Happy New Year! Are you ready for 2011? It’s time to make those annual resolutions, and guest blogger Maria Rainier has some suggestions for you.
If you’ve been looking for a way to kick-start your green, frugal lifestyle into high-gear (or at least one gear higher than you’re at now), New Year’s is just the thing. Whether you’re a newbie or veteran to finding frugal ways to be green, the following are solid guidelines for 2011.
- Dodge the draft! Early on in the year (and much, much later) in the colder months, try your hand at a DIY draft door snake to keep your heating bills down. The US Department of Energy says that drafts can waste up to 30% of your energy use (and money!). If you can’t strategically place a pet as in our photo, roll up an old bath towel (you can go as far as gluing on googly eyes and a felt forked tongue) and place it by the door. You can even fill a necktie with sand or kitty litter (to keep it in place).
- Keep up the maintenance. That means vacuuming the coils of your refrigerator and changing furnace filters once a month or even switching to a permanent filter, which reduces waste and hassle. Besides, disposable fiberglass filters trap only 40% (sometimes as low as 10%) of debris from your furnace. Electrostatic filters trap about 88% and are much more efficient and keeping bacteria, viruses, mold, and pollen at bay. Although they can set you back significantly more than disposables, remember that you won’t be buying one every month, anymore.
- Work your fans. Most people don’t know that on some fans, there’s a reverse function. When run in reverse, fans blow air back down, which works well in winter when you want the warm air at your feet rather than above your head.
- Keep out the storm. If you have your own house, you can install Energy Star-certified storm doors and windows to increase energy efficiency by 45%. For those of us living in apartments, pick up a window insulation kit from your local hardware store. While invisible if properly installed, this plastic can add a buffer against your heating money and the thieving winter wind.
- Put on a jacket and walk to the store down the street instead of driving. Every little bit counts. Take advantage of warm weather and remind yourself that sunlight gives you the essential Vitamin D—perfect excuses for leaving the car at home.
- Say no to chemicals. When it comes to cleaning our space, we often prefer a seemingly lesser evil like bleach to a greater one, like swine flu or some other mysterious icky stuff that you know is in your bathroom and on your desk. For the most part, you can make your own green cleaning materials like all-purpose spray, porcelain and tile cleaner, stain remover, drain cleaner, and even your own laundry detergent with materials already in your kitchen. Key ingredients include baking soda, white or apple cider vinegar (not balsamic!), borax, soap, hot water, lemon juice, and the like. Look online for DIY green cleaning recipes to save the planet and your wallet.
- Be a green beauty. Hold off on the salon in 2011, since some of the same ingredients that you use to clean your living space can also be used to clean and treat your own body. For example, say no to store-bought facial scrubs in 2011. Most types use plastic microbeads that clog up drains and eventually end up on polluted ocean beds, where fish try to eat them (and die). Instead, add a teaspoon of ground almonds, sugar or baking soda to your facial soap and gently scrub. Also, check out the ingredients in your favorite shampoos, soaps, and makeup and donate those that contain phthalates, parabens, petroleum, or other harmful chemicals that can disrupt your endocrine system, up your chances for certain cancers, and other things you don’t want happening. The Daily Green (www.thedailygreen.com) has several DIY beauty recipes that not only work, they often work better than store-bought varieties, which have perfumes and chemicals that often cause allergic reactions or clog pores.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she’s been researching different online social work degrees and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.