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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going Green - "The Dorm Life Edition"

Yesterday I had a request to do a post on how students living in dorms could be more earth consious and possibly save some cash along the way.  The first part is easy, the second not so much, but there are some things you can do.
Since living in a dorm is all inclusive, its not as if you have a fluctuating electric bill based on usage, or a water bill for how many showers you take.  You cant really save money that way, but that's not to say you shouldn't still do your part to help the environment.  Try using reusable water bottles, and fill them in the water fountains.  School water fountains are filtered, so the water your getting is better then out of the tap.  Decent reusable water bottles can be picke dup from everywhere from dollartree (for a dollar!) to walmart (for up to $7.00).  If you do the cheap route, you'll spend a dollar for a bottle you can use over and over and over again.  Think about how often you buy a drink while out on campus?  Now think about how much you spend doing it... that's how much you'll save.
Also, I suggest a window planter.  There are many plants you can grow (LEGAL ONES) right in your dorm with a 3 dollar window planter.  While i understand you don't really have room for a garden, growing some basic vegetables can help offset your food budget, especially if you like herbs and spices like basil, parsley, thyme, sage, oregano. a three dollar planter will allow you to grow all 5 of these, and use fresh in your food, as opposed to paying  four dollars a bottle for the spices at your local grocer.

Try to find “Energy Star”-logo TVs, DVD players, computers and microwaves because they use 10 to 50 percent less energy.  This energy consumption may not benefit you right now, but most of the appliances you get now, you'll take with you to your new apartment when you graduate.  The savings will pay off for you then.  There are few options for energy star micro refridgerators, but look around and be sure to check energy consumption rates.  get the one that meets your needs but doesn't use the most power.

remember that some item use a "phantom load"... computers, gaming systems, stereos, TVs, cell phones, cameras and iPod chargers that draw electricity even when turned off. Unplug them when not in use, or plug them all into a power strip and turn off the strip when not using them. Flipping that switch off is probably the most important energy-saving measure you can take.
If your responsible for light bulbs, just see my post from the other day.  Trust me, you'll thank me, and so will the person in the dorm room after you graduate.
If your like me, you love your car, but a bike comes in handy around campus and for town use. (Some colleges lend bikes out, just like books).  if you scour sites like craigslist, you can pick up a 7 or 10 speed cruiser for around 25 dollars and it will last you all your collegiate days.  And think, when your broke, and don't have the money for gas, your not stranded.  If your traveling on a road trip (as most college persons do) get a group and carpool, splitting the cost for gas, and pack a lunch if you can.

Look for sheets, rugs and curtains produced without toxic chemicals and made of organic materials. Hemp and bamboo fiber are becoming more popular. And many of the companies using organic fibers recycle and use fair labor practices.  Walmart's entire back to school line is made with recycled materials, so while it may not be overly professional, it does have personality and it  is earth friendly.

If your more proactive, I suggest going to the student council about starting a student community garden, even if its just for your dorm building, and campaign to get people involved.  Many colleges and universities are going green, if yours isn't, or your unsure, put together an info packet, and organize a green student committee.  Show the school board in a professional manner the benefits of a green campus, and a plan for implementation that allows for cost effective and gradual changes.   Get teachers involved.  Approach science teachers with proposals to teach green technologies in their lesson plans, and push the agenda for an interactive green learning area (a garden, solar panel array, wind turbine, etc) and have students build it to learn engineering, electrical planning, social science, environmental science, and green systems management.  It's also a good cultural history or anthropology teaching tool.

Monday, August 30, 2010

So what else can you offset by going green?

I've gotten a pretty good response from my last post, so I figured We'd discuss some other areas where going green can benefit you.  Since we're on the subject of budgeting, lets talk about your water bill.  If your like most Americans, you live in a town or city where water is controlled and billed along with your sewer usage.  Lets try to offset that shall we?
Today we're going to talk about gray water, and water reclamation.  Gray water is water used for basic use (non drinking) such as washing dishes, getting a shower, watering the lawn, washing the car, etc.  Water reclamation is reclaiming waste water, either rainwater or gray water, and recycling it for further use.

