Thursday, May 07, 2009

Going green means staying green

"GO GREEN!" screamed the email from the wellness coordinator. I joined in, of course, and then laughed when I saw the program's suggestions. It's great for beginners, but for an eco-conscious family like mine, most of the ideas were habits already built into our everyday lives.

Green sometimes means an investment that will pay off later. Cloth napkins, for example, cost me a few bucks (I'm a bargain shopper, so I do mean only a few). Since I bought the first batch, however, we haven't purchased paper napkins at all.

Dryer balls cost a little, and I do mean a little. I spent less for the pair than I normally do for a bottle of Downy, and I expect them to last longer. Less $$, fewer chemicals, and it's a winner with me! I've heard that an old pair of tennis balls will have the same effect. I plan to keep my eyes open at rummage sales and try this technique, re-using and re-purposing: both frugal and green.

As I updated my Go Green participation record, I noticed that the one-point activities were second nature. Recycling at home and at work, using a reusable lunch bag and a washable coffee mug at work, printing/ copying on both sides of the paper; I do these as a matter of course. The high-point earners, the permanent changes, are either things we already did or a little less common. Start a compost pile, install a programmable thermostat, insulate the water heater: these are all 4 point activities, investments we made years ago. Install aerators on the faucets, low-flow showerheads and low-flow toilets, vote for a green candidate: well, we do those 3-pointers, too. We can do better, though: we could easily refurbish furniture, change to a few more CFL bulbs, and lower the water-heater temperature.

Go Green's list suggests caulking or weatherstripping windows. We're taking that a major step farther by replacing several old windows that may be original to the house (c. 1890). They're lovely, but leaky. The investment in new windows will be a good one. I gulped and gasped when I saw the bill, but in reality, it's reasonable. It will pay for itself within a few years in energy savings. We may get a rebate for energy efficiency, too, if Husband's research is correct. As for comfort, better windows can only improve the indoor climate. No more drafty kitchen when the wind blows! The back hallway/ pantry might not be cold enough for a psuedo-root cellar any more! Oh, wait, maybe that's a small disadvantage....

The Go Green program limits participants by not allowing any one activity more than once in a given day. Even with few four-point pieces, I'm easily reaching the maximum nine points each day. That tells me that integrating small habits can be a big deal. Yes, Kermit, it is easy being green.

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