How much do you like saving money? How about saving the planet at the same time? If both of these sound good to you, then you need this post on simple green home hacks that will help you do both!
It’s hard to ignore the massive climate changes going on right now, or the mountain of evidence suggesting that human activity has something to do with it. Unless you are hiding in a hole somewhere, you’ve no doubt heard the news stories on new weather patterns and their disastrous results in recent years. Just look at the dramatic increase in brutal winters and “polar vortexes,” massive and costly wildfires, or scorching-hot and deadly summers across the Northern Hemisphere. (My brother fights those massive wildfires for a living, and let me tell you, he doesn’t get home for WEEKS at a time during long stretches of each year.)
Fortunately, it’s really not that hard to make small changes that will help you and your family lighten your footprint on the planet. And even better, these little tweaks could have a positive impact on your bottom line, too! So if you’re ready, read on:
Green Home Hacks To Help You Save Money *And* Mother Earth
Cut your energy bills with LEDs
How many incandescent bulbs do you still have in your light fixtures? If it’s a lot, you are running up your energy bills and generating a lot of extra heat in your house. Incandescent bulbs use up most of their energy in generating heat, not light. This waste of energy is part of why the U.S. Congress passed a law in 2007 to phase out manufacture of these bulbs in the United States.
I remember the month I switched out the incandescent bulbs in my first apartment, to CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs). I was shocked at how much of a dent it made in my electric bill. Since then, an even better option has come out on the market: LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. Whereas I’d get anywhere between 2-7 years of life out of my CFL bulbs, LED bulbs can last 2-3 times as long, or even longer. And they’re even more energy-efficient than CFLs. Moreover, unlike CFLs, LEDs don’t contain mercury and other toxic materials, so they’re easier on the environment in that way, too.
LEDs have become so competitive in recent years, as the cost of production has gone down, that major U.S. bulb manufacturer General Electric has even stopped making CFLs. Now that the price for LEDs has come down so much, there really isn’t an excuse to NOT use more energy-efficient bulbs throughout your home.
And though the prices are now low across the board, you can save even more if you know where to look. For example, our local energy company gave us several boxes of CFLs for FREE when we had an energy audit a few years back. If we were to have another audit today, I suspect they’d be giving us LEDs instead; they’ve been subsidizing the price of LEDs at stores in our area for several years now. It’s easy to find boxes of LED bulbs in our area for as little as 50 cents or $1 per bulb.
Green your cleaning
How many specialized cleaning products do you use around your house? Do you use different chemicals to
- brighten your laundry,
- disinfect your laundry,
- clean and disinfect your countertops,
- get out stubborn stains on glassware,
- clean out your coffee maker,
- work as a rinse agent in your dishwasher,
- clean your windows,
- get rid of soap scum stains,
- strip detergent and fabric softener residues out of your towels while making them softer,
- get odors out of your microwave,
- neutralize cooking smells at their source,
- AND kill common weeds?
Did you know that plain white vinegar can do a lot of these things for you? We have used vinegar for many of these purposes over the years (thank goodness we no longer have to worry about disinfecting cloth diapers anymore!), for a lot less money than you’d spend on your regular cleaner. (Some of these uses I just learned about when researching this post, though, and I’m tempted to try them!)
We pay about $2/gallon for white vinegar at one of our local discount grocery outlets. I’ve already written about some of the reasons I keep gallons of vinegar in my laundry room. But you can read more about how to use vinegar as an all-purpose green cleaning product here, and here, and here, and here. Or you can find a recipe for making a DIY cleaning spray that uses vinegar here.
Just be careful not to use it to clean the items listed in the second half of this post. And you also want to avoid trying to scrub out dirt with it, or using it at the same time as another one of my green-cleaning faves, baking soda (a base); since vinegar is an acid, they’ll cancel each other out.
Trade meats and processed food for fresh, in season, and locally-sourced
When I was growing up, my father cultivated a total of 1.5 acres of garden in his spare time. In the summer, we ate fresh veggies from garden, usually an hour to two after they were picked. Throughout the winter, we ate berries and vegetables that we’d frozen over the summer, and pickles, relishes, and jams my mother had made from those veggies and fruits. Much of the meat we ate came compliments of my father, my brothers, and hunting season in the 20 acres of woods behind our house – mostly venison, but also pheasant, grouse, and turkey. Occasionally, we’d instead have fresh clams from the shore, when he went clamming for the day, or else fresh fish he had caught.
I ate so little processed food growing up – and so many fresh vegetables, especially in the summer when it was all we could do to keep up with the garden – that I continued to eat this way as an adult, and have taught my children the same. These days, the most “processed” their veggies get is a bagged salad when I’m short on time, or frozen veggies from the store instead of my parents’ garden.
When I think of all the antibiotics in meat, and how much more energy it costs to raise a pound of meat versus a pound of vegetable protein, I’m reminded of what a difference skipping meat even one or two days a week can make, both for our health and for the planet. This is why I try to do meatless meals at least once a week (though not always on Monday).
But we also try to “eat local” whenever we can. Our garden is small, and all we grow is herbs, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, plus some root vegetables. But every bit we harvest ourselves means something less that has to use gasoline to get from the farm to the store to us. Especially in summer when so many fresh things are in season and it’s too hot to cook, we love having an easy, light supper centered on fresh garden goodies.
And when we DO shop, we try to focus on things grown close to home. Our area is home to tons of farmer’s markets and roadside stands, which we try to shop at least once a week. If you’re not up to growing your own vegetables and don’t have time to shop at a farmer’s market, you can also join a CSA and pick up a weekly share of fresh, organically grown, local produce. This is another of our favorite ways to eat local, get amazing organic produce for less, and support local farmers.
What about you? What are your favorite green home hacks to help save money as well as Mother Earth? Let us know in the comments!
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