Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Week Ten--Time for a Review

Now that we've made it through nine weeks of Green Boot Camp, I thought it would be wise use Week Ten to pause and do a quick review of the major points we've already discussed. I mean, those course reviews in college helped you to study for a test and, I believe, always resulted in getting better grades, right? So why not apply the same tactic for Green Boot Camp.

Here's a quick review of Weeks One through Four:

Week One--Paper Recycling
Right out of the gate I talked about improving your paper habits, including getting used to printing on both sides of a piece of paper before tossing it in the recycling bin. Other tips to retrain how you use paper include:d

* Turning dog-eared pieces of paper into scratch pads
* Using envelopes that come with credit-card offers in the mail for writing shopping lists (bonus: the envelopes hold your coupons, too!)
* Make it easy on yourself to recycle paper when necessary by setting up a recycling area of your home and keeping your shredder out at all times so paper doesn't pile up.

Week Two--Recycling Metal, Glass and Plastic
We started talking about the different kinds of plastics and how/where you can recycle these. For example, most curbside programs take plastic #1 through #7. (Flip over a plastic container or bottle to see its number.) But plastic jugs and bottles aren't the only plastic that you can recycle.

Instead of tossing plastic grocery bags, plastic wrap that boxed items like electronics are packaged in, and those plastic bags that come over dry cleaning, you can stuff them all in the "bag recycling bins" you find outside of supermarkets. They really are recycled into something else--sometimes the decking for Trex and other times into other plastic bags.

After that we talked about recycling aluminum, steel and glass. Basically, you always want to put these kinds of containers into your recycling bins, because they are the most easily recycled and most readily accepted items in the recycling stream.

Finally, if you live in a bottle-bill state and can take back cans and bottles for dough, do it. You earn a little bit of money, and you can rest assured that these returned receptacles end up getting recycled, not tossed in the trash.

Week Three--Recycling Everything Else
Just because your trash hauler doesn't take something in a recycling bin doesn't mean that it isn't recyclable. During Week Three we discussed how you can recycle the rest of the stuff that shows up in your life. Some examples included:

* Cell phones (look for cellphone recycling drop boxes at electronics stores and places like Staples. FYI, Staples is where my husband recently recycled his old cell phone battery, after we discovered that the Verizon store didn't offer this service, despite what Verizon's PR team had told me and which I'd written about on The Lean Green Family.)

* Printer cartridges (bring them with you to your favorite office supply store when you go to buy new cartridges, and most stores should be able to send the cartridges back to the manufacturer to be recycled. Some stores will even given you a coupon for money off your purchase, a way of thanking you for doing the right green thing.)

* Motor oil (if you're the DIY oil change kind of person, your local auto-supply parts store or gas station should be able to take that used motor oil off of your hands and recycle it through its government-mandated oil recycling program)

Week Four--Home Energy Expenditures, Light Bulbs and You
In Week Four we started talking about how to lower your energy bill at home by changing how you use electricity and other power sources. One of the first suggestions I made had to do with your light sources--specifically, the light bulbs you use in your lamps and the frequency with which you either leave them on or turn them off.

As far as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) go (those newfangled twisty kinds), they really can save you money in more ways than one--well, okay, at least two notable ways. First, they last 10 times as long as traditional bulbs, meaning you'll buy fewer bulbs over time. And second, they use significantly less energy. Case in point: when we made the switch to CFLs last fall, I watched our electricity bill drop each month.

Truth be told our electricity bill could have dropped because of another change we made--a conscious effort to turn out the lights whenever we left a room, even if we were just coming back five minutes later. We also changed how we lit a room--choosing the smallest light possible when we needed to turn a light on--a desk lamp versus and gigantic overhead light, for example. And we got into the habit of opening shades on bright, sunny days so we didn't have to use any lights at all. In fact, as I type this, I'm sitting in my brightly lit living room that is as light, if not lighter, than if I had all three lamps turned on. But I don't. I can thank Mr. Sun for this morning's free light source.

This review is something I hope to do every 10 weeks or so as Green Boot Camp progresses. If nothing else it will reinforce all of these green, habit-changing suggestions so that you will become more successful in your mission to live a greener life.

Later this week I'll review Weeks Five through Nine. Stay tuned....

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