for several months now, we've been buying biodegradable bags to clean up after Tessa outside. I know, I know! Paying for bags to pick up poop with! It sounds crazy, but we have to use SO MANY bags for this. Previously, we were using the plastic grocery bags we collected, or the plastic bags that our newspapers come in. But again, I learned how absolutely horrible those are for the environment, so we wanted to stop using them. Not only that, but with the reusable grocery bags, we don't even have enough of them on hand anymore to do the dirty job.

Since we live in a complex and we don't technically have our own yard, we are required to pick up after Tess immediately after she goes--every time. We don't have the choice to conserve bags by only doing the clean-up every couple of days. SO we're doing what we can by using the biodegradable bags.

Currently, I'm on the hunt to "green" our lunches. We already use reusable lunch bags, but we are still guilty of using ziploc bags for sandwiches, baby carrots, grapes, chips/crackers, etc. This week, I've been researching reusable containers for these items so that we can stop using plastic bags for this, too.

I know what we're doing isn't much, but we're trying. Unfortunately, a lot of the eco-friendly stuff is more expensive than the norm, and we don't exactly have a lot of extra cash to be throwing around for this stuff. Therefore, budget friendly options are always well received in this house!

So, I've told you what we've been doing... what are the things you do that are green? I'd love to hear other ideas that we can perhaps add to our routine.

I challenge all of you to look at ways that you can make small changes in your lives that will help make a BIG difference.


Anonymous,  May 5, 2009 at 11:16 PM  

We changed all of our light bulbs to energy efficient ones. We use method cleaning supplies and more recently method body wash. We only do laundry and dishes at night 9 with organic cleaner), and only in completely full loads. We put everything on outlet plugs and turn every single thing off we're not using or before leaving our home. All lights are kept off unless we're currently in the room. We only buy seasonal veggies and fruit. Just a few more tips!

Linda May 6, 2009 at 12:56 AM  

I think these Zojirushi Lunch Jars are wonderful for packing your lunch.

Emily May 6, 2009 at 3:01 AM  

I air dry all of my laundry. I have a mondo drying rack from Ikea and it holds two loads of laundry. I do it at night, let it air dry overnight and then fluff in the dryer for a few minutes the next nihgt while fixing dinner. That way my clothes are soft and not crunchy. I do the same with sheets, but still dry my towels in the dryer because they do not do well being air dryed.

I also switched to vinegar instead of fabric softener. I use 1/2 Cup and use it in my Downy ball like I the old kind I used to. My clothes feel cleaner because they aren't coated in things, they're soft and don't have static, and it's way cheaper. I get the 2 gal. carton at Sam's Club and that lasts me about 7 months with 3 loads of laundry a week.

Mrs B. May 6, 2009 at 8:22 AM  

As Krystie said, one of the best things you can do is change your lightbulbs to CFL's. They use less energy, which is great for the environment AND your wallet! They don't really cost that much more than regular light bulbs, and we've found that they actually last longer than regular ones anyway. The only downside is that they take a few seconds to "warm up" to bright light, but I think we can live with that!

Good Luck!

Lyndsay May 6, 2009 at 10:16 AM  

You are doing some awesome things!

We use reuseable bags. I'm embarassed to say that I've probably accumulated 20 of them. LOL! But we use them for everything - shopping, bringing snacks/etc to friends' houses, toting things to work or school that won't fit in our normal bags.

We also use reuseable lunch bags, and NO plastic sandwich bags. My favorite reuseable containers are Lock & Lock (or Snapware - same thing). They are easy to open and close (even for my 9 year old), come in every shape and size, and best of all - they never leak! They keep everything super fresh too - we store veggies, leftovers, lunchmeat, etc in them. I've been slowly converting our crappy gladware containers to Lock & Lock. I highly recommend - you will not be disappointed!

Katy May 6, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

I just wanted to leave a suggestion about your lunch conundrum. We use Gladware for almost everything. It's inexpensive, durable and microwavable. They preserve the food (nothing gets squished) and make packing the bag easy because everything is angular. Plus, the "square entree" is perfect for sandwiches.

Sarah May 6, 2009 at 2:14 PM  

I use reusable bags and energy efficient lights, and I do still use ziplock sandwich bags, but I reuse them (there's nothing wrong with washing them out if they need it).

I also invested in a couple of gadgets that I've plugged into the wall socket for the tv and some other electrical devices, where it would require some awesome yoga poses to reach the switch to turn it on and off all the time. It has a remote that switches the gadget on and off, the same as switching off at the wall - it means not leaving the tv on standby all the time.

I also do the good old fashioned carpooling - nothing wrong with that!

Heather May 6, 2009 at 2:22 PM  

It's interesting to hear everything everyone else does.

Emily--I am totally intrigued by the vinegar-as-laundry-detergent thing. REALLY? Do your clothes still smell good? I *hate* buying laundry detergent, it is so f-ing expensive.

etta May 6, 2009 at 10:06 PM  

I bought sandwich containers for both our lunch boxes for $2 at Wal-Mart.

