Like most people, I have reusable bags for grocery shopping. But! I usually forget them at home when I go to the food store. I also wasn’t bringing my bags along when I went to the mall or the thrift store or anywhere else. I had oodles of plastic bags under my kitchen sink, and I never seemed to reuse them at the same pace I was acquiring them. Then someone gave me a compact reusable bag that squishes into a tiny carrying pouch. I use it all the time! The brand I was given is ChicoBag, but there are others and they all work just fine.
I’ve gotten some funny looks when I pull out a bag that fits in the palm of my hand and ask, “Can I use my own bag, please?” They always laugh when I unfold it into a bag that holds a surprising amount. Now that I keep a reusable bag with me all the time, my stash of plastic bags is finally dwindling.
While it’s easy to get information from the internet, I think books are the most reliable source for learning about a given topic. Follow this link to see some of the library’s books about sustainable living. My favorites are The Eco Chick Guide to Life and Restore. Recycle. Repurpose. What green books have you read lately? If the library doesn’t own it, you can suggest that we purchase it here.
This post is for everyone who thinks that it’s too expensive to live green.
When I first started to “think green”, I did spend more money than I needed to on green cleaners, laundry detergent, recycled paper towels, and the like. It took me a few years before I realized that spending $4.99 for glass cleaner wasn’t doing the environment any favors. I was still buying a plastic bottle and though they were gentler, that bottle was still full of chemicals. Here are a few everyday changes I’ve made that are both environment- and budget-friendly:
1. I stopped buying paper towels. Try it! You won’t miss them as much as you think, and it saves a ton of money.
2. Before cleaning with chemicals, I always start with elbow grease and a damp microfiber cloth.
3. I clean glass with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water.
4. I scrub tough messes with baking soda instead of commercial cleaner.
5. I always try a homemade cleaning product before I buy a specialty one. For example, I have three metals in my home to maintain: copper, stainless steel, and sterling silver. Instead of buying a cleaner for each one, I use different combinations of baking soda, vinegar, and lemons. It’s nontoxic and so much cheaper than storebought.
How do you save money AND live green?
Today’s post comes from Betsy, a staff member at the library. Here’s the story of how she learned to be green:
My dad was born in 1924, just before the start of the Depression, in Brooklyn, NY and was one of ten children. Money was always tight and all of his siblings worked as soon as they could to help care for the family. Needless to say, there was little to no waste. Everything was used until it wore out. When my dad became a parent of twelve, he continued to be very mindful of using resources wisely. Heat was used in our home from October 1st – April 1st each year, and the thermostat set at a chilly 65 degrees in a poorly insulated house. Air conditioning was used sparingly with shades drawn during the hot Midwestern summers. Lights were always turned off when leaving the room. I have a vivid recollection of Dad in his old blue sweater walking through the house turning off lights and checking the thermostat for violations. Of course, we all hated it and were embarrassed to have our friends witness his frugal ways.
Fast forward 30 years. My dad has been gone nine years, but his ways live on through me. I am now the keeper of the check book and the thermostat and follow his wise ways, much to my own children’s irritation. As a family,
- We give as much away as possible.
- We buy used as a rule.
- We return any dry cleaning hangars to the dry cleaners for reuse.
- We use reusable bags for groceries, but return plastic bags for recycling.
- We compost kitchen and yard waste.
- A good portion of our lawn is low maintenance prairie grass.
- We installed a rain barrel for watering flowers in our yard.
- We fill the recycle bins for curbside pick-up.
- We all use reusable lunch boxes and cloth napkins.
- We get rid of home electronics and household chemicals at SWALCO collection events.
- We follow the October through April heating rule, and use air condition sparingly.
- We consolidate errands in order to reduce usage of the car.
I bet my dad approves of our ways.
Have you checked out a ComEd Kill-A-Watt power meter from the library yet? Take this device home to see how much electricity your appliances or electronics are using. I was surprised to learn that lots of things still draw electricity even when they’re turned off. You can place a Kill-A-Watt on hold through the online catalog. Note that a $10 deposit is required when checking out a Kill-A-Watt. Your deposit will be returned when you return the monitor and all its accompanying material to the desk.
Check out the latest information on the library’s green improvements from Richard, the Executive Director:
As our new chillers are being craned down the back stairs of the library, I sat down with the contractor and our construction management team and we talked about water treatment of the cooling tower water that will be pumped through those new chillers. We could go with a conventional chemical system that will eliminate the organic and biological impurities that find their way into system or we could look to alternative methods. The decision was finally made to explore a new system that doesn’t rely on environmentally harsh chemicals, it works by establishing a electric field to neutralize suspended particles like bacteria and other mineral and/or bio-threatening impurities. The library saves in the long run on not having to purchase harmful chemicals and mother earth wins from not having to be subjected to them.
