In less than 200 years since the Industrial Revolution began, human activity has routed nature’s climate cycle. In another 100 years, Earth’s climate will have warmed more than it’s warmed in the last 10,000 years.
In addition to global warming, we also deal with pollution. Some people here remember the effects of DDT and the disastrous Cuyahoga River. This river caught fire not once but thirteen times since the late 1800’s. More recently, our gulf states dealt with one of the worst oil spills ever, and our own state of Tennessee dealt with a terrible coal ash spill.
Our climate is changing so rapidly, only an asteroid strike would change it faster.
There’s my argument in favor of green living. Let’s move on to the brighter side.
We’re sometimes given suggestions for green living that make life a bit more difficult or expensive. I have made a number of such changes myself and am glad to have done so. Ultimately, it is less expensive to head off disaster than to clean it up afterwards. That is the effect of green living, to head off disaster.
However, today I bring you different suggestions for green living changes. These ideas for green living should both 1) make your life more comfortable and 2) save you money. That’s good! More comfortable, save money! So let’s get down to business. Here is my first suggestion:
*Plant a tree east or west of your house.
This shades your house from morning or evening sun, when the sunlight hits your walls directly and comes into your windows. It saves you money by saving electricity. You’ll be more comfortable being cooler in summer and seeing fewer ugly things out of your windows.
Choose a tree that will have enough room to grow in the space you plant it. There are dwarf varieties of many attractive trees, or how about a dogwood tree? It will bring shade and it’s beautiful. The Arbor Day Foundation’s website has a tree guide that will tell you how big a tree is likely to get. (www.arborday.org)
To take this up a notch, plant fruit or nut trees such as pear or hazelnut. Fruit trees can grow safe food for you even in contaminated soil; the trunk filters out heavy metals so that none reach the fruit.
*Replace paper with cloth.
Use towels and washrags instead of paper towels and napkins. Cloth is softer! It works better! It’s more absorbent than paper! It will not draw moisture out of your skin, so your hands will feel better after using it than they would if you used paper. You will save money by using the same cloth hundreds of times instead of buying new. Even washing and drying the cloths will cost less money and use less resources (water, trees, electricity, gasoline, landfill) than using all that paper.
To take this up a notch, use handkerchiefs instead of tissues. It’s much easier on your skin and wallet.
Another notch up: cut up old t-shirts into washrag-sized pieces and use them instead of facial tissue or even toilet paper when you urinate. Toss them into the towel hamper after each use. You sanitize your towels, right? The wipes will get sanitized too.
I have a stack of old t-shirt squares sitting above my toilet, actually on the lid of the tank. They have more than offset the cost of buying TP made from recycled paper. (Not a good suggestion for children, who might forget and flush them.)
We also use these t-shirt squares to blow our noses when we’re at home and again, drop them right into the towel hamper to get sanitized. If you’re squeamish about using them as toilet wipes, consider just using them as facial cloths! Think how soft old t-shirts are. They’re so much easier on your nose than paper facial tissue.
*Eat some local food.
Farmer’s market food tastes better, it’s fresher, it’s travelled less, and it may help prevent or lessen allergies. Because this food is healthier, you stay healthier, saving money on medications, doctor’s visits, and recovery time. It also gets you out to the Square to enjoy a walk and conversation with some really wonderful people.
To take this up a notch, consider joining a CSA, which is Community-Supported Agriculture. You subscribe to a local small farm’s produce and pick up your boxes of food each week. This is a great opportunity if you have several people to feed and enjoy cooking.
* Learn a craft.
No hot glue, please! Think old-fashioned: embroidery, wood-carving, knitting, gardening, paper-making, et cetera. You will enjoy your life more, being creative. Creativity is fun and it’s also a method of problem-solving. You will become more self-sufficient. I have repaired blankets, upholstery, sweaters and clothes because I can hand-sew and embroider. For instance, a new shirt of mine got stained and wouldn’t come clean. I embroidered flowers around each spot. It looked great! I grow herbs, which are very easy, and make my own tea from lemon balm and rosemary, and also spearmint.
