Happy Earth Day 2011! How many trash bags do you use every week? I was astonished when, talking with a young married friend, I discovered that her two-person family disposed of 2 or more huge (hefty-sized) bags of trash every week — plus recycling. I guess I shouldn’t have been too shocked, as that same person was always coming into the office with single serving meals and snacks in throw-away packages, but I was still surprised. Why?
Because my four-person family (including 2 young adults) throws away only 1 kitchen-sized (small) bag of trash every week. Sometimes, we can make it 2 weeks on that one bag — for the whole household.
We are not eco-fanatics. We just pay a little more attention to the resources we’re using than most people. Most of what we do is simple, and you can probably do it, too. Here’s some tips:
1) Recycle – One of our keys to throwing out so little is we recycle everything we can. Our town has a great recycling service (which costs surprisingly little — lobby your town for better recycling), and we use it religiously. In addition to the 1 small bag of trash, we recycle about the same amount of recyclables every week.
2) Reduce Trash Output – Even with 1small bag of trash and 1 of recycling, we’re still disposing of a lot less than most people. The reason is we’re careful about the packaging we buy, and what packaging we do buy, is largely recyclable. No single-serve non-recyclable packages for us. (Well, hardly ever.)
3) Combine Trips – I try never to leave the house for just one errand. If I’m out, I try to do multiple things. Coming home from work is a perfect time to stop at a store and save a trip. Having an energy efficient car helps, too. Our cars, just regular gas models, get around 40 MPG, and they were cheap to buy. (Shop smart!)
4) Replace Lightbulbs – Compact fluorescent and LED lights shed great light and aren’t that expensive. Pick up a few at a time (for a couple bucks each) and replace your energy-hog bulbs over time, starting with the ones you use most. We have a CF light in our kitchen that’s been going for more than 15 years. Other bulbs haven’t gotten that old, but all are saving money every time we use them rather than a regular bulb.
5) Choose Green Energy – Our energy company has an “all green” option; chances are, yours has something similar. That is, if you check the Go Green! option on your billing agreement, you pay a bit more each month (10% or less) and, in return, they supply some or all of your energy from green sources — wind, solar, etc. (We chose “all.”) We still do other energy saving things, like turning off lights and having our outdoor lights on sensors, too. Those simple steps more than offset the extra cost of the green energy.
6) Replace Old Appliances – Get rid of the dinosaurs and put in new, energy efficient models. Switching our old electric water heater for a new gas one has saved us $40+ every month. Payoff on the new appliance has been very quick, and we’re helping the planet, too.
7) Turn Things Off – If you’re leaving the room, turn off the lights; turn off the TV; turn off the radio. You’d be surprised how much energy you use when you’re not even “using” it. Payback on light turnout starts in under 3 seconds. Payback on turning off your car engine (at a train crossing or a drive-in window) starts at 30 seconds. That is, if you’re going to be out of the room more than 3 seconds or sitting still in the car more than 30 seconds, you’re saving $ by turning things off.
See? EASY! A lot of these tips cost little or nothing — and all will save you money in the long run.
Plus, using these tips will also help save the planet for our children and our grandchildren. And isn’t that what Earth Day is all about?
Be kind to the planet, and have a great day!