Reducing Your Carbon Footprint without Reducing the Size of Your Wallet

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

Tags: ,

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... :)

cindy murphy
5/3/2009 4:33:06 PM

....and, and, and - hanging baskets. (I did it again; got too long winded and my comment got cut off.) Rather than try to rewrite what I've just forgotten I wrote two minutes ago, I'll just say - It'll be a busy week in the flower delivery business. Take care, Dave.

cindy murphy
5/3/2009 4:29:38 PM

Congrats, Dave, on getting your drip watering system going. I'm sure it won't be any time at all before your work pays off, and your poor man's patio is bursting forth with color. My husband, Keith, didn't know a daffodil from a dandelion; he thought any flower that had a ray of petals surrounding a yellow center was a daisy. After years of having gardening, (not of the vegetable variety), thrust upon him, he's becoming pretty adept at knowing the names of plants now....although he still calls my clematis "climbitis" like it's got some kind of climbing disease. The fothergilla is "the bunny tail bush", because that's what the fluffy flowers look like when it blooms. Don't despair about your neighbors wondering what Neighbor Dave is up to potting begonias. It's good to keep them guessing every once in awhile. And besides - a ton of the customers at the nursery are men. They pick out the plants while their wives tag behind looking bored. "What next a garden shed? (Rolling eyes up) I’m going to have to find something to do with a power tool pretty soon or the neighbors will all begin to seriously wonder what’s happening." HA! Get out the power tools and build a garden shed!!! Keep with the spirit of the blog, and use recycled materials. You'd be saving money and keeping the stuff out of the landfill. Come to think of it, this sounds like a perfect project for Keith! Thanks, Dave, for the idea. And yep, Glads planted now should bloom this summer. I wonder why all Moms must have a potted geranium for Mother's Day. It's true though. It's too cold here for annuals still; although the box stores have them out, they're not hardened off enough to leave outside, and we're still dipping down into the thirties at night. We won't get the bulk of them in for at least another two weeks....except this week, our hoop house will be loaded with geraniums and

nebraska dave
5/2/2009 9:59:32 PM

Cindy, I have established the foundation of plant watering conservation on the Old Nebraska Dave property. I bought and assembled the necessary menagerie of parts to allow drip watering of the pots that will enhance the new wall of the poor man’s patio I built last year. Soon the patio will be bursting with a plethora of color as the flowers mature. The neighbors were all aghast when they caught me potting begonias in the backyard. (gasp) I expect they were wondering if this was the same Neighbor Dave as I’m known on the local street that goes to far away places to help rebuild after disaster happens? The great adventurer was potting begonias in his back yard? Well, actually it was quite an adventure for me to begin building a flower pot garden on the wall and surface of the patio. I’m not sure how it will end up but with a watering plan in place it should turn out better than last year. I was truly amazed at how many pots I found beside the house in the pot grave yard from bad experiences of years past. Sheesh, I was even thinking that a potting table would be nice. What next a garden shed? (Rolling eyes up) I’m going to have to find something to do with a power tool pretty soon or the neighbors will all begin to seriously wonder what’s happening. Oh, hey, I discovered what I could never get Black-eyed Susan to grow more than one year. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as annual Rudbeckia. I’ve been buying annuals instead of perennials. So perhaps I give it a try again. If Gladiolas are planted this Spring will they bloom this year? Cindy, rest well this day as Monday begins Mother’s Day week. We have a semi load of Deco pots to distribute on Monday. Just when I thought things were going to ease up a bit, Mothers all across the city must have a potted Geranium.

cindy murphy
4/28/2009 5:12:30 AM

Hi, Dave. I couldn't agree more with your statement that we haven't managed our water resources well. Right now, water is considered a renewable resource on this planet - it's replenished at a rate equal to, or faster than consumed. Although in many places it's quickly becoming non-renewable - it's used faster than it's replenished. Renewable resources become non-renewable through mismanagement and pollution by humans. You mentioned the battles in Arizona, Nevada, and California over the rights to the Colorado River. Here, the battles are over ownership of the Great Lakes. A number of the surrounding states, and Canada at one time or another have argued that they have the right to sell the water...some of to be shipped overseas. I remember reading a quote from National Geographic: "All the water that will ever be is, right now." The time is long overdue when we learn to use it wisely. Glad you found the begonias - as unassuming as they are, and less flashy than some of the other annuals, they really deliver when it comes to non-stop color and durability - AND they don't require much water!

nebraska dave
4/27/2009 9:10:47 AM

Cindy, it is so appropriate that your blog encourages people to conserve and manage water. I believe that in the not so distant future our crisis will not be about whether we have enough oil to sustain our economy but it will be about water. I have relatives that live in Las Vegas which is the home of Hover Dam. Behind the dam lies Lake Mead. Not too many years ago the lake behind the dam threatened to flow over the top of the structure. Millions of gallons of water rushed through the wide open flood gates to keep the water from spilling over the top of the dam. Today the lake is so low that buildings that have submerged since the filling of the lake are on dry land. The water level of the lake I would guess is down by at least 100 feet. Nevada, Arizona, and California are in constant battles over the water rights to the Colorado River. Huge amounts of water stored in underground caverns are the cause of continuous court cases. Here in Nebraska the farmers have sucked up billions of gallons of water from the under ground aquifer to irrigate crops. Massive amounts of water are sprayed on crops to sustain ever increasing yields needed to stay business solvent. We have not cared for our water resources very well on this planet. Certain parts of the ocean are dead because of the pollutants dumped there. Conservation of water no matter what part of the world we live in will become a high level priority sooner than we think. Cindy, it warms my heart to hear about your blog readers that are taking water conservation seriously. Oh, by the way I found Begonias. I just didn’t know exactly what they looked like. Yesterday was a hard flower delivery day. Deliveries had to be made in down pouring rain. When the lightening started, I didn’t think it too cool to be pushing around seven foot tall metal carts and called it a day. Luckily all the deliveries were made just not put on the displays. I hope nursery life is treating you well.

cindy murphy
4/25/2009 5:40:33 PM

Iggy - never, ever admit you're cheap. Thrifty is a much better description! Hi, Lacy. I hang a lot...not all, but a lot of our clothes to dry. Not only do you save energy by doing this; it makes the clothes last a whole lot longer too. I love this saying a friend of mine mentioned: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without."

razor family farms
4/24/2009 9:25:25 PM

Excellent post! We try really hard to reduce our carbon footprint and conserve. One of the best ways that I've found to conserve is to use my clothesline and my wringer washer. Of course, I make all sorts of things (check out my blogs NEWS @ Razor Family Farms here at and and try to reduce starting with our purchases. It's always lovely to know that I am not alone in my efforts. Isn't that the best part of blogging? You find someone hundreds (perhaps thousands) of miles away who shares your values. It's so encouraging. Blessings, Lacy

michelle house
4/23/2009 8:51:50 PM

Happy Earth Day :), very nice stuff there, I do alot of that, because I am cheap, or thrifty, depending on who you ask:) Iggy

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!