Living Sustainably: Tips for everyday living

Text : Emily Grillo

We all try to do our part when it comes to walking lightly on our green earth. In tough economic times, we may not be able to afford to replace windows and appliances with energy efficient models or acquire solar panels just yet. But there are simple, affordable and effective tips that you can follow to cut down on your usages and save money.

Water
Water is the source of life and earth’s most precious resource. Americans are the biggest water culprits on the planet consuming an average of 80 to 100 gallons of water per day per person. Many of us think our dishwashers or washing machines are the biggest water consumers, but it’s actually the toilet, which uses an average of five to seven gallons per flush. Simple ways to assist with this problem is, first, to flush your toilet less often, and second, place a full bottle of water into your tank (either a two- liter bottle or gallon jug, whichever fits best). The displaced water will drastically cut down on the water you need for each flush. Simple tasks like taking shorter showers, turning water off while you lather up or brush your teeth, adjusting your washer machine load option to small or medium for smaller loads (although consistently full loads are best) and soaking your dishes in a dishpan will cut down on water waste.

Paper
Cut down on your paper usage by using cloth napkins. This satisfying practice is easy to maintain, and Aunt Mary will be ecstatic that you are using the cloth napkins she gave you for Christmas last year. A family of five using one paper napkin per meal consumes 5,500 napkins per annum. Cloth napkins are much more attractive on your tablescape and take the place of multiple napkins with their absorbency.
Dishtowels and rags handily take the place of paper towels. Old towels, mismatched socks and t-shirt pieces are ideal for dusting, window washing and cleaning up spills.
To unload unwanted junk mail and catalogs, call the contact number on the back of the catalog or advertisement and ask to be removed from the mailing list. Computer savvy? Opt for paper-free statements for your bills and banking statements. You’ll easily reduce your paper usage by thousands of sheets a year. What paper you do use can be placed into the recycling bin rather than thrown away.

Plastic
To reduce or even eliminate tupperware use, replace plastic containers with empty jars from peanut butter, jam, spaghetti sauce and so on. They travel well, almost never leak, are easy to store, last forever, never discolor and they are free. To round out your collection, purchase Mason or Bell canning jars, which come in quart, pint or half-pint sizes.  (Look for those labeled suitable for freezing.) You can also buy reusable screw-on lids.
Have a lot of glass jars? Use them in place of cups, fill with wildflowers to decorate your table, or use to store flour, sugar and other bagged pantry items for a stackable, clean cabinet.
Use wax paper bags for sandwiches and cookies, and cover refrigerated food with a plate or clean dishtowel instead of plastic wrap. In the bathroom, replace plastic soap containers with bar soap. At the supermarket, get into the habit of using your own cloth bags instead of plastic. Gravitate toward loose produce and minimal packaging when possible. Instead of buying cases of bottled water, have a few stainless steel or glass water bottles on hand for the car and work.

Electricity
Battery charges for laptop computers are huge energy hogs. Unplug them when your computer is charged. Ever feel the static electricity of a television when it’s off?  That’s because it’s still sucking up your electricity. Unplug your TV when not in use and you can save real money on your electric bill.
Turn your water heater down. Most water heater thermostats are set on 140 degrees when all they need to be set on is 120 degrees. If all households in the U.S. turned down their water heater thermostats 20 degrees, we could prevent more than 45 million tons of annual CO2 emissions—the same amount emitted by the entire nations of Kuwait or Libya (see http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/qahome.html, http://www.powerscorecard.org/reduce_energy.cfm). Most home improvement stores also sell “jackets” for water heaters that cost less than $20 and save you big money on your heating bill.
Replace light bulbs with energy efficient fluorescent bulbs and reduce what you are spending on incandescent light bulbs by three-fourths. These light bulbs also cut down on waste by lasting an average of 10 times longer.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Create a compost pile for your scraps. Conserve and be conscious. Cultivate good habits and teach them to your children. The earth will thank you.

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