This is the fourth in a series of posts about how to green your life, step by step.
Over the past two weeks I have been turning my 3-bedroom, 2-bath home “green”. At first this seemed like no easy task, and I fear most Americans feel the same way.
And like most things, if you bite off more than you can chew, you will choke. Fortunately, I have Mindy Pennybacker’s Do One Green Thing, and once again it was a lifesaver. DOGT helped me clear a hurdle I once thought to be impossible by breaking a green home down into manageable parts.
First, DOGT tackled a major, yet surprising money pit. LAUNDRY! When it comes to laundry, I learned you should wash most loads in cold water. Using cold water uses 90 percent less energy than hot or warm water settings. Only use hot when dealing with soiled or deeply stained items. If you have to, use warm water, and you’ll save at least 50 percent on energy. I followed this technique and saw my utility bill fall. With the money I save in a year, I will be able to buy better energy efficient appliances and save even more.
Next, I changed all the lights in my house to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. These bulbs last 10 times longer than standard bulbs and illuminate just as well. Most importantly, these CFLs can save you money: an average of $30 to $47 dollars during a bulb’s lifetime. Be sure to choose EPA Energy Star approved CFLs.
Even more efficient than CFLs, and fast becoming affordable for standard indoor lighting, are LEDs (light efficient diodes), now widely available in holiday and outdoor light strings. According to the EPA, an LED light installed in a newborn’s nursery will shine until and throughout his or her college years. Check out the EPA’s LED stats.
Finally and most importantly: Reduce, reuse, recycle! For an Alaskan, this is no easy task. In Juneau we have no service to pick up recyclables, so if you want to recycle, you must take it yourself. First, I designated a day of the week as recycle day. Then I went out and bought three separate bins, one for paper, plastic, and bottles/cans.
Why would I go to all this trouble? Because after reading DOGT I learned that if every home in America decided to go digital and ditch unnecessary paper products, we would reduce paper waste by 1.6 billion tons a year and cut greenhouse gases by 2.1 million tons a year. I used to fill up two trash cans in a week. Now that I recycle, it takes two weeks to fill two cans. That’s a 50 percent reduction for me.
Do One Green Thing shows that even if you do not have the money to install solar panels or a windmill in your back yard, you can still make huge impacts.
In my next post, I’ll take on transportation, the second biggest, and fastest-growing, carbon emitting sector of our daily lives.
Meanwhile, for more tips, and to ask Mindy any questions, go to GreenerPenny.com.