Going Green for Free

I had the idea for this page for a while now, but hadn’t had the time to really put it together. I was prompted to finally get cracking by an article on The Root that argued green living is only for the wealthy, and that not increasing oil production only hurts poor black and Hispanic people by keeping energy prices high. Being a former poor person, and still Hispanic, I found the article amusing because my family could not afford the lifestyle of many Americans that is so dependent on some form of processed energy. We had to do things which in this age are labeled “green” because the alternative was simply beyond reach. Now that we are out of that situation, it is still cheaper to do things the green way.

So, I present these green things that we do in my family do keep costs down. Some of them might not work for some people, while other people may discover something they thought was impossible actually isn’t. For now I’ll just present the tips, when I have a bit more time I’ll add relevant links to sites with more information. In the meantime, there’s always Wikipedia and Google, and of course, you can leave a comment right here!

1. Ever sleep on sun-dried sheets? It’s heaven! Line drying clothes outside not only saves electricity and the wear and tear on your dryer, the high summer sun will also iron your clothes. Granted, up here in Michigan this isn’t doable year round. But even in the Northern states, depending on how you heat your home in winter, you may be able to line dry your clothes by hanging them in the same room as the heat source. Even though I still use the washing machine, I hardly ever use the dryer. All you need to do is buy a clothesline (preferably one that’s wire coated in plastic, cords may sag) and clothespins at a dollar store, then find something to tie it on. Outdoors I tie one end to a nail in the stud bracing the garage door and the other to the fence. In the basement I hung a line from nails that were already in the rafters. Even if you live in an apartment without a yard, if you have a balcony you are able to dry at least a small fraction of your clothes outdoors.

2. Compost: it need not stink! Composting is easy because it’s virtually impossible to get it wrong. If you make a pile of leaves somewhere in your yard and leave them there, they will compost, even if you do absolutely nothing to them. Of course, this way it takes a lot longer for the leaves to break down than if you were to actually build or get a bin to put stuff in. Compost can save you money if you have a yard to take care of because you then don’t have to pay for fertilizer.

3. Mow the lawn for free: use a reel mower! A reel mower is basically a set of blades on wheels, powered entirely by you. No cables for electricity, no gasoline. All you need is a bit of lubricant every now and then. You can buy them new for anywhere between 60 to 200 dollars. Unless you have a super huge yard, or a yard with a bunch of hills, mowing this way isn’t tiring. I can mow the lawn with it in 15 minutes by myself, not taking into account any edging. It probably would take less if I didn’t let the grass get as high as I let it. =^_^=

4. Paper or Plastic? How ’bout Neither? Taking your own tote bag to the grocery store doesn’t save you money directly, but I imagine if everyone took their own bag, we could save a bit of money on groceries because then stores wouldn’t have the expense of buying plastic bags and in many cases having their logos printed on them, thereby allowing them to reduce the price of goods sold in their stores. If you have to buy a lot of groceries at once it may be a bit silly to have 15 totes with you, but when you’re just going for the few necessary ingredients for dinner, or only buy groceries for yourself, there’s not much reason not to take your own bag. Unless you use the store’s bags as garbage bags.

5. Reuse things! Speaking of which…a lot of noise is made over recycling. However, if possible, focus on reusing things. In the end, recycling also consumes natural resources, so reducing consumption and reusing what is consumed saves more energy and resources than even recycling does. We don’t buy garbage bags in my house, we just use the plastic bags from the grocery store. Even though we limit the amount of plastic bags we get from the store by taking our own bags when only going for a few items, those we do get suffice given that our garbage output is greatly reduced by recycling and composting. Containers such as the buckets kitty litter come in can also be put to use around the house, as can sturdy plastic containers from take-out soups. That something can be reused isn’t always obvious, so think before tossing or recycling!

6. Let there be Sunlight! Even I sometimes forget that I can just open the curtains and get plenty of light rather than turning on the electric lights. The habit of going for the switch can be hard to break. But doing so can save money off your energy bill, and you’ll need to buy light bulbs less frequently. Reducing the dependence on any sort of bulb, even compact fluorescents, is better because even those energy savers take resources to make and they have to be specially disposed of because they contain mercury. Sunlight is 100% free and only harmful if you sit in it trying to toast yourself!

7. For short trips, leave the car at home! You know you’ve seen it…maybe you’ve done it: driving the car to the corner store! It trips me out when I see people doing this, especially now with gasoline costing what it costs. I’m talking about completely healthy, strong adults driving to the corner store or the supermarket three blocks away to buy a 2 liter of pop. Seriously? C’mon! Save the money and walk it. Besides, it’s good for your health!

8. Recycle! Well, it is a bit hard for me to say that recycling saves me money. I suppose in communities where recycling centers pay for the materials people take to them, recycling makes money. Turning in pop bottles for the deposit is really just getting back money you paid when you purchased it, so that’s sort of like saving money, and it is surprising to me how many people throw away their pop bottles. So recycling doesn’t make me money, but it doesn’t cost me anything either. Recently the City of Detroit partnered with the recycling center RecyClean, finally bringing the option to recycle within the city limits. In addition to being able to go to their actual center, different Saturdays are set aside for specific neighborhoods. For example, the second Saturday of every month they bring a truck out to my neighborhood for residents to take their recyclables, so it isn’t even necessary to expend gas making the trip, or at least, not too much gas if the materials are too much to carry or haul in a cart.

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