The easiest method of cutting down on water expenses is to place a  rain barrel under your gutter downspouts.  A rain barrel is a 50 gallon black or blue food grade barrel, usually found relatively cheap (less then $20.00 on craigslist). these barrels will collect the water run off from your roof, and store it for later use.  A simple faucet tap attached to the side of the barrel at the bottom  allows you to use this water later for watering your lawn, washing your car, watering your garden, etc.  while this may not be a huge offset, every penny counts, and considering they charge you by the gallon, (on average $0.19 a gallon is the national average) it can add up.  Let's look at it this way, 5 gallons is almost a dollar, that means a 50 gallon barrel is about 10 bucks in water.  The average household uses almost 1000 gallons of water a month washing their car, watering their lawn, and doing laundry.  With the addition of a $5.00 filter if your laundry is in the basement like mine, this water can offset all of these functions, saving you almost $200.00 a month not only does it save you money, but if you live in drought prone areas, when everyone else had a dieing lawn and a dirty car, yours is still vibrant and fresh.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

So What Is Going Green All About?

The major issues with today's populace is one of mis-information.  So many people believe that it costs a bundle to go green, and it pays itself off over 20 years.  While it is true that it does hold a long term value and payoff, it doesnt have to cost you an arm and a leg up front.  Let's take a look at some lagistics...

The Average home in the United States is about 1500 to 2000 square feet in size, generally with 3 or 4 bedrooms and 1 or 2 bathrooms.  These homes will consume an average of 1200-2000kWh (kilo watt hours) in a months time.  Check your electric bill for your particular houses usage.  Now while these numbers aren't to bad, if your like most people I've talked to, that puts your electric bill at around $200 a month... so that's $200 a month you are putting into someone else's pocket instead of taking the family out to dinner, or saving for that new car, or a vacation.
Green living seeks to do two things; The first is to decrease your dependency on corporations who use factory's that pollute to produce your electricity, therefore decreasing the amount of pollution your responsible for, and the second is to help you save more money, so you can work less, and enjoy life more.

I know what your asking yourself, "Ive already cut corners, how can I save even more?" Well I take it that means your like I used to be... You turned down the thermostat in the house to save on heat, you turn off the A/C and open windows with fans on nice days, you carpool whenever possible, etc. Did you ever stop to consider replacing things?
Let's take a look at the simplest energy expense, "light."  A standard 75w Incandescent bulb will run you about $0.80 and needs to be changed every 2 months.  That's 6 light bulbs over the course of the year for that one socket.  That's $4.80 just to keep a light bulb that works in the socket, not to mention the electricity it uses.  All in all that one little socket will cost you about $14.00 of the course of a year, with standard incandescent bulbs.
If you were to switch to a compact florescent bulb with a 75w comparable output, it may cost you $2.00 at most (I get mine at wal-mart for $0.92).  While this is initially higher in price (only slightly) it will last you for 3-5 years without needing to be changed, and will only use about 20w of actual power.
Heres the recap... Not counting electricity usage, over a 5 year span, a 75w incandescent will cost you $23.00 just to keep a working bulb, and a compact will cost you no more then $2.00...  If you have 10 light sockets in your house, 5 years worth of standard light bulbs will run you $230.00 where compact florescent will run you $20.00.  To me, its a no brainer.
Then you add in that over the span of its 5 year lifetime, you will use just over 1/4 of the power to light your home as you would with standard light bulbs, and the savings really pile up.  The average statistic is that 20% of your electric bill is from lights.  so if you pay $200 a month, that's $40 a month, or $480 a year on lighting your home. Now if you only have to pay one 4th of that amount, its $10 a month or $120 a year.  so in electric bill costs, your saving $360 a year! times that by the 5 year lifespan, and by the time you need to replace those 10 bulbs, you'll have saved $1800.00 on your bill and $210.00 on bulbs... bring your grand total to $2010.00!!!  That's the kind of saving that will let you take those kids on a Disney cruise!

How to Go Green and Save A Penny

So times are tough all over, and you may or may not have a job, but one way or another you have expenses.  That's where "going green" comes in.  In this blog we will share tips on how to cut your expenses significantly with a minimal expense that even the most meager budget can get by with.
For the DIY'ers out there (the kind that will really put this blog to work) Not only will we be discussing these tips, we'll also be showing you how to do some of these things yourself, so that the cost gets even cheaper.  Thanks for tuning in and following this blog, as we all know that without an audience, the reason to post goes away, so if your as interested as I am about cutting your expenses, and adding some green to your wallet while adding some green to the planet, then you've come to the right place.

Live well.