October 9th, 2008
By Diane Porter
It waits, patiently, in a corner of the pantry. It knows that it goes out on Tuesdays, doing its good work with a load of diet Coke cans, glass bottles, newspapers and plastics #1 and #2. Salad bar containers make guest appearances, and once in a while a Tide bottle livens things up with its vivid orange and blue, but that’s about as exciting as it gets for the recycling bin.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It’s the mantra of environmentally concerned people everywhere. Maybe you’ve gotten the third part of the equation conquered: If it’s glass, plastic, metal or paper, it goes in the bin. It saves space in the garbage and it saves resources for the planet. But what about the rest? Are you reducing your carbon footprint? Can you reuse more things than you do?
You can, easily, and here’s the best part: It will also save you money. Frugality gets its own cult-like devotion these days. In economically questionable times, anything that keeps a little more cash in our pocket is welcome. And while we’d all like to go out and buy hybrid vehicles and solar water heaters, it may be more practical right now to concentrate on small things that add up to make a difference.
The key is, don’t think you have to overhaul your life. Look around your house, be conscious of your routines, and find small changes that work for you.
“I think the important thing to remember, when trying to go green to save green, is that you shouldn’t try to change too many habits too soon,” said author Leah Ingram, who writes The Lean Green Family, a blog that tells how she (pictured left), her husband and their two pre-teen daughters have adopted a green lifestyle and saved money at the same time.
“Take it slowly, doing one thing at a time, kind of like when you might go on a diet or start a new exercise program,” Ingram said. “Take baby steps. Soon enough it will all seem like second nature.”
How small can a baby step be? Here’s how small: Milk in your cereal. When you’ve finished your cereal, do you drink the milk from the bottom of the bowl, or do you throw it down the drain? If you’re the latter, cut the amount of milk on your cereal tomorrow by about half. Make it a goal to have the cereal and milk end at exactly the same time. Just a fourth of a cup of milk saved daily adds up to close to six gallons of milk in a year. That’s six gallons’ worth of containers that don’t have to be out in the world, and a nifty $20-$30 in your pocket.