Reducing Your Carbon Footprint without Reducing the Size of Your Wallet

| 4/23/2009 2:54:18 PM

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CindyMurphyBlog.jpgMy friend, Jenn, grows vegetables in the Tucson area of Arizona. With temperatures frequently reaching into the 100s and long periods without rain, saving water is imperative. She’s collecting water in rain barrels during the monsoon season to help keep her tomatoes growing and has plans this year to install a gray water system. “Gray water” is waste water from a home (except water from toilets). A gray water system recycles shower, sink, and laundry water for other purposes, typically for irrigation.

Arizona offers a state tax incentive of 25 percent of the cost up to $1000 for residents installing gray water systems. The state’s gray water plan is considered the model, and many states have adopted similar plans. Skepticism is still a hold-out for many others though – gray water has been considered “waste water” for so long that it’s difficult to break old habits and outmoded ideas. Check out Grey Water Central for more information about gray water.

I learned about Jenn’s plans when I asked her what she does to save money and help the environment at the same time. These days it seems cultivating environmentally friendly habits and saving money are on nearly everyone’s minds. The steps you take to save the planet can help you save money too; by making smarter choices, you can reduce your environmental impact without reducing your bank account. Her gray water system will be a big initial expense for Jenn, but she’ll recoup her investment over time. It’s not always the things with large price tags though, such as gray water systems, energy efficient appliances or “green” houses that translate into adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Just a few small changes can produce major results.

There are a couple simple things I’ve done for years to save money and energy. I turn off the dishwasher after the final rinse and leave the door open to let the dishes air-dry. I recently read that eliminating the use of a dishwasher’s heated-dry cycle reduces energy use by up to 50 percent per wash.

I also avoid washing laundry in hot water – the warm wash/cold rinse and even the cold wash/cold rinse cycles on a washing machine work fine with all temperature detergents. Up to 95 percent of the energy used by washing machine goes toward heating the water. The electrical cost (excluding the cost of water) to run a machine at the hot/warm setting is 58 cents per load, or an average of $226 per year. In comparison, the cost per load at the cold/cold setting is 3 cents, for an average of $11 per year. Washing your clothes in hot water for a year uses more energy than leaving the refrigerator door open 24 hours a day for an entire year!

Reading these statistics about how much money I was saving and how much I reduced my energy consumption from just these two simple things made me wonder what other things people I know do to save money and be eco-friendly. I not only posed the question to Jenn, but asked the same of other friends.      

Cindy Murphy
5/8/2009 5:53:54 PM

Hey, Dave - I see your work is starting to get to you. Yep, it sounds like you're well on your way to becoming a plant addict....let's hope you've been cured of your planticidal tendencies. Yep, tuberous begonias (also called Non-stop begonias), do just that - bloom nonstop up until the first frost. I've always got to have at least a hanging basket of them. They're not quite as durable as the stoic fiberous begonias; they sometimes tend to get top-heavy, and the not-so-sturdy stems break. Oh, and another to try for sure is Diamond Frost Euphorbia. I'd rename this plant 'Indestructable Elegance'....which is probably why I don't have a job naming plants. It just doesn't sound as catchy as 'Diamond Frost' now, does it? I'm probably gonna run out of room here; I always do. But I'll start in on the fertilizers and see how far I get. Most annuals are heavy feeders. Think of it this way - they're life is so short, they must pack as much energy into it as they can. There are many types of fertilizers out there, but they pretty much can be broken down into two basic groups: quick-release and slow-release. Miracle Gro and other foliage sprays are quick-release; they must be applied more often for the best results. Miracle Gro, for example, should be applied once a week. Slow-release is usually a one-time application for an annual's growing season. This is what I prefer, (read into this "Cindy's a lazy gardener"; you'd be right). One of the best slow-releases out there for bedding plants is Osmocote. Mix it into the soil before you plant, or gently work it into your already potted plants. Good stuff; great results, and wonderful for vegies too, (though I prefer an organic for those). Have I run out of room yet?

Nebraska Dave
5/7/2009 5:08:34 PM

Cindy, Hey I moving right along. I have 13 containers up and running with Impatiens, Begonia, Marigold, and Dusty Miller. Oh, yeah, and one container of Gladiolas. I got my first glimpse of tuberous Begonia. Oh, my gosh, they just look tough. They look like they could be the bullies the garden. My first Begonias look like wimps compared to the tuberous ones. I gotta get me some of them there tuberous Begonias. Here’s a question for you oh wise nursery woman guru. How often would one have to feed flowers mentioned above and with what? Some say once a week and others say twice a month. Some say spray it on with water and others say mix it in the soil. Back on the farm we just scooped it out of the barn and spread it on the field then plowed it under in the Spring. I guess things are a little different with this flower stuff. I think I’m going to get some Coleus. As I recall it’s kind of like a Dusty Miller and adds contrast to the displays. One thing nice about containers is that I can rearrange them to suit me. We here are pretty much out of the threat of frost. It has staid in the upper 40s at night and usually gets into the 70s every day now. People are starting to plant tomatoes and peppers in the earth gardens. And keeping with the recycling theme of the blog almost all the pots I have used are from past years that have been cleaned up and reused. I didn’t realize how plants I had euthanized over the years. Complements are already starting to come in from neighbors. I couldn't have done it without a little help from my blog friends. The crowning glory of the whole display so far is the complementary patio pot that Kaw Valley, the company I work for, gave to me for being a driver this year. It has some white thing that drapes over the front and some red thing that drapes over the back with deep blue petunia, and a geranium and spike in the middle.

5/5/2009 8:11:02 PM

Yippee! Yippee! Look at me! I can log back in again, na na na na na! Now if I can just remember where I save my comments for this entry....waaaay back on Earth Day...hmmm... :)

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