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Being Green in a Tight Economy: Part IV

Let’s talk about energy. Been there, done that you say. We all know to turn lights off when we leave the room, to unplug all cords when not in use (tv, cell phone charges, computer, etc…) and to replace every light bulb in the house with a CFL. Hopefully, we’ve all taken these tips to heart.

Our family is a single income family. This is harder to do in todays economy than it used to be. With increasing costs of feeding and clothing our clan (of which there are SEVEN) and the higher gas prices, we really have to watch our spending. There are areas I can save in (groceries, household supplies, utility costs) and areas that are fixed (mortgage, student loan payments, medical insurance). A favorite way for our family to think about being greener and saving money is to have family discussions. I love to watch and listen as the kiddos brainstorm on things we can do to help our environment (these are some smart kids) and to hear their ideas on good stewardship (of our Earth and finances). Here are some fun and easy ways to save energy (which is way good for Mother Earth and will result in a lower power bill for you).

Find creative ways to use less power, especially during peak usage periods (like evenings). Our kids LOVE candlelight dinners (be sure to use soy or coconut based wax candles to keep your air cleaner). We also enjoy one or two cold dinners weekly (like fancy salads or a cereal bar – see tips at end of story). This saves on power usage required for cooking and allows us to use less lights in the house.

Don’t wash or dry laundry in the evenings. Wash only full loads and use cold water. If you don’t have a new super efficient set (of which I lust after weekly at Lowe’s), set your dryer to the minimum time and check. I used to have the terrible habit of setting my dryer and letting it go… knowing I would come back and everything would be crispy dry. Not only is this bad for your clothing, its also a waste of power. Better yet, only tumble for a few minutes and then hang to dry.

Wrap your water heater. Our kids thought this was a hoot. We now have a silver mummy for a water heater. An insulation blanket is one of the best steps you can take to increase the heaters efficiency and cut your power bills. While you are at it, check the water heaters thermostat and make sure it is set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or 48-49 degrees celsius).

Go Ducks! Put on your favorite college sweatshirt and turn your furnace down. Ours is at 65 during the day and 62 at night. We have snuggle blankets on all our couches and wear socks or slippers to keep our feet warm.

Have a nightly power check hunt. The kids rush around the house turning things off and unplugging cords. When they locate an offender, they yell, “Energy Sucker Annihilated.” This game always produces giggles and it makes the kids (and parents) more aware of our power consumption.

Time your shower. Do this for three or four days to get an average. Then shave one minute off your shower each day until you are in the 2-5 minute range. (My husband is awesome at the 2-3 minute shower, mine are more like 5 minutes). Set the timer for your kids. We put the drain in so they can have a “shower bath”, that way once the shower is off (and hopefully hair is washed), they can continue to play in the water for a while. Double up. My girls always bathe together. Sure, I end up with water splashed across the bathroom and a few fights, but we are only running water once to wash three bodies. We like to use the audible wind up timers so I can hear my time counting down. I always give the kids a warning (“Is your hair washed? One minute until water is off.”)

Educate. I grew up in Oregon. We have dams on a lot of rivers around here. My parents were outdoorsy type people, so we did a lot of “real” camping. I grew up excited to drive across the dams and stop to watch the water rush out the side. I grew up knowing that dams produced power, the very power we used in every aspect of our lives. It wasn’t until I was grown up that I understood where the majority of our power comes from… COAL. Talk with your kids about different ways power is generated and their impacts on the environment (dams = reduced fish and wildlife, coal= use of natural resources and air pollution) and talk about alternative power (windmills, wave turbins and solar energy) with their benefits and drawbacks. Most of all, talk about conservation and being environmentally responsible.

With some conscious effort, we all can become better stewards. The results are awesome, we get to protect our planet and reduce our cost of living. How’s that for being green?

Cold Dinner Ideas: Cereal bar dinner- We set out several varieties of cereal, yogurt, fruit, nuts, organic milk and orange juice. Fancy salad dinner- We purchase an organic spring salad mix, add toppings like dried cranberries, sliced apples, walnuts or almonds, feta cheese crumbles and Organicville Pomegranate Vinaigrette. To this we sometimes add hardboiled eggs, tofu or small chunks of chilled chicken and enjoy some focaccia bread on the side. Serve these meals up complete with candlelight and cloth napkins. The kids will be thrilled.

Photo from Dreamstime.

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Comments

  1. I always enjoy hearing about your dinner ideas. Dinner at your house seems like so much fun! Re: laundry- I remember as a kid (6 kids+2 adults), we were not allowed to throw down clothes unless they were dirty, and jeans were worn over again for 3-7 days (unless dirty) before we were allowed to throw them down the laundry chute. Like you, my parents only turned the dryer on for X amount of time. If items were still wet, then they were hung. Makes me think about how, 30+ years ago, my parents were not thinking “green” but were basically trying to save money- because they had to.

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