June 30, 2017

How Can We be More Friendly to the Environment?


The post, from a few weeks ago, Being a Penny Pincher Even if You Don't Have To, had some excellent thoughts on being frugal without being cheap. Saving money is all about balance: cutting back where you can to be able to afford things you want. Retirement brings financial caution into focus, but it is also a time of life when we appreciate the difference between needs and wants, instant gratification and wise delays.

Several of the comments talked about being aware of our "footprint," those things we do that can have a negative impact on the earth's soil, water, and air. Being diligent about recycling, a focus on how much food is thrown away, composting, using rainwater for gardens, cutting back to one car - all are good for our budgets and our earthly home. 

That raised some questions for me about what small steps we can take to help be more friendly to the environment: the air we breathe and the water we drink, the landfills that we fill with our trash, and the chemicals we use that fill the space under the kitchen sink.

One of my pet peeves is excessive packaging. One of the worst examples is pretty much gone from our lives: CD cases. Designed to stand up in the racks originally used for vinyl albums, these things were maddening, not only to get open but with the incredible waste of plastic and energy to create each one. 

A new contender for wasteful king is the allergy nasal spray that will go unnamed. A two slot container contains one spray bottle. Like the compact discs, the overkill of plastic and energy needed to manufacture each one is mind numbing. No wonder each spray container is close to $20.

What I'd like to ask you to do is to share anything you do to cut waste, help protect the environment, and probably save some money in the process. What steps have you taken to cut back on the trash and garbage your household produces? Harvesting rainwater isn't practical in Phoenix, but maybe is where you live. Have you tried to catch this free water for gardens or other uses? 

Do you try to avoid certain types of packaging or products that seem insensitive to this problem? Do you make your own environmentally friendly cleaning products, and do they work? What about composting? That seems like a lot of work to me, but maybe my garden would appreciate the nutrient boost.

Some of the basics like reducing electrical use by turning off TVs, computers, and stereos when not being used, washing only in cold water, running the dishwasher with only a full load are things most of us can do with little effort, but they do make a difference. 

The average American creates 18 tons of CO2 every year while the average person on the plant contributes less than 4 tons. Whatever your feeling about climate change and global warming and all the factors that might affect those numbers, it is obvious we are creating that gas at a tremendous rate. 

What small, or larger steps can you suggest each of us consider to reduce our addition to these numbers, create less waste, pollute the groundwater a bit less, and save money in the  process? 



24 comments:

  1. We've had one car since we lived in the city. There are times when it's inconvenient here in Cape May since not everything is easily walkable, but we manage. I like to think we've been environmentally aware for a very long time. Living in a place surrounded by nature always keeps that in focus.
    b

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    1. The one car debate rages on in our household. I imagine parts of your neighborhood are quite walkable. That is not true for us, The closest grocery store is just over a mile, but in the summertime that 2 mile round trip, carrying a bag or two, would be tough. The store we prefer is 5 miles away.

      As long as Betty stays heavily involved with projects for our church, two cars remain important. But, when the 14 year old one finally dies, I really hope we can try getting by with just one. Cars spend 95% of their time sitting in a garage or driveway anyway.

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    2. A 2-mile walk might be too much, but a 2-mile bike ride is not so far. My parents are looking into electric-assisted bicycles as they age so that they can have a single car. The caveat is that they live where it doesn't snow, so year-round bicycling is viable for them.

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    3. We have bikes that would be quite usable in the winter months. That is something we should try. Thanks for the reminder.

      With temperatures already near 90 by 7:30 in the morning, they aren't a viable option now, unfortunately.

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  2. OH, and since I use said allergy spray...ugh! Could not agree more about the waste of plastic.

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    1. Besides the ridiculous waste of plastic and energy to make that packaging, I don't find the spray works well enough for the nearly $18 cost. There is probably $1 worth of medicine in all that wasteful packaging.

