Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When PINK goes Green

I don't usually post twice in a day (sometimes it's hard to do it once a week!), but thought this was worth mentioning.

Mattel is having a Barbie event at Walmart on November 8th that is cheap and green. (Sidenote: I don't like Wal-mart for a number of reasons, and don't shop I'm not promoting them, but just sharing some info, here.)

Mattel is asking kids to bring in their old Barbies and for every Barbie collected, a new one will be given to a children's hospital. Nice, huh? But there's more...why do they want those old Barbies anyway? Mattel wants them to use them to explore recycling options! I thought that was very cool...I've wondered how many Barbies are in landfills. Barbie pink is going green!

So how is this cheap? Little girls can dress up in Barbie clothes and get their pictures taken with Barbie (ie real life person dressed as Barbie) and get a free 4x6 print. A fun day that involves charity, environmental issues and you get fun stuff too.

Keeping it cheap and Green: Kitchen Edition

There are LOTS of things you can do in your kitchen that are green, but also cheap (which we're all looking for in this economy). Let's get right to it:

1) Unplug all small appliances not in use. They are phantom energy users. I unplug my toaster and coffee maker unless I am using them.

2) Install sink faucet aerators on your sink to save on water usage.

3) Run your dishes on the "light" setting (as opposed to heavy duty) and let them air dry instead of heat dry.

4) Cook using your microwave or a crockpot. Both use much less energy than your stove...and the bonus is the crockpot adds some heat to the house in the winter.

5) Keep small recycling bins in your kitchen. We have one for paper, one for plastics/glass and a small compost container. Our large containers are in the garage. When we use the small containers and wait for them to be full before taking them to the garage, we'll be saving heat from opening the door once instead of multiple times.

6) Use homemade, cheap and green kitchen cleaners...some great "recipes" can be found here. You can make your own healthy, green cleaners for pennies.

7) Use stainless steel cookware. Teflon pans are easier, but if the teflon gets scratched or there is a break in the treflon surface, those chemicals are released into your food. Stainless steel is more expensive, but a better buy in the long run instead of replacing the cheap teflon pans that'll end up in a landfill.

8) Switch to an extra absorbent kitchen towel. I have two from Trader Joe's. Great for wiping up small spills, washable and reusable. They've saved me a ton of money by using them instead of paper towels, not to mention eliminating the waste. And speaking of paper towels, we use a regular kitchen towel that hangs on the oven to dry hands after washing- not paper towels.

9) If you can afford the investment, get a small, energy star freezer. This is great for leftovers, cooking ahead and freezing and stocking up good deals from the grocery store.

And the groceries...well, that's another post altogether!

What other kinds of things do you do in your kitchen that are cheap and green?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Green Mom Finds

Just a little break in the "Keeping Your House Green without Spending Much" series to let you know that you'll be able to find some of my posts at Green Mom Finds. Yay!

Green Mom Finds

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Keeping Your House Green Without Spending Much: Bedroom Edition

So now we're moving on to the bedroom. If you are like me, you do more in your room than just sleep. I watch tv, read bedtime stories to my son, read my own stuff, grade school papers, work on powerpoints, etc. There are plenty of ways to be cheap and green in this room.

1) The tv. If you have a tv and/or vcr in this room, it's a good idea to plug them into a surge protector instead of straight into the wall. That way, when not being used, you can turn the surge protector switch off and avoid the "phantom power" drain.

2) Use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. These light bulbs are much lower in greenhouse gases emitted than the standard incandescent bulbs and last about 50,000 hours. Good for the environment and your wallet. Worried about the mercury content? Home Depot is offering a recycling program for the bulbs that will keep the mercury out of landfills and water sources. In addition, there is much more mercury in your thermometer (500 mg) than the average cfl bulb (5mg).

3) Bundle up! I keep a lot of blankets on the bed because we turn the heat down at night. Just plain common sense.

4) Keep those drapes open if the sun shines bedroom gets very warm, just from the sunlight. In the summer, I do the opposite- close the drapes when the sun beams in so that the room stays cooler.

5) Do your computing on a laptop. I use my laptop to finish work upstairs at night...laptops use less energy than desktops.

6) Be a morning person. There's nothing like waking up early and taking advantage of natural daylight instead of staying up late and using electricity to light up the room. :)

Do you have any tips for saving energy and money in the bedroom?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Keeping Your House Green Without Spending Much: Bathroom Edition

Wow, the economy is on everyone's mind these days. I know there are people out there who were previously trying to live green, but now are just trying to get by...but it is still possible to keep your house green without breaking the bank.

I thought I'd do a little overview of the rooms in my house and how we try to be green in each of them while still being frugal. Sure, I'd love to install solar panels and low flow toilets, but that's not in the budget now. Over the next couple of blogs, I'll let you know my little tricks around the house that helps my family stay green and cheap. Let's start with the bathrooms.

