Friday, April 30, 2010

Selfish Me = Green Me. How'd that happen?

According to Cocoa, even if you don't buy into "going green", there are perfectly selfish things you can do to fake it.

Last week we had Earth Day and there was a lot of hubub over it. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving the planet but I think people end up penny-wise pound foolish and throw out all the stuff they already have and replace it with "green" stuff and that kind of defeats the purpose, no? So, here's green advice from Cocoa Bean - repurpose the stuff you already own and quit filling up the landfills. It'll save you $ and the Earth.

Here are several examples of things I've personally done to save $$$, which in turn save energy, resources and make my green friends proud of me:

Reuse containers that my food comes in from the store

I always opt for glass over plastic and aluminum cans due to the chemicals that leech into the food.  So, once you eat whatever is in the jar (pasta sauce, salsa, pickles) throw it in the dishwasher, lids too!

Sometimes the jars are especially pretty so I use them as drinking glasses or storage containers around the house (pencil holders, candy dishes, crayons, small toys etc). They can be decorated for fun kid's projects too!

I like to drink out of quart sized ones when I'm at home to help me get enough water during the day. They are good to store leftovers, carry cat food and water when traveling. And keep rewashing them!

I get food in plastic sometimes, simply because they are cheaper or don't come in glass.  I tend to wash the plastic containers and reuse them ONCE but never cook in them!  I'm freaked out by the leeching chemicals that come out of plastic, but I also enjoy the anti-breaking properties and convenience.

I have been known to pack leftovers for lunch at work and then toss the container when I'm done. The recycling bins don't accept anything dirty, of course, so by virtue of being originally intended to be disposable, into the trash they go.

Mostly, I use them for feeding my cat in the kitchen or from the table. I always drain tuna or salmon into a plastic dish for my kitty rather than sending it down the drain.  It's a nice treat for her and if it happens to have some fish oil, it really helps her health too! Then, the dish goes in the trash for easy cleanup.
I, personally, do not feed her from the table.  I try to teach her to be polite and if I'm at the table I don't want to share. But, I have guests who like to give her "treats" so I try to throw a plastic lid or dish on the floor so I don't have to clean up saucey sticky stuff off my floor all the time.

These plastic dishes can also be nice for toting treats to work so you don't care if they disappear. It's a little less embarrassing if you can get the labels off and co workers won't wonder if you washed out all the salsa before you put their cupcake in it too.

If you get some little ones or perfectly shaped ones, they can be good for corralling stuff in your bags. I have jars from a mini jelly sampler I got years ago. They are the perfect size to carry a few tums and vitamins - bonus the lids screw on securely.  Luv them!

My main thought is that it saves $ because you don't have to buy special containers to be thrown away, use what you already paid for. Be creative! And remember the glass can be recycled most easily and won't leech chemicals or minerals into your food.

Keep my thermometer set to control utility $

I'm so thrifty when it comes to the temperature of my house.  I have a thermostat that I can schedule different times of the day.  In the winter, I set it to 65 when I'm home, 60 when I'm not (my cat wears fur and sleeps in a blanket all day anyway).  In the summer it is 78 most of the time and 72 overnight (I can't sleep when it's too hot).  I take full advantage of open windows in the summer to not only keep the utilities down but it also airs everything out from winter.
My theory is to wear layers.  Have snuggly slippers and clothes in the winter and go ahead and strip down to your strappiest tanks and shorts in the summer. Especially if I'm at home, who really cares what I'm dressed like?

Shop online for deals, then go purchase them
Almost every store has a website and publishes their ads online.  You can download coupons for almost anything too.
When I'm planning a purchase, I always look on line first. It saves gas from driving from store to store looking for the best price and then back to the store you started with and driving = $ + pollution + time wasted.
When you think about it, you might spend just as much in gas and wear on your car as you are saving on those items, not to mention what your time is worth!

The bonus is when I find it online, cheapest and with free or really cheap shipping. Having it delivered is also green because those companies, like USPS, UPS and FEDEX have designed the most efficient routes possible so you know there's as little transportation waste there as can be.

Taking my own bag to the store & asking for paper

I luv the little produce bags you get at the store, I always use them because they are perfect for cleaning my cat box. I save $$ on never buying box liners or bags. But, I have been known to take a large tote bag to put stuff in instead of the plastic shopping bags they provide. My favorite is a black nylon bag I got free with purchase from Victoria's Secret because it folds up pocket-thin but it's huge and the material is so strong!

Why do I take a bag? Because I hate those plastic bags!  It never fails: the handles break, the bag breaks because a box in it sliced down the side without you noticing and bottom line, I have to throw them away and I hate taking out the trash.  They ALWAYS get holes at the seam, so they aren't good for anything else once you get them home but clutter and trash.

So, if I only have a few things to get I use my VS tote.  If I have a ton of things, I ask for paper bags - they are just more durable and useful.  They make for fantastic bathroom/bedroom trash by folding down the top you don't need a basket to hold them. You can use them to cool cookies on if they aren't dirty. And you can carry super secret stuff in them and no one knows it's not eggs and oranges! If they are ripped you can use them to draw on and make signs or put them by the door for dirty shoes (throw em away when they get too gross though!) and in your trunk to keep the floors clean. Lots of uses for paper bags :)

Use giftcard at Starbuck's to rack up some extra $$
Ok, so you can reload your giftcard online anytime (use your discover and get $ back).  If you register it you always get free soy milk, syrups and extra shots of espresso $$ and you always know how much is on it. Also, you can always decline a receipt and save some paper and trash for you. Online you can review your purchases if you need to.  Saves wear and tear on cash - less printing.

Went paperless with my bills and statements
Selfish reason: I hate filing and shredding and checking my mail every day.  Going paperless lets me save the stuff to my hard drive, back it up on an external drive or online and I never have to touch paper or shred stuff to keep my identity safe. Yeaaay! Plus, by law financial institutions have to maintain records, so you can always request it from them later if you want to.
Green reason: Duh! Less deforestation, fewer chemicals used in the paper process, less garbage to shovel and I'm sure there's more.

Let the house be dark-ish
Goes back to the utility $ but there's the green - using less energy thing here too.
I figure that the only place I need great light is where I read and do my makeup so, I have lots of light in my powder room, I read when the sun is up and let the rest of my house have this wonderfully flattering candlelight feel to it.  A single lamp in the living room, a single lamp in the den and a single lamp in the bedroom - just enough light so you don't run into anything. No one will ever notice the dark circles under my eyes or the giant zit sprouting on my forehead, if that ever might happen. Luckily it has not yet, ahem.

Don't watch TV
Not to say I don't have shows I watch, I just catch most of them on or other websites. Selfish me: less commercial time I have to endure. Green me: laptops use much less energy than a TV and TVs use power even when they are off so unplugging them can add up to significant $$. Laptops do not use power when they are off and how many people want to plug/unplug the TV every time they watch a show?

Anyone else have suggestions for me?

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