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  3. So many little things - harvest rainwater; grow some vegetables; consolidate errands & save on fuel with fewer trips to town; abide by speed limits for increased mileage; keep thermostat set on the lowest possible temp; turn down thermostat on hot water heater when away; reusable grocery bins & bags & water bottles; hang clothes to dry; buy "locally-grown" produce whenever possible to reduce carbon foot print; use the library & circulate books; stay off the "get the latest & greatest" bandwagon; if it's yellow let it mellow; regular maintenance on mechanics to keep them running efficiently; plan menus based on what's in the fridge & using fresh stuff before it rots (a comedienne said that drawer in the fridge is not the crisper but the rotter!); coffee grounds & other compost on the garden to amend the soil; minimal use of cleaning products - vinegar & baking soda go a long way; refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.

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    1. I like the line about the refrigerator crisper...so true. No matter how much we say we are going to use something before it goes bad, stuff gets tossed every week. Maybe if the front of the frig was glass, we'd see what is in there before it is too late!

      Lots of simple but effective ideas listed. Thanks, Mona.

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  4. We've been on the reusable grocery bag bandwagon (an item on Mona's list) for more than 10 years, and I recently did a blog post about that. Our new emphasis is on working within a program recently started by our electricity utility to minimize power use during peak times (afternoons on hot weekdays). We now do our laundry on weekends, which are off-peak days, and full dishwasher loads at night.

    However, adding up all the little things we can do does little to help with the basic problem--overpopulation is the basic cause of our woes. I strongly urge everyone to support programs that enhance women's choices about birth control and carry the message to undeveloped nations of the world where population gains are the worst. With less of us on the planet, every environmental problem becomes less severe.

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    1. Under the program we signed up for, our electric utility charges 3 times as much for power weekdays between 4-7pm. So, we pre-cool the house with lower than normal temperatures up until 4pm, then set the thermostat at 80 for the next three hours. Unless the outside temp is over 110, we usually don't have the AC kick on until 7pm. We try to do less oven cooking during that period, too. All laundry is done before or after those periods.

      In addition to over population in parts of the world, I would add the problem of climate change. Arizona is predicted to be close to unlivable by 2050, with summertime temperatures breaking 120 or higher on a regular basis. That makes the issue not a theoretical one for me, my daughters and my grandkids, but a very real one.

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  5. I buy almost NO paper products except toilet paper. I bought a 10 pack of white washcloths at walmart and they are under the kitchen sink.For spills we grab one and use it.They are washable bleachable and dryable. I use instead of paper towels. Also use them for general cleaning. We have used cloth napkins for years. Yes they get stained so what. I keep nice ones for company but our daily napkins get used a few days in a row then into the wash. I only run washer when I have full loads. (Cloth napkins make dinner feel special too!) I do have to use laundry soap to clean them but then I just throw them in with a load of towels.. no extra energy used. I use mostly vinegar and water for cleaning, no chemicals except in the toilet bowl I do use the lysol cling cleaner from costco. I buy a lot of groceries in the "bulk" (no packaging" aisle at Sprouts. I hang clothes to dry on a clothes line Ken built me in the garage. Hardly ever use my dryer. We are on the time of day program for electric and I run the A/C colder at night when I feel I need it, but we have A/C at 82 during the day most of the time! I have been cooking in the mornings lately. Use the crock pot often. More salads. I use cloth bags at grocery. We REPAIR more often than we REPLACE. Ken is handy. I worked for PLANNED PARENTHOOD for years and providing low cost contraception and education to women is a very important service we need to protect. I have called FLAKE ,our Senator to register my desire for him to protect our rights.We'll see. This is a great post/ important topic!

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    1. We just had some delicious chicken and wild rice soup made in the slow cooker. Started it this morning and it ready to go at 5pm. No need to heat up the kitchen with stove or oven.

      Some good ideas, Madeline. We used to use wash cloths/kitchen towels instead of paper towels for most everything, but for some reason have gotten away from it. Thanks for the reminder.

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  6. I think this is the most important issue of our time, so I try to be very conscious of my consumption patterns. I'd like to recommend the Union of Concerned Scientists book, Cooler Smarter, which does a good job of distinguishing between the actions we can take that really make a difference and those that mostly make us feel good. I try to use the basic principles of reduce, reuse, recycle -- reducing my use of carbon-producing items and practices where I can, reusing products that I can't eliminate the use of, recycling what can be recycled (and, as part of that, buying products made from recycled materials whenever I can). Some examples: reducing auto use by consolidating errands and leaving the car in the driveway at least two days a week, keeping myself off mailings lists for catalogs and magazines, using my own canvas bags for groceries. There are times I feel I need to put some kinds of produce in plastic bags; I wash out and reuse those plastic bags over and over until they fall apart (at which point they go into the recycling). -Jean

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    1. We get plastic bags when food shopping because they make perfect doggie poop picker-uppers. When we are watching our daughter's dog along with ours we need a lot of them when we are at the park and in the backyard. It is much cheaper than buying special bags at the pet store.