Michelleigh May 6, 2009 at 10:33 PM  

We do a lot of the same things as you (recycle, programmable thermostat, reusable bags for everything)

We have also switched completely to CFL's. We try to unplug things that we don't use often (i.e. the clock and TV in the guest bedroom)

For laundry we got the HE units and I use Charlie's Soap as well as vinegar (especially for my towel loads if they start to smell musty). Works like a charm! I have also started cleaning with Simple Green everywhere (cars, bathrooms, kitchen, you name it). I dust with a damp rag instead of the Swiffers or something I have to throw away. We've also switched to all natural soaps, shampoos, deodorants, toothpastes, and recycled TP (crazy!) - since these things are natural people say its better for the environment when things go down your drain.

And speaking of showers...we have low flow shower heads. They have saved us money on our water bills and gas bill for the hot water heater.

As far as lunch goes - I reuse my sandwich bags (I take protein powder in them or even if it's veges or something) I just toss it back in my lunch bag for the next day. And for our sandwiches we bought "Wrap-n-Mats". They're like little blankets for your sandwich - ha! They're great! And they clean off easily too.

And last, but not least, we carpool whenever we can. We both have older cars and cutting down on the gas and the mileage is great!

...sorry this is so long. I just kept thinking of ways we've tried to be more green and eco-friendly. I think it's so great that more people are getting involved with this movement!

Shauna May 7, 2009 at 10:24 AM  

Yay for you for paying attention to how your actions affect the environment! We also use vinegar instead of fabric softener (just put it in our Downy Ball). It doesn't make your clothes stink at all.

You can get reusable bags on Etsy that are just like ziplocks. Might be worth checking out!

MrsBug May 7, 2009 at 4:54 PM  

We've done pretty much everything mentioned here. On top of that, I eat a plant based diet. This summer, we finally got into a CSA, which is really great because it's organic and local! I think the price is right too.

I used to be very picky about my laundry (Tide, Lavender Downy, and Bounce). Now, i don't even use bleach! I swore off all of the nasty brands that use animal products or test on them like Clorox and Tide. I love the Method and 7th Gen products, and like others have mentioned, it's great to not have your clothes coated in lard (which is what regular fabric softener is). I love the vinegar tip and definitely want to give that a try!

Check out this chart for water savings. I think it's pretty cool:

MrsBug May 7, 2009 at 4:56 PM  

I forgot to add...Amazon has great bulk prices on Seventh Gen recycled TP, paper towels, and garbage bags! I didn't renew my membership to BJ's because i can buy inexpensively in bulk on Amazon now, and of course it's also the products i want! HTH

Anonymous,  May 7, 2009 at 9:58 PM  

You could use a couple of tissues or some toilet paper to pick up after Tessa. If you just flush the mess when you go back inside, you won't have to worry about using bags. I have a small dog and that method works well for us.

Kristin May 9, 2009 at 5:27 PM  

We are big composters! We got one of these http://www.earthmachine.com/(for free!) and use if for all our waste. Composting combined with recycling means that we only put out trash every three weeks!

Emily May 10, 2009 at 12:39 AM  

Hey Heather. Just checked back to see your question. I use the vinegar in place of fabric softener, not laundry detergent. I am thinking about making my own detergent, but need to do a bit more research on it. I just put the vinegar in my Downy ball, but it does take 1/2 C., and the line on the ball is only 1/4 C. (Yes, I measured.) I just got a new washer (energy star certified) and it has a fabric softener switch where if you use it, it adds mor rinse water to help get the fabric softener out. I don't have it turned on, and my clothes do still smell a bit like vinegar when they're wet, but it disappears when they dry. I learned about it from some Nesties and it's been fab!

Robinm953,  May 10, 2009 at 3:41 PM  

I've recently changed to making my own laundry detergent and using vinegar instead of fabric softener. So far it's worked out great! I found several laundry detergent recipes at tipnut.com and chose a powdered recipe I felt most comfortable trying. It consists of borax (3 cups), washing soda (2 cups), baking soda (2 cups), and grated bar soap (2 cups...I used Ivory). There's just two of us at home so I only made 1/4 of the what the recipe called for (the amounts I used are in parentheses...it originally calls for 12 cups of borax, etc.), but I love the way it's turned out! There isn't any real "smell" to your clothes when you're done...it just smells clean! Haven't run into any static, it's done well on my "work" clothes that I usually washed in Woolite...it's great! I stored it in a gallon sized plastic jar and it filled it up about half way. The supplies can be found at most grocery stores (my Kroger has them), they're inexpensive when you compare it load to load for Tide, etc., and you only use 2 tablespoons of detergent per load! I shake the jar up each week when I start doing laundry and just had to make more today, so that half gallon jar of soap lasted me about 6 weeks doing about 5 loads of laundry each week. I'm hooked!

Juile May 26, 2009 at 1:33 AM  

Great site and nice reviews. Zojirushi Supreme Home Bakery Bread...Bread machines are a handy way to bake bread at home without the responsibility. Zojirushi are the coolest.

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