1) Save money while conserving water
-take a 5 minute shower (I use a kitchen timer)

-use a low flow shower head. I have one that has the long cord and puts out only 1.5 gallons per minute. I got it from Let's Go Green. They have a variety of shower heads that range from $8-$23. I also have (from the same company) sink faucet aerators on my bathroom and kitchen sinks. They are 1.5 gallon per minute as well.

-use less water to flush with. I'd love to have those fancy low flow toilets that have 2 flush levels! What we do instead is to fill up a gallon milk jug with some pebbles (just enough to prevent floating) and put it in the toilet tank. It takes up 1 gallon of space that was previously 1 gallon saved with every flush.

-and the good old "turn the water off while you brush" technique

2) Reduce waste in the bathroom
- use a rechargeable razor rather than disposables. Sure, it costs a little more at first but the rechargeable razor will cost less than many disposables in the long run.

- use bar soap instead of liquid in plastic pumps. Bar soap lasts SO much longer and doesn't produce the plastic bottle waste. I do keep one ceramic bottle filled with liquid soap for when guests come (some people feel weird about using someone else's bar soap), but for everyday use, we love the bars.

-reuse one of those old pumps for shampoo. My husband is a shampoo glutton. He could easily finish off a whole bottle in a week. So I reused a pump bottle and put his shampoo in it. Two pumps of shampoo is plenty and makes the bottle of shampoo last a lot longer...meaning it saves you money and reduces the number of shampoo bottles you need to recycle. Ideally, a bar shampoo would be great...I'm still looking for one that is natural and works well on my hair.

-make sure kids in the house use a proper amount of toilet paper. I know some kids that practically use half a roll! In addition, find a brand that is made of recycled paper. Marcal is one brand that is economical.

3) Try to use environmentally friendly and healthy products. Many "everyday" products are not as green or healthy as we'd assume they'd be. Check out the Skin Deep Cosmetics database to find out how your current brands rank. I've found I really like the Kiss My Face products. Green? Yes. Cheap...well not always. The way I afford it is to keep an eye out for these products on sale or clearance and then stock up. I found Kiss My face deodorant for half price at Target and bought four. There's a Surplus Outlet near my sister's in Pennsylvania that always has green products for SUPER cheap prices.

4) Use environmentally friendly (and inexpensive) cleaning products and methods. More on that in the cleaning edition :)

Do you have any bathroom cheap and green tips? Leave a comment!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cheap and Green Christmas Gifts for Kids

I love Christmas. I love the smells of it, I love the celebrations and I love how most people seem a little nicer. I especially love the excitement of kids at this time of year. While some of their excitement revolves around getting gifts, I think kids are also excited about all the rituals surrounding the holidays...leaving cookies out for Santa, decorating the tree and visiting relatives.

I am a real believer in having experiences over having things (one day I'll write about the epic vintage Barbie collection I had). I hope to pass this on to my son and I think Christmas can be a great time to teach that lesson. We talked about how many times, fun doesn't revolve around physical objects, but instead is about doing things. Then we talked about some fun times we had and things he'd like to do. I told him for Christmas this year, he could think of 3 activities he'd like to do, and they would be gifts from me.

So far, he's thought of one- going to the aquarium. That's great because they have lots of activities there that deal with the environment AND it's cheap...and from September through March, it's $8 after 5pm on Fridays.

So this year, some of his gifts will be things we'll do, and some will still be toys, but hopefully our activity gifts will be more memorable than a Transformer in years to come.

Christmas is coming...

I know some of you groaned when you read that title, but now really is a good time to begin planning Christmas gifts if you are making them. I see a lot of little crafty gifts people make, but honestly, many of those just end up adding to the clutter (I REALLY don't need homemade potpourri, pinecone ornaments, etc. etc.).

The kind of homemade presents I like are practical and usable/consumable. This Christmas, my sister and I are making each other gifts. Like me, she is a practical person and hates clutter. She asked me to make her flannel reusable baby wipes (I sew, she doesn't) and soap dishes (one of the classes I teach is ceramics). Not only does she get things she needs, I like making them because I like to sew and work with clay.

In return, my family is getting one of her fabulous apple pies! I don't cook/bake very well, but she does. It may not seem very Christmas-y to some, but we're thrilled! We get exactly what we want without spending a lot of money. We also are avoiding all the packaging trash that comes with store bought least for each other. I do have a 7 year old and we're going to run into some Christmas trash there. But the way I look at it (I have mentioned this before), it's NOT all an or nothing thing when it comes to living greener. So we may have some toy packaging trash, we're reducing that by giving some homemade presents.

I'll post later more ideas (for kids too) that are cheap and don't produce all the packaging trash. Meanwhile, what ideas do you all have?