      I remember when we used to get a dozen catalogs and at least a dozen magazines a month. Now, there is maybe one catalog a month and 2 or 3 magazines. It took awhile to get off the mailing lists but well worth it. I can tell the difference in our recycling bin. We used to fill it up every week or two, but now I roll the can out for pickup only every 3 or 4 weeks.

      I will check out that book. Thanks, Jean.

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  7. Many good ideas. One more: Drive a car that gets at least 30 mpg, rather than rumble around in an SUV!

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    1. Just wait until we are all in hybrids or electric cars...50, 60, 70 mpg!

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  8. Great topic. We are also doing many of the above. In addition, we installed an on demand water heater when we bought this house. It was a little pricey, but we have been very happy with it. Might not work for a larger family with more hot water demands, but for the two of us, it's great. We have also changed out all our bulbs to LEDs. We had some CFL's but didn't like them all that much. But the LED's are now available for almost every fixture in our home, even the quirky ones.
    --Hope

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    1. An on demand water heater seems much more efficient. Keeping water hot all day when there is no one using it is expensive and wasteful.

      Thanks for the mention of LEDs. I dislike CFL bulbs but still have several around the house. Now that LEDs are much more reasonably priced, I should change the remaining ones.

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  9. I'm lucky to live in a place that makes recycling so easy. Portland has also added compost to their pick up. I also plan my driving to be as efficient as possible, trying to combine errands when possible, and walking to things nearby instead of driving. I also use reusable shopping bags. It's not much, but these are easy ways help a little.

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    1. Phoenix will be adding compost in 2018. I'm not sure how they are going to use it, but I hope it goes to some of the city parks and gardens.

      You are so close to great shops, restaurants, and a book store, I can see you walking a lot.

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  10. I am working on eliminating plastic from my life.
    Also moving to an eco-friendly hemp wardrobe that is sustainably produced and dyed, and requires less washing to maintain.
    In our yard we use no herbicides or pesticides, we build bat boxes, bird boxes, and provide homes for toads and snakes (no poisonous ones near us) so the rodent population stays under control and we are not poisoning the watershed or food chain. We also set the mower as high as possible, mow infrequently, and don't water the yard.
    We plant native trees, shrubs, and flowers that are drought-resistant or drought-tolerant, striving for as much self-maintaining biodiversity as possible. Use open-pollinated seeds for annuals, they reseed themselves, and have as many perennials as possible.

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    1. All good ideas.

      We have drought tolerant plants and trees in our backyard, too. Of course, all plants need watering in a place as hot as Phoenix. But, after they are established we can get by with every 3rd day instead of every day.

      The only annuals we use are in a half dozen pots on the porch. Everything in the yard is perennial.

      Except for ant control in parts of the yard we use no sprays either.

      Sounds like we are on the same page in alot of ways.

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  11. I agree with everything on Mona's list and do almost all of them. I also agree with the points about composting and gardening organically, and we grow some of our own food and buy locally when possible. I don't eat farmed salmon. I hope that now that I finally have retired, I can become more consistent and diligent in pursuing environmentally friendly practices. One big way in which people can make a difference is to fly less. I have flown quite a lot in the last few years, both for work related reasons and also to make quick trips to visit my grandchildren. Now I will no longer being flying for work, and will be moving closer to the grandchildren. So I will be able to limit my airplane flights to the occasional special trip rather than flying so frequently.

    Jude

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    1. Not flying unless required is important to me too. I spent 150 days a year away from home during my career, flying constantly. I became so sick of it I refused to fly for several years afterwards, except for a trip to Hawaii.

      Now, I am a little more practical...3 hour flight or 5 day road trip? I'm not sure which is worse for the environment, but I am happy to avoid the major hassle that flying has become.

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