I had the pleasure a long while back of joining in the chat session with Annabelle Gurwitch of the Show Wa$ted on the topic of “Saving Money While Living Green With”. On the grand scale of being a Green Mom and promoting green living and habits within my family I would say that I am a novice but all good intentions are there. Some of the things we have done in the last 2 years:
Installed ceiling fans in the upstairs bedrooms – we have not had to turn on the air-conditioner until a couple days ago. We've REALLY wanted not to this entire summer but we caved into this insane heatwave this year. But bearing with the heat for about 2 hours in the evening has been manageable.
Utilizing the recycling program in our city by separating our recycleable items and setting them out for pick-up on trash day
Reducing our kitchen paper towels usage by buying a Costco packet of cloth kitchen towels and using those where possible and just throwing them in the wash when we have enough for a load
Using environmentally-friendly clothes detergent.
Purchasing reusable snack bags for the girls’ and my lunch snacks, reducing our use of Ziploc bags. Also using plastic containers a lot more for marinated meats than Ziploc bags.
Continue to drive our small cars despite having a family of 5 (my mother-in-law lives with us) – you should see us on Saturday evenings when we all squeeze into my car to head to church – definitely a bonding experience.
As our lightbulbs are wearing out, I am purchasing CFL options. Home improvement stores are really marking these down now to encourage them to use it. It puzzled me because growing up in Singapore, we all used CFL lights.
Some of the other tips that came out of the chat that I found helpful,
"Most important is organic milk for kids, if you can’t afford organic milk, go for skim milk because the pesticides seem to gather in the fat. The same is true with meat, if you can’t afford organic the leaner the meat, the less pesticides."
"Spending your money first on organic fresh foods like produce, milk and dairy. If you buy processed foods like crackers, chips and cookies then organic becomes less important."
"Highest level of pesticides: apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet bell peppers. Lowest levels: bananas, citrus fruits, mango, avocado."
"Here's something I've noticed with organic foods: when it's truly in season, organic sometimes costs the same as conventional. Strawberries are a good example."
"The U.S. Dept. of Ag estimates that people throw away 30% of the food they buy (think of that old spaghetti rotting in the back of the fridge). People complain they can't afford organic food, but if they managed what they bought, they could easily afford organics."
"Window film is a very inexpensive way to help lower your energy costs by providing insulation and also blocking the sun. It's inexpensive, easy to install, I recommend that it'll save you a lot of money."
"Another great strategy was changing the light bulbs. We cut 60% of our electricity bill associated with lighting by going all CFL/LED."
"Another great suggestion: plug computers and other electronics into power strips you can easily turn on and off; reduce amount of energy they use by 25% or more."
"Does your child really need a new back-pack every year? How about buying gently used clothes from the thrift or consignment store instead of brand new? Can you re-use school supplies from last year?"
"Fabric wrappers - seriously - invest in them - they are so pretty and fun and you don't have to buy wrapping paper ever again!"
"I made us ours and I love it! We have used them or several years. For now we only use them for gifts that stay inside the house (i.e. for my kids birthday, our christmas presents, etc). It's awesome. There are so many pretty ones on-line and even if you have basic sewing skills you can make your own!"
"I do gift bags for people outside the family (hoping they will reuse those) with tulle instead of tissue paper. (If you aren't sure, tulle is like what tu-tu's are made of). I don't know if people actually reuse them or not, but everyone thinks using tulle is very elegant and pretty so it's got a bonus there too! LOL!"
"I save money by swapping used books. I use paperbackswap.com where you pay only shipping. But I also frequent my friends of library sales for books. you can usually find pretty recent books. Since I don't have as much time to read as I like, I don't mind waiting to read bestsellers. http://www.bookmooch.com for book swapping. There you can get "credits" for posting books as well as "mooching" from one another."
I posed a concern to the panel of experts about the amount of packaging materials we throw away,
“OK so I *feel* that we're doing a little here and there in our household, that over time, has helped us incorporate green living into our routine. But there is one aspect that does not seem to be improving and that is the amount of packaging-related trash we put out every week. If it can be recycled, we do, but the sheer volume of the amount put out to be recycled itself is disconcerting. Any tips/insights to this?”
Diane Mac Definitely buying in bulk rather than single servings; buying concentrates (esp. for cleaning products); using reusable baggies for loose produce....
Renee Limon Hi ProductiveMom. Over at EnviroMom we ran a campaign called One Can a Month, and we walked through a house room by room, looking at ways to Reduce and Reuse, to minimize all that packaging. It's archived, so check it out. Stick with your slow approach and do what you can when it fits your family.
Heather Hawkins Start small, baby steps. Look at what you are throwing away and tackle one at a time. Mostly food packaging? Is there one thing, like individual string cheese for instance, that you can stop buying and instead get a large block of cheese? Is it toy packaging? Take advantage of garage sale season and start stocking up now?
In addition to the helpful information I received, I also won one of the four books up for grabs titled "You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up",
which was co-authored by Annabelle and her writer-actor husband Jeff Kahn (Curb Your Enthusiasm, and he won an Emmy for scripting The Ben Stiller Show) . I cannot wait to read it as they are both so hilarious!