Lots and lots of talk these days — and advertising about saving money, lowering our energy use, reducing one’s carbon footprint. It’s everywhere you turn. Oops … Sorry…here it is again!
Almost endless information from everyone who has some suggestion or new product that will do this for us. Lots of “opportunities” to “save money” out there in the marketplace, to supposedly help the earth and yourself. Everything now seems to be “green” or “smart,” from cars to checking accounts…sort of like how everything was “all natural” or “lite” about 25 years ago. Just a little bit overwhelming, and a little bit confusing.
It’s occurred to us that a few basics could be laid down that would help everyone improve the situation with just a few relatively simple, inexpensive steps. We don’t all have to start building straw bale houses, trading in our conventional cars for the latest $ 35,000 hybrid, or investing thousands right away in the latest solar products, to see some environmental benefits and cost savings.
Try these simple steps for a start:
1. Light Bulbs
If you haven’t already, just replace all your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents as soon as possible. These bulbs are a bit pricey at about $ 5 to $10 each, but the payback period for this small investment is only about 6 months to a year in reduced electricity bills. Just like that! If you don’t do anything else, do this now, and it will help.
2. Roof Insulation
If your roof or attic is not fully insulated, that should be done before anything else in your house is considered. Don’t worry about drafty windows or uninsulated walls if your roof is still uninsulated, because the vast majority of your house’s heat loss is right through the roof. So, do that first, and worry about the other possibilities later.
If you’re interested, we’ll have more specifics on this, and more about windows in particular, in the future.
3. HVAC Systems
If you have forced hot air heat or AC, make sure you’re checking and changing your air filters on a regular cyclical basis — every 3 to 6 months is typical, depending on the system and time of year. Sounds boring, compared to buying some new digital monitoring gadget, but regularly replacing dirty filters reduces the work your system has to do to move air through your living space, and in that way it saves electricity and also reduces wear and tear on your fans and motors. New filters are inexpensive; motor repairs and equipment replacements never are.
4. Walk (-don’t drive-) to shop, and BUY LOCALLY
If you live where you can walk to the local food store or farmers market (if you’re lucky enough to have either), walk and buy what you can there instead of driving to the nearest suburban sprawl plaza development. If you’re worried you might have to pay a little more at the local shop than you would out at the suburban plaza, remember to factor in that every time you turn your car on, you’ve just spent another $1 to $2; money that could go to a local merchant instead. Rather than continuing to give your money to the oil and car companies and the multi-national supermarket corporations, invest it in a locally-owned business; you’ll see the effect of that expenditure in the form of a better-kept commercial street, and more support for your local municipal tax base rather than that of the township next door. Your money might even help fund a refurbished old commercial building or help pay for a new sign at that business made by a local artist or craftsman; you could even be partly responsible, along with your neighbors, for the continuing agricultural use of nearby farmland, producing food for you rather than getting paved over for more real estate development.
Despite all the confusing reportage and ads we hear every day, it’s not all that hard to get a little “greener” IF we stop and think about where we really want to see our money go, where we want our food to come from, and who we’d rather do business with. Carbon offsets and solar roofs can help if you’re likely to spend your money that way, but how many of us are ? If you can do it, great!
But even 50 million of us replacing light bulbs or shopping down the street could do a lot more than a handful of folks going solar.
The answer is often closer to home than we might think!