There I am having ice tea and dodging the heat wave at one of my branch offices, I mean, local coffee shops. I’m working hard… ruminating on how to live a more sustainable and, therefore, more affordable lifestyle at home.
In walks my old friend Tim Smith, who lives nearby. As Executive Director of Community Greenhouse Partners in Cleveland, he’s leading an effort to build an urban greenhouse that will create good jobs with benefits for people in the community, educate and train students in how to grow food, and provide a year-round source of fresh food for city residents.
If anyone’s “green,” Tim is. Can he give me some tips? You bet.
So if you want to increase your personal sustainability quotient as I do, here are four fairly simple steps I gleaned from our conversation that you can take to spare the earth and your checking account:
- Put in a composting bin. There’s a pretty broad selection of these composters available, ranging from roughly $70 to $400. Use the compost to feed your indoor plants or garden, and you can stop buying those $30 bags of 20 20 20 garden fertilizer. Combine it with recycling bins, and you can make a serious assault on zero waste.
- Change all of your light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs. Hot wired incandescent lights expend 90% of their energy creating heat. Doesn’t make Thomas Edison any less of a genius, but it does make compact fluorescent light (CFL) more attractive, since they are “wireless” and rely on a cooler chemical reaction to make light more efficiently. According to the US DOE, over a period of 4.1 years, at 5 cents per kWh, the price of electricity accounts for 37 percent of the life-cycle cost of a CFL, but for 78 percent of the life-cycle cost of an incandescent light. You save on housework, too, since incandescent bulbs need to be changed roughly 13 times more frequently.
- Plug every appliance into a power strip, and turn that power off when you’re not using it. Not to capitalize on the recent Twilight trend, but you may have vampires in your home. Electricity vampires. Even if it’s turned off, a plugged-in appliance or device still draws power, aka, phantom power. Instead of trying to unplug them every time they’re off, invest in a good surge protector that you can easily switch off. Remember, appliances alone account for 17% of annual household energy expenses.
- Use drying racks to dry your clothes instead of the electric dryer. If a typical home uses 360-1,400 kilowatt-hours per year just to operate the clothes dryer, there’s a laundry list of reasons to reduce that use. One way is to use clothes drying racks or hang your clothes up outside, weather permitting.
Now, in addition to implementing these steps, I’ll further ruminate on turning Tim into a microchip that could be implanted into everyone’s brain: Instant green conscience. I could earn some money and make the world a better place. And that, my friends, would be sustainable.