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, September 1, 2008

Week 33--Top 10 Tips for Greener Living

(Note: This post also appeared on The Lean Green Family)

Now that we're more than halfway through Green Boot Camp's 52 weeks to a greener you, I thought it was the perfect time to do a refresher course in greener living--most of which we've already covered here but which bear repeating:

1. Get compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL).
These energy-efficient bulbs last way longer than regular incandescent bulbs--CFLs give you about 10,000 hours of light whereas incandescent bulbs give only 1,000 hours. (Note: when your bulbs do eventually burn out, don't toss them in the trash. Instead, drop them off at IKEA, which will recycle them for free, or figure out another green way to dispose of them.)

2. Stock up on reusable bags.
While most supermarkets sell reusable bags these days, save the money and dig out all of those canvas bags you've picked up at conferences or maybe on vacation. Bring these bags with you whenever you go to the store--whether it be grocery shopping or a day at the mall. Or, keep them in the trunk of your car so you'll never forget them at home. If you remember to bring a reusable bag, when the checkout person asks you, "Paper or plastic?" you can reply, "No, thanks. I brought my own."

3. Be cool (or warm) in winter and summer.
That is, make your house or apartment a couple degrees cooler in the winter, and then run the a/c a little warmer in the summer. Just a few degrees difference can cut your energy consumption and lower your bills, too. Also, when you can, open the windows and let Mother Nature cool your home. We were able to do this during our exceptionally cool August, and our electric bill went down by $100. Unfortunately, now that it's September, it's ragweed season, and my allergies require us to keep all the windows shut and the a/c on.

4. Embrace daylight.
There is no reason to have lights on during the day if it's bright and sunny out. Try to turn on lights only when it's getting dark or if it's a gloomy day. Also, get in the habit of turning lights off when you leave a room to save energy as well.

5. Start composting.
I got my composter for free off of Freecycle, and now I put all of my food scraps (except for meat and dairy) in the compost. Since I started composting, I would estimate that we've reduced our garbage output by at least half.

6. Recycle more than just paper and plastic.
Of course everyone should be recycling paper and plastic as their town or city might require, but you can find ways to recycle and reuse other items so that they don't end up in landfills. Case in point: old towels, sheets and t-shirts can become rags (saves on paper towels), or you can donate them to a local SPCA, which uses them to line pens or dry off animals after baths. Need to get rid of a piece of furniture? Don't throw it out--list it for free on Freecycle or Craigslist.

7. Shop locally.
Spring and summer are great times to take advantage of local farms and farmer's markets for fresh produce, eggs and other locally grown or made items. Tonight, for example, I picked up honeycrisp apples at the supermarket, and as soon as they're picked in a local orchard, that's where I'll go to get our favorite apple variety. By shopping locally you can feel confident that you're getting fresher fare, and you don't have to feel guilty that the tomato in your salad traveled 1,000 miles or more to get to your table.

8. Leave the car at home.
I realize that for city-folk, walking everywhere is a no-brainer. But people like me who live in the suburbs can find a way to walk more so we can leave the car at home. Whenever I need to go to the post office, the bank or even take the dog to the vet, I walk. Or, if walking from home isn't an option, you can park your car in one central place, and then walk to all of the stores where you need to run errands. Also, get yourself a pedometer so you can keep track of how much walking you are doing, which does a body good. Yesterday, I barely got in the car, and ended the day with 19,000+ steps (that's close to eight miles)!

9. Dispose of disposables.
Get yourself out of the habit of using disposable anything, whether it be paper towels, plastic spoons or paper plates. You'll do Mother Earth right if you throw out less trash. Besides, even though it might seem logical to use paper plates instead of running the dishwasher, the dishwasher is actually the greener choice. Just think about the trees that had to be cut down and trucked, and the energy that was used to make paper plates. No, your everyday plates washed in the dishwasher wins hands down every time.

10. Change how you use (and drink) water.
An easy way to green your water use is to install aerators on all of your faucets and low-flow showerheads in your bathrooms. These can cut water consumption in half, simply by allowing less water to come out at a time. In addition, as every kids knows, you shouldn't let the water run when you're brushing your teeth or waiting for it to get cold enough to drink. With the latter situation keep a pitcher of water in the fridge so you've got chilled water on hand to drink at all times. And speaking of drinking water, ditch the disposable water bottle habit and get yourself a reusable water bottle that you can use to quench your thirst without adding to landfills.

Have any tips to add to my top 10? Post a comment. I'd love to hear your ideas!

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