How many trips have you made to the mall this holiday season? Not to rub it in, but I have made none! This year, I chose to cut down on my list of gift recipients and give each person a handmade gift. I’ve made two trips to the craft store and spent about $35. I don’t have any children so my list is admittedly shorter than most, but my gifting philosophy can be easily adapted to fit your situation. Here are a few gifts I’ve made:
Book boxes. For the cost of a jar of Mod Podge and a donation to the library’s used book sale, I’ve made 5 unique, personalized book boxes.
Christmas tree ornaments. I bought plain glass ornaments from the craft store for $2.99 and decoupaged them with book pages (leftovers from my book boxes). I also ripped some pages into strips, curled them around a narrow paintbrush handle, and dropped them into clear glass ornaments. I added glitter on the bottom for some sparkle.
Baby bath towel. This is simply a towel with a washcloth sewn into one corner. The little one puts the washcloth corner over his head and he can run around with his towel as a superhero cape!
Coasters. If you don’t know how to crochet, learn! I made a set of six coasters from yarn I had left over from other projects. Note: To access the pattern in this link, you’ll need to create a free account at the Lion Yarn website.
Cookie mix. Layer the dry ingredients for a batch of cookies in a mason jar, add a bright ribbon and tag, and you’re done! The gift recipient can reuse the jar after she’s made the cookies.
Today’s post comes from Richard, the Executive Director of the library. Here’s the story of how he first “went green”:
When I was younger (and slimmer) I used to change the oil in my cars. I had a little plastic basin big enough for about 6 quarts of old dirty oil and a filter wrench and I’d wait for a nice sunny day and get busy. It only took about 20 minutes or so to do it. I would buy a new filter and oil ahead of time and be ready to go when the time was right. It was common to get rid of the old oil yourself. Heck I thought that the earth produced the oil therefore it would reclaim it. Not true. That’s pretty nasty stuff, really. Then when the Go Green movement hit, it just so happened that oil changes were getting cheaper, in fact they were almost the same in price so I figured why in the heck should I climb under my car when I can have someone else do it for about the same price. Also, I found out that a single quart of oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of fresh water. I thought, Geez, if that oil I poured out gets down to our water table, that junk could be coming out my kitchen tap! Here’s a tip…almost any filling station (no, probably not the quick food marts with pumps) but the ones that still have hoists and places that service cars will accept your used oil for safe, clean disposal. Or you could go to www.earth911.org.
We’ve all done it: filled a big black trash bag with wrapping paper, boxes, ribbon and bows. Instead of buying paper and stick-on bows, wrap your Christmas gifts in brown grocery bags (no one will know!) and tie them up with leftover ribbon or fabric strips from craft projects, old clothes… whatever you can get your hands on. After the presents are opened, recycle the paper and either reuse the ribbon or toss it outside for the birds to feather their nests (natural fibers only, please!). Your presents will be infused with shabby-chic elegance, you’ll cut waste and save money.
More holiday tips to come!
You roasted a free-range turkey. You baked local squash. You served organic wine. You had a green Thanksgiving and it was great! Now you have to clean up. But don’t whip out the overpowering cleaners that sting your nose and make your head hurt. You can get your kitchen clean without using nasty chemicals and spending a lot of money with a few basic supplies:
Microfiber cloths. Dampen with water and apply a little elbow grease and your microfiber cloth can clean just about anything. I use them to clean countertops, walls, the inside of the fridge… I’ve cleaned just about everything in the kitchen with a microfiber cloth. I even use one in place of disposable Swiffer cloths. They require no cleaning solution and you can use them over and over.
Vinegar. Clean glass surfaces with an equal mixture of white distilled vinegar and warm water. Wipe the stovetop with it, too.
Baking soda. Baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive, making it easier to scrub messes without harming the finish on your counters or appliances (don’t use on marble countertops). Just mix a little baking soda with water to form a paste and scrub with a damp sponge. Try this paste on plastic storage containers – it eliminates smells and discoloration without scratching the plastic.
Lemons. Yep, just lemons. Cut one in half and use it to polish copper.
Salt. Salt is both an abrasive and grease absorber. Just don’t use it to scrub anything you want to maintain a shine on (stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, shiny copper, etc.). Mix some salt with lemon juice and baking soda to scrub the oven.
When you’re done cleaning, skip the air freshener and simmer some apple cider, cinnamon sticks and orange peel on the stovetop. Happy Thanksgiving!