The Cheapskates Guide to a Green and Healthy Home

As a society we have all become too comfortable with the ‘throw it away’ mentality. It seems that we consider everything as disposable and take the first opportunity to replace it without considering the implications of where the item goes, if it is repairable – or how long it takes to decompose wherever it ends up. We are using up the earth’s resources faster than is sustainable and we need to change our train of thought – and our habits – to continue to enjoy energy, water, air and healthy soil, because when they are gone, what are we left with?

We don’t seem to be able to get out of the feeling that the easy solution is the best solution; which always makes green practises appear to be hard work for low return. This could not be further from the truth.

Being earth friendly at home is usually the cheaper option with only a few exceptions – but play it right, and you’ll still save more money by being completely green at home and be healthier for it too. Let’s face it green practises aren’t rocket science, we’re not talking about ripping out and replacing your heating system or buying a new electric car, but changing your habits that you perform every day that make a difference and help save the planet. Teach your children young, and they will carry on the green habits so that they can save the planet too! The outcome of all this effort is that going green will SAVE you money and not just the environment or in other words – being cheap pays!

Here’s a few ideas for you to become the next generation of Cheapskate Eco-warriors:

Put a brick in it: If you have an old toilet, put a brick in the cistern. This decreases the amount of water it uses in each flush so you end up with a low-flow model without having to buy a whole new unit. Be sure to wrap the brick in a zipper style plastic bag to prevent any debris from clogging up the toilet.

Become your Dad: Ok, maybe not JUST like your Dad, but go round switching lights off in rooms that are not used, or even better – Get an energy audit! A professional cheapskate will come round and give you advice on where your energy habits are losing money, and the best way to save it.

Repurpose your old t-shirts: Old t-shirts are great for making into one thing … green paper towels! The average household uses over 3,000 sheets of paper towels a year which is a HUGE drain on your pocket, but also a huge strain on your local landfill. Cut your old t-shirts into squares and use them instead of paper towel to clean, swipe and mop up, then wash and reuse them. You can also put them into action as re-useable dusters and cleaning cloths. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can even layer the t-shirt cloths to make them super absorbent paper towel, or dish washing cloths.

Live Unplugged: Your appliances are constantly drawing energy from the grid when they are plugged in, even if they are not switched on. By unplugging your TV, DVD, washing machine and any other electronic devices when they are not in use you can save energy, which in the long run saves you money. If switching each one off at the wall is too much of a drag, put them on a power bar and unplug that – the one plug that rules them all!

Be a Water Miser: Using too much water is like… well, money down the drain – so think of it like that. Every time a taps turns on the meter is running and someone has to pay for it. Look for obvious ways to economise: plant drought resistant plants in the garden and think about getting rid of the lawn, install a low-flow showerhead, get everyone in the habit of not leaving the tap on to brush their teeth and fix anything that leaks water. You’ll be AMAZED how much you