My Family is Going Green- and it Hasn’t Cost a Dime!

I admit it- I resist change. I get set in my patterns of everyday life, and trying new things does not come easy to me. I have been hearing the phrase “going green” now for a few years, but I never really took the time to figure out exactly what this trend was all about, simply because I assumed that it would require me stepping out of my daily routines to do something different.

 

I happened to be watching a television show that featured Sara Snow, who talked about what going green was all about. She showed a family fun ways that they could help conserve our earth’s resources, and even end up saving a little money as a bonus! Seeing this could not have come at a better time, because our family recently went on a very strict budget, and so the idea of saving a few pennies here and there was rather intriguing. Part of the reason I had resisted going green before was because I was under the assumption that I would be paying out money to buy a lot of “eco-friendly items.” While making some purchases, such as compact fluorescent lights, or energy star appliances, definitely help, we simply don’t have it in the plans at this time. So, it was time to get creative and come up with all the FREE ways our family could take baby steps into going green…..and possibly even save a few pennies in the process! Here are the changes my family has made:

1. Conserve Electricity– ok, this should have been a no-brainer, right? Use less electricity, and of course it will cost less- we thought we already had been practicing this one. Once we started looking into going green, however, we noticed a few other changes we could make here. First, we are very diligent now in turning off lights and appliances when we leave the room. Not only that, but we now unplug all of the appliances that we can when they are not in use after we learned about “phantom draw” on Sara Snow’s blog. We turned down our hot water heater a couple of degrees; it is now just “hot” as opposed to the previous “scalding” level we had been achieving! Lastly, we turned down our thermostat from our normal 70 degrees to about 62 degrees, and we even set it a little lower overnight. Sure, we can’t wear t-shirts in the middle of winter anymore, but the electricity (and even more important- heating oil) that we are conserving are making a noticeable difference in our monthly bills.

2. Eat Wisely– this was probably our easiest change to make, because it was something that we were starting to do before our going green effort. We are trying to eat more organic foods, because it is keeping the pesticides and toxins from poisoning the earth in addition to our bodies. While buying organic foods at the grocery is a little more expensive sometimes, we have hugely offset this by growing our own organic garden in our backyard in the summers! It has been a fun family project, and we actually got so much of a surplus, that we packed our freezer full of veggies that will last us a long time. Growing the garden has also helped us to learn about recycling kitchen waste- we now have started a compost pile that will keep a little extra out of our landfills, and help to feed my growing garden at the same time.As a sidenote to this- we are also trying to buy more food locally, to try and save the cost of gas that it takes to transport food to my local stores. This has been another surprisingly easy change for us, since we live in a rural farming town- we have lots of choices of farmer’s markets that have fresh fruits and vegetables, and even meats and dairy from local farmers. It is a nice feeling to be able to support my local economy, and know exactly where my food is coming from.

3. Don’t use grocery store bags– this was a relatively easy switch too, after our first couple of times out. We were nervous people would look at us like we were crazy, but the fact is, people don’t really notice at all. Now we secretly like the see the surprised look on the cashier’s face when they ask “Paper or Plastic?” and we get to reply, “Neither!” Instead, we have collected an assortment of totes that we had around the house, and we each get to carry a bag from the store.

4. Conserve gasoline– The steady climb of gas prices has made this one necessary. We are now making better decisions on using our vehicles- we now have one designated “errand day” where we make all of our stops in town at one time, instead of traveling the 20 miles into town 5 days a week. We have also found ourselves walking more to our local grocery store, library and park- all are less than 2 miles from our house, and they are all places that we used to drive to. Another effort we are now making is to avoid drive-through lines; we now park at the bank, and walk inside.

5. Conserve Water– This was an area we could definitely show improvement on. We have learned to stop leaving the water running while brushing our teeth, washing our hands, rinsing dishes, etc. We now only run full loads in our dishwasher and our washing machine. We are even looking into the possibility of rain barrels this year for our garden; the water will be healthier for our plants in its non-chlorinated state, and it will save on our water bills at the same time.

6. Recycle– The grand-daddy of all going green techniques! In our area, recycling is not only not mandatory, but no one will collect curbside, so we never recycled. We found some recycling drop-offs a few miles from our house, and we have now been really making an effort to take our recyclables in every couple of weeks. We have also learned that the definition of “recycling” can be open for interpretation; we recently decluttered our attic, and instead of bagging everything up to send to a landfill, we “free-cycled” some items that we could, and sold quite a bit at a community yard sale. Whatever was left, we donated to a local Goodwill. I have long been a believer in “one person’s trash in another man’s treasure,” and I am happy that I am putting that into action.

So that is it so far- my family and I are making some changes that will benefit not only us, but will also in some way (however minute) benefit the earth. I hope that the small changes that my family makes can somehow be the jumpstart that others may need to make changes in their habits too. Trust me, coming from the one who resists change at all cost, if my family can do this, yours can too!