Monday, September 27, 2010

Easy Ways to Go Green

We've been in our new house for almost two months now and we're really starting to make a lot of progress on our household projects. One of the changes James and I agreed to make with this move was to really put an effort into running a "greener" household. The primary reason, of course, is to be better stewards of our environment. God created this beautiful world and then put it in our care, so it is the responsibility of ALL people to do their part in keeping it as beautiful as we found it. I will also point out that going green can SAVE you green by reducing monthly energy costs, which is especially important to us because the new house is so much bigger than the old one. So, all that being said, here are some of the easy, inexpensive changes we have made for the betterment of our environment and our wallets.

The single easiest way to cut down on your energy bill is to simply use less energy. That means turning the thermostat up during the summer and down during the winter. We're lucky in that our new house has a ceiling fan in every single room except the kitchen and the bathrooms. We've been able to comfortably keep the temperature inside set to about 78 degrees this summer. With the ceiling fans on, it feels very comfortable. On really hot, sunny days I often pulled the curtains/shades to cover the windows. It made the house a little bit dimmer, but it really made a big difference in the temperature.

I don't know how low we'll put the thermostat once it gets to be winter. Typically we'll set it to about 68 degrees, but we may have to do things a little differently now that we're in a two-story house.  We have a separate thermostat controlling the temperature upstairs, but I'm not sure how much of the downstairs heat will rise. We also have a propane fireplace, but I don't know what the energy costs for running it are going to be. We may end up heating some portion of the downstairs with the fireplace. 

This may seem like a "duh" suggestion for anyone blessed enough to have curbside recycling pick-up at their home, but it has been a challenge for us. Since we don't technically live inside the city limits (Again! Argh!), we don't get city trash service and that means no recycling service either. But there are several convenient recycling locations between our house and the base, so we're learning to just drop things of ourselves.

But it's more than simply taking the recyclable materials to the drop-off stations. We've made a serious effort to buy products that come in completely recyclable packaging (or as close as we can get). That sometimes means we can't buy things in individual packaging (like oatmeal) the way we're used to. Instead, we have air-tight glass containers (which are totally adorable, I might add) that we use to store foods in the pantry. So instead of buying a box of oatmeal packets (which can't be recycled because they have a waxy/plastic material inside the paper packets), we buy a box of plain oatmeal and keep the oats stored in the jars. The downside is we can't get flavored oatmeal anymore (they apparently only come in packets), but the upside is that my homemade brown-sugar-and-cinnamon oatmeal is all natural.

So in addition to recycling as much as we possibly can, we've also decided to start a compost heap. We have a pretty large piece of property, so I'm hoping to start a vegetable garden next spring. In the mean time, we're working on generating a compost heap that I can use as fertilizer next year. You'd be surprised how much stuff you can compost:
fruit/vegetable scraps and peels
meat scraps
egg shells
coffee grounds
dirt and pet hair (from the vacuum dust cup)
paper towels
cat litter waste (if you use a biodegradable litter - like the Arm and Hammer Essentials we use)

There's a ton of other stuff you can compost, but this is most of what we do. One of the benefits is that our trash doesn't smell (because there's no rotting food in it). Since we don't get city trash service, we opted not to pay for private trash pick-up. Between recycling and composting, we actually don't generate that much trash at all. It takes us at least two and a half weeks to generate a full bag (sometimes longer). When it does get full, James just takes it down to the dump on his way to work.

When we moved out of the old house, we had to leave our washer, dryer, and refrigerator behind for the new tenants. As a result, we get to buy brand new ones (yay!). We bought an Energy Star certified refrigerator and washing machine (which supposedly will save a little energy and thus a little money). We also bought a brand new dryer, but that's not what I wanted to talk about. I had James put in a clothes line for me in our back yard so I could line-dry our sheets and towels (you know, the stuff that takes the longest to dry).

Now the good news is that I really love line-drying our sheets and towels. They come back smelling so fresh. The bad news is that the fabrics aren't as soft as they are when I run them through the dryer. But, to be totally honest, it's really not that big a deal. The bigger problem is that we didn't make our clothes line quite tall enough for my liking and we probably should have made it a little longer. If James hadn't anchored the posts with concrete, I might make him move them. Oh well. You live and learn, right?

We have some more ideas, but these are the ones we've already implemented. Hopefully there will be more to come in the near future. Stay tuned!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

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