In addition to these, crafting gives you a community. And that is just good!
Here’s a simple one:
*Take camp showers (AKA Navy showers).
You’ll save water and electricity, both from using less hot water and from using less air conditioning. You’ll spend less. Your house will be drier and therefore cleaner, and cooler as well. There will be less mold to worry about. (Must add: this is a suggestion for summertime.)
*Use real, handmade soap. Also, pet your soap instead of rolling it.
Real handmade soap smells better. It lasts longer. Since handmade soap still contains its natural glycerin, it’s good for your skin, so you’ll need less lotion. You’ll avoid toxins and petrochemicals. Bonus: you’re supporting an artisan. You may not actually save money on this, but you’ll probably break even and you will be more comfortable.
*Use half the recommended amount of laundry detergent. Soak your clothes (leave them to sit in the washer) for 5-10 minutes before starting the washer.
Manufacturers over-estimate to ensure that all washings will get clean, as well as to get you to buy more. Same is true of toothpaste; you need about a pea-sized bit to brush your teeth. Ignore those commercials that show a squeeze as long as the brush itself. Over-using these products wastes money, dries your skin, over-exposes you to any toxins they may contain, puts more wear on your clothing, and adds more pollution to the water.
*Clean your house with vinegar and baking soda (in sequence.)
They are not toxic. They cost less. They do everything: sinks, carpets, windows, floor mopping, tub & toilet, your hair and your face! Use vinegar to soften up lime and soap scum. To sanitize, leave it on for 5 minutes. Follow that by scrubbing with baking soda and then rinse it all away. When it dries, vinegar smells sweet.
*Set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter than is recommended.
You’ll save money, and you may lose weight. You’ll be more comfortable out of doors, less likely to get sick, and more inclined to exercise.
I spent 4 summers acclimatizing to warmer temperatures in summer, going from 72 to 74, then the next year 76, the next year 78. I quit at 79; 80 made the house too humid. In winter, we worked down to 65-66 and put on more clothes. Both of these changes take it easier on your immune system, because you’re facing less of a shock when you go in and out of doors. If 74 in summer is as far as you can get, you’re still doing good!
Air conditioning is partly responsible for the obesity epidemic. Summer is a natural time to reduce your calorie intake. Cool A/C temperatures allow you to eat heavier foods; can you eat a big, heavy meal sitting outside in the heat? No! But you can if the A/C is on. Cool temperatures also tell your body that it’s Spring or Autumn, when you naturally need to eat more. Also, those cool indoors keep you from walking or biking to nearby places, because you can’t handle the heat.
*Use Light Emitting Diodes, LED bulbs, instead of Compact Fluorescent or incandescent.
I know, you just got done switching to CFLs. Well, LED bulbs are even more efficient than CFLs, are even cooler, do not contain mercury, and can last 30 or 40 years. That means less trash, too! They use hardly any electricity and produce very little heat. Honestly, you might make your last bulb changes ever if you switch to LED. We use a string of white LED holiday lights in our bathroom. So when it comes time to change your next bulb, consider LED.
*Re-gifting and de-cluttering.
Nice stuff you don’t need gets to be useful after all! You can get a tax break by taking it to a charity, or make yard sale money, or avoid having to purchase another gift. When stuff you didn’t need is gone, your house is neater, more comfortable, and easier to clean.
We need to think green. We all live on this planet and should take care of our home. This is especially true if you have children.
Every person makes a difference. Every green action gets us closer to the goal of rescuing our own ecosystem. I hope that these suggestions for greener living are ones that you can put to use. In addition, these should all meet those two criteria for you: costing less and making you more comfortable. If you make even one (1!) of these suggestions a habit, you will improve this world.
If you have questions, ask.