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Waste and Clutter

-A poorly insulated house can easily waste 30% to 50% of the energy poured into it. Most utility companies perform energy audits for low or even no cost, and sometimes offer discounts and rebates to help you pay for energy-saving steps you take. Embracing the Earth (see Resources) has a step-by-step energy audit you can do yourself at no cost.

-Simple changes around the house: Run the dishwasher half as often as you do now, and save 50% in water, energy and time. Wash only full loads of clothing, and since 90% of the cost of washing clothes is to heat the water, avoid using hot water. Modern detergents clean well in cold water for all but the dirtiest loads.

-Half of the average family’s household energy goes to heating and/or cooling, at a cost of about $450 a year. Put a 15% dent in this expense by keeping the thermostat set at 65°F in the daytime, and 55 or 60 at night. Keep sweaters and blankets in living areas, or try a cozy hot water bottle under your shirt and in your bed.

-Confused by the cloth versus disposable diaper hype? Don’t be--folding your own wins every time for both saving money and protecting the environment. Using cloth diapers will save you $23-28 a month, while costing just 30 minutes of your time per week. Don’t be taken in by claims that biodegradable disposable diapers are environmentally sound--it isn’t true.

-Planting a large tree to shade your home can save you an estimated $73 a year in air-conditioning bills. If every household did this, the country would save more than $4 billion in energy costs (and add to the beauty and health of the environment). Trees also prevent heat loss from the house in cold weather.

-Is junk mail cluttering your day, and your home? Send pre-paid envelopes back with a request that you be taken off the sender’s mailing list. To prevent the sale of your name, write the Direct Marketing Association, Box 9008 and Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY, 11735. It takes two letters (one P.O. box is for telephone lists, one for mailings, send the same letter to both), but this will drastically reduce your junk- mail clutter.

-Call your water utility and ask them how “hard” or “soft” your water is. You may be using up to six times as much clothing and dishwashing detergent as you need. Your appliance manuals will tell you how much you need for your water type.

-Become a regular at your local library. Waiting for you there are books, magazines, newspapers, books on tape, music tapes and CDs, videos, computer classes, access to the Internet, tax information, legal information, job information, storytellers and homework help for children, free meeting rooms and more. If the book or article you want isn’t there, the wonderful inter-library loan program will get it for you free. Libraries save money, time, clutter and resources, and get you out into your community.

-An estimated 50% of the waste stream in the U.S. is discarded packaging. Be very aware of packaging excess, and when all else is equal, choose the least-packaged. Help raise awareness of this issue by being a packaging activist: ask your grocers to phase out pre-wrapped fruits and vegetables.

-Form an eco-team at home or work, and get the whole household involved. (See Global Action Plan, Resources.)

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