Ten Simple Steps to Going Green – Part 1

September 16, 2015

Ten Simple Steps to Going Green – Part 1

Easy Ways to Save Money, and the Planet! A Two Part Series

We all feel inclined to save money with everyday items and who doesn’t want to leave a better planet for future generations?  Given the opportunity, utilizing efficiency and conservation can and will save money (both long and short term).  The best of all worlds is when you can save green, keep green, and leave green when you move out or on. These ten simple steps that require little to no financial investment and can reap rewards that your bank account – and the planet – will thank you for!  This week we’ll look at the top 5 from our Top Ten List:

1. Be Light Sensitive

This sounds silly – but keep in mind that there are some rooms in which lights get left on with no one in them (up to 47% of the time, according to a Harris Poll).  In my house, I live with people who love to turn the lights on during broad daylight – and then they forget that they’re on, and wander off.  With my background in energy efficiency, this is almost physically painful.  Fortunately, solutions are as easy to find as your nearest friendly DIY box store.  Lutron, a leader in lighting and switching solutions, has a line of occupancy switches that go by the name of ‘Maestro’.  You can get a two pack for around $35, and they are programmable as far as sensitivity, occupancy, movement, timing, and even detecting ambient light like daylight.  In a room like our bathroom, where the vanity (four 60 Watt incandescents) gets left on and the door shut, a switch like this could make a huge difference! Considering the fact that those lights are on almost 24 hours a day, I would make my money back on these little babies in about a month (28 days, or less!).  Your circumstances probably aren’t as extreme as mine, but if you could update your switches, save money, and conserve resources?  That is what we call a win, win… win!

2. Get A Cuppa and Turn On The Tap

Using a reusable cup, mug, or bottle can – literally – make the world of difference when it comes to container drinks, such as drinking water or that daily cup of joe.  Even using a plastic bottle that you reuse would be infinitely better than going through 3-4 disposable bottles of water and a cup (or two!) of overpriced brew.  If you, like me, enjoy alternating between cold and hot drinks, consider using a plastic vacuum bottle for its insulating properties; water bottles these days can come equipped with anything from valves to straws to cozies…  The list is endless!  Get out there, make a bottle your own – and stop wasting containers!  If tap water is your turn-off, then consider a filtering, insulated bottle, etc. – I did mention, you can get these in any crazy combination of coolness, right?  (Not to mention, you don’t have to stop at plastic; stainless steel, ceramic, and other options exist as well!)  Not only that, but just think of all the money you’ll save by not buying bottled waters – and by (hopefully!) getting a discount at your local coffeehouse for bringing in a sustainable beverage container – your own cup.

3. Cover It Up!

Weird, but true – covering pots and pans helps trap heat and moisture when cooking, either on the stovetop or in the oven.  This means things will cook faster, and use less power to do so.

When running the heat in winter, consider – a blanket, sweater, or sweat pants are way easier to put on and enjoy then cranking your thermostat up by a degree or two.  Not only that, but warm coverings induce a feeling of coziness – and running your heat or furnace for several extra minutes an hour will make you feel icy when you get your next utility bill.  Even using a heating pad or electric blanket can still save you the big bucks when feeling chilly.  Make sure to stay safe, however – since space heaters are so hazardous.

Consider saving your glass jars and containers – or shopping for glass or porcelain dishes with covers – to store your leftovers in.  While plastic containers and bags are super convenient and often have the liberty of being disposable, they are also clogging up landfills, unable to biodegrade, and capable of emitting hazardous fumes when microwaved.  It turns out that my grandmother, who hoarded jars and casserole dishes galore, knew exactly what she was doing!  Not only that, but the market for new and creative glass containers is strong and growing each year.

4. Downsize, Donate, Dispose!

We all have clutter we don’t want – I can think of ten things in my closet I would be happy to never see again at this very moment of time.  But when we downsize, reducing our collection, impact, or just thinning our possessions – what are you supposed to do with all the stuff you’re getting rid of?  Most would just toss it out – but the truth is that anything you are trimming out at home might not land so lightly or easily in a landfill: old yard chemicals, batteries, appliances (small or large), or even metal cookware.  Yet we throw all this away – and then add things like PVC christmas trees, electronic waste (unused personal electronics from pagers to PCs), and whole tires.  How can we lessen our impact on the landfill when we’re trying to eliminate the clutter?

Donate!  I love getting lost in a good thrift store, and everyone else I know does, too!  Just because your stuff doesn’t interest you or is no longer needed doesn’t mean that it has no value whatsoever; just give it another chance to be used and appreciated by someone else.  The best way to do this is by donating to nonprofit agencies – because then you get a tax credit and your unwanted items find a new home.

If it doesn’t work, can’t be used, or isn’t worth upcycling – recycle.  We have shops in town who will recycle everything from mattresses, to records, to fire extinguishers.  Even things like home improvement materials can be reclaimed, recycled, or reused!

Some of it is worth money – and some of it you kind of have to pay them to haul away…  But anytime we upgrade or renovate our homes, we are disposing of space-occupying materials that may not break down – and could be toxic. The good news is that you will feel better every time you stop to think about how your little contribution can be making a big difference to our local landfills.

5. Green-ify Your Cleaning Supplies

Downsizing, or ‘greenifying’ your home cleaning supplies is also something that can be gratifying, healthier, and save you money!  The easiest and first step is to replace all your dusting and polishing chemicals with a microfiber dusting cloth – they clean better, don’t emit harsh fumes, and are reusable.  When you run out of household cleaners, consider these organic and healthy options: eco-friendly furniture polish, all purpose cleaner, soft scrub cleanser, laundry detergent, and drain opener.  Not green enough for you?  Consider these suggestions for eco-friendly kitchen cleaning supplies – and keep in mind that for every ten items on the shelf laden with harmful ingredients there are one or two organic methods to clean in the same way with a much smaller price tag.

What do you think?  Did you find this list as eye-opening as I did?  Everyday I am amazed by how easy, affordable, and sensible it is to


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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.

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