Going green without the green in Vail
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado “-One criticism of the modern day environmental movement is that it’s elitist. Fair-trade coffee, organic baby clothing, hybrids, organic food, designer canvas bags ” all this “green” stuff is expensive. And for those of us trying to make ends meet, shelling out big bucks for a product packaged in recycled cardboard seems ridiculous, even if it is helping to save the planet.
What people often forget is that for the frugal, sustainability is a staunch ally. The “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto is not just for environmentalists, living those three words will also help you save money.
There are people in my life who do things that are very green, but they don’t realize it because their motive is not preserving the future, it’s preserving their bank account. A mother-friend of mine, for example, saves every bread bag and cereal bag to reuse in lunches instead of buying Ziplock baggies, an item that can add up as a monthly expense. My mother-in-law forgoes bookstores and heads to the local library for the exact same reason ” she’s penny-wise. Growing up, my dad snuck around turning the air conditioner off or the heat down because he knew the cost of running a home, but surely he wasn’t thinking about energy consumption.
So whether you are for the planet, or just looking forward to an early retirement, here are 10 ways to go green without spending the green:
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1. Buy less and buy well
A no-brainer, but buying less stuff saves you money and reduces the amount of trash in the landfill. Ask yourself “do I really need this” before every purchase, and if the answer is “yes,” buy high quality. It may cost more now, but it will last longer, and in the end, you will have purchased less.
2. Be thrifty, shop second-hand
Since we’re on the subject of shopping … when redecorating your home, looking for a new cocktail dress or even a gift, head to the Salvation Army, Thrifty Mart, garage sales or other resale shops. Buying used goods is cheaper and helps save the planet, our collective home, from excessive consumer habits. Plus, flea market treasures are infinitely cooler than anything you might find at Pottery Barn.
3. Change a light bulb
This tip feels like a broken record, but switching from regular light bulbs to an Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulb will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.
4. Eat less meat
Pound per pound, meat and seafood are probably the most expensive edibles in your shopping cart, and studies show that people who eat less meat live longer. Those reasons aside, there is a laundry list of environmental reasons why everyone, especially Americans, should eat less meat. But I like what the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ has to say in its 2006 report “Livestock’s Long Shadow …”:
“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” and, “the livestock sector is … responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.”
5. Wash clothes in cold water
According the the New American Dream, a nonprofit helping Americans to consume responsibly, 90 percent of the energy used in washing clothes is from heating the water. If you wash 4 out of 5 loads on cold/cold for a year, you’ll cut 72 pounds of CO2 emission in one month ” and you’ll save $60-100 on your energy bills. Cha-ching for you and bada-bing for our planet.
6. Maximize your media
Penny pinching families who have been forced to cut back on extras like Netflix, bestsellers, magazine subscriptions and music have rediscovered the local library for entertainment and media. According to the Boston Globe, libraries around the country are seeing an increase in checkouts of books, CDs and DVDs. This is not only great for sustaining libraries, it’s great for the green scene, too, as it helps to reduce the amount of ink, paper, plastic and oil used in the transport of visual-and-ear candy. Other ways to maximize your media include swapping books and movies with friends and neighbors, buy used DVDs and books and read your favorite mag online.
7. Ride a bike
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” “H.G. Wells.
Wells was on to something here, whether it’s for health, the environment or to save money, riding your bike is a win-win-win situation. Now that it’s summer, ride it to work, ride it to yoga and ride it to the Hot Summer Night’s concerts (which are free, by the way). If fear of sweat and smell is keeping you from pedaling to your job, petition your employer for a shower. He and the rest of your cubicle buddies will be grateful.
8. Grow your own food
I don’t care how much it costs, organic food tastes better. Organic food grown with your own two hands tastes better yet (and costs less.) Our growing season may be short, but there are several cold weather crops, like spinach, arugula, beets and radishes, that do quite well here, either in the ground or cultivated in a balcony garden. Try an indoor herb garden (the price of basil at City Market has nearly driven me to theft.) The good people at the Wildflower Farm in Edwards will set you up and give you the knowledge for success.
9. Reduce plate waste
Whether it’s food scraps in the garbage, food left on plates in school cafeterias and restaurants, food not sold in supermarkets, or just poor planning by home cooks, there is a lot of food waste. A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year, which is about 12 percent of the total waste stream. All but about 2 percent of that food waste ends up in landfills, rotting and causing the greenhouse gas methane. That’s a lot of nourishment down the drain, not to mention dollars. So what to do? Plan your meals and prepare less than you think you need. Eyes are often bigger than the stomach. Buy from local growers, as supermarkets waste a lot of produce. Compost tables scraps and actually eat your leftovers or freeze them.
10. Landscape using goats
This goofy but ingenious idea comes from grist.com ” but let us not forget how town of Vail used Kashmir goats to munch down noxious weeds in summers past. Use a goat to keep your lawn short instead of using gas-powered lawn mowers, which are big polluters. Also use the cute beasts to rid your lawn of unwanted plants instead of hazardous weed killers. This idea may seem far fetched, but goat herders are renting out their goats for landscape renovation and maintenance, according to grist.com. Renting a goat, as opposed to buying a lawn mower, maintaining it and running it on price-increasing gas, has got to be the cheaper option. Plus, watching a goat outside your window is way more entertaining then hearing the obnoxious rrrrrrrrrrrr of an engine.
Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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