Everyday Frugal: Earth Day 2008

With Earth Day fast approaching, we have to admit that we struggled a bit with what to blog about. We feel compelled to support Earth Day, as avid supporters of the green movement. We are pleased by the extra attention that Earth Day brings to environmental issues. But what are we doing special for Earth Day?


Maybe that's the real story here. We aren't doing anything special for Earth Day, or at least we have nothing special planned. We made a decision in life to make everyday Earth Day. After all, is it really effective to adopt these eco-friendly ways for one day or week per year? So to mark Earth Day 2008, we are going to share some of our earth-friendly secret sauce. Some tips, some tricks, some links, some love. Enjoy.

  1. If you missed our How To: and Why To: on rainwater harvesting, then now is a good time to catch up. Since moving out of the arid, drought prone Southwest US, we have not set up a rain barrel system. But our previous system, as described in the How To:, served us well for several years. And when we left, it did not got to waste. We sold the system for $50 per barrel. As far as green movements go, solar and wind get a lot of attention, but rainwater is great for the environment, great for your plants, great for your pocket book, and much more attainable than wind or solar power.
  2. Speaking of wind power, a wind farm was recently completed in Northwest Indiana. What's in Northwest Indiana? Nothing, and that's the point. With corn and soy beans fields as far as you can see, the wind whips through the country side. Now, instead of going to waste, that wind will turn 87 giant wind turbines. I have seen these in person and they are amazing. What's even more so is that this is just phase 1 of the project, with phase 2 including around 400 more. Yes, four hundred more. This will be the largest wind farm in the nation, and at least one of the largest in the world.
  3. Recycle, recycle, recycle. Our recycling volume at home rivals that of our trash. So why are trash cans so big and recycling bins so small? Recycling is one of the simplest things you can do that millions have done at home for decades, yet this is news to many corporations. My corporation is just starting to notice that there is a 'green bandwagon', but I wouldn't say that they are on it yet. To give you an idea, getting away from using bottled water is a big deal around the office. This does mean that we now have recycling bins for plastic bottles, not that we have any others. Not that it matters that all of the pop machines sell bottled pop, and we still bring in bottled water for meetings. What a long road we have. The point is that even if you are green at home, work to make your office more eco-friendly. You may find that there is a lot of good that you can do there.
  4. The harshest chemicals you will find in our house are bleach, borax and vinegar. Most household cleaning can be done with these ingredients. A favorite with the kids is toilet cleaning time. We add a couple tablespoons of baking soda, then add vinegar until the soda is all used up. Be careful not to add too much at once. These 'toilet bombs' only then require a little scrubbing, then a flush. We'll have to dedicate a future post to the other wonders of vinegar.
  5. Reduce, reduce, reduce. In college, my house-mates and I would fill up the kitchen trash can every single day. It was crazy and they were always complaining about having to take it out every day. How could this be? Well, I started analyzing our trash, and found that a lot of the volume was made up of empty boxes from pre-packaged food. Oh, how far we've come. We rarely buy pre-packaged food, and when we do, that packaging gets flattened and recycled. We've also reduce our grocery bag consumption buy using canvas and woven nylon bags. Strong, spacious and reusable.
  6. Incandescent bulbs have no place in our home. We have replaced all of our light fixtures with CFLs. Even the kids' nightlights have LED replacement bulbs. The CFLs made for one huge energy turnaround in our house. When we bought our house, every bulb was either a 100 or 150-watt bulb. ..... Yeah...it blew our minds too. Our 13 and 20-watt CFL replacements make for a huge swing in energy consumption. An average savings of 108 watts per bulb times 40 total bulbs is 4340 watts. Wow. Now assume that those are on for an average of just 1 hour per day. That would give us a savings of 1579 kWh per year.
  7. Reuse, reuse, reuse. When some building material arrived on palates last spring, we thought nothing of it. Later we were perplexed with what to do with them once the supplies were used. Then we saw a great article on how to build a set of compost bins with used shipping palates. After collecting a few more from family, we had enough to complete our project. Instead of hitting the trash, these robust wood palates are helping turn 'trash' into rich fertile compost.
  8. We support Environmental Defense. We've donated to various charitable organizations over the years. Few can compare to EDF in terms of action and results. While a local view of environmental issues is important, these guys are tackling the problems nationally. When Duke Energy was about to renovate it's power plants to create more carbon emissions, EDF sued them and won. When the EPA tried to chicken out on regulating global warming pollution as mandated by the Clean Air Act, EDF joined in the lawsuit and won once again in front of the Supreme Court. When TXU was looking to circumvent regulations and build 11 dirty, new, coal-fired power plants in Texas, Environmental Defense fought hard with traditional tactics. But when it was clear that political corruption would stand in their way, EDF helped broker the deal for Texas Pacific Group to buy out TXU and shut down the projects. It was a huge win for EDF and a huge win for the environment.
How do you make everyday Earth Day?


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