Some often-overlooked ways to save both the environment and your wallet from depletion.
1. Use grocery store plastic bags for trash can liners. Seriously, with all those groceries being stuffed in plastic bags (some with only one item in it), do you really need to spend money on buying and using black garbage bags? Keep the regular black garbage liner in the kitchen, but use plastic bags in smaller trash bins, such as in the bathroom.
2. Use a water purification system. Instead of buying a box of store-bought bottled water every week, invest in a reverse-osmosis water purification system that converts your tap water into drinking water. (Note: Tap water in the United States is already drinkable, but a purification system removes some of the minerals and solutes dissolved in the tap water. As a result, its taste is vastly improved.)
3. FreeCycle. FreeCycle is a network of over 7,300,000 people across the nation who recycle and give away their used stuff to other people within the network. Items that are given away include used children’s toys, books, furniture, building materials, and even electronics such as plasma and LCD televisions, computers, and telephones. The network’s website is http://www.freecycle.org/.
4. Set your thermostat at comfortable, but not indulgent, temperatures. In the winter, set your thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (room temperature), and wear an extra layer if needed. In the summer, keep the temperature hovering at around 72-75 degrees to cut down on air conditioning costs.
5. Compost. Instead of letting your food scraps and other organic refuse go to waste, compost them in your backyard in a compost pile. Mix food scraps with yard trimmings, dry leaves, and twigs. Avoid placing meat and animal products in the pile. Aerate the pile by fluffing it up weekly with a pitchfork. Add water whenever the pile feels too dry. (It should be damp to the touch.) The end result should be a fertilizer-like material that is great for plants. More information at: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/homecompost/
6. Or Vermicompost. Vermicomposting is a method of composting that involves using specific species of worms that will eat food scraps. The resulting excrement is highly prized for its fertilizer capabilities. Mix food scraps, worms, and lots of damp black-and-white newspaper clippings in a plastic bin with a top slightly covering the bin. Mix and lightly water the contents every few days to ensure dampness and aeration. Buy your worms at a reputable worm dealer and check for testimonials and references.
7. Buy in bulk. Buying groceries from wholesalers such as Costco cuts down on packaging and transportation costs. In addition, such groceries usually have a cheaper unit price than the price in other stores because of the wholesale markdown.
8. Paper or plastic? No, reusable bag, please. Many stores now have reusable cloth shopping bags for purchase. For a low price (usually $2.00), you can have your grocer pack your items in it every time you shop. Most bags are machine-washable. San Francisco, California is the first city in the United States to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in grocery stores. You can take the lead along with them.
9. Cut down on water use. Leave the tap off when brushing your teeth, scrubbing the dishes, and applying soap to your hands. Also, take only five-minute long showers in lukewarm (not hot!) water. Fix leaky faucets as soon as you notice them.
10. Use scratch paper for writing notes, agendas, doodling, etc. Don’t recycle used paper yet. Instead, flip it over to the blank side and write down notes, thoughts, whatever. You’ll save using a Post-It note, as a result, having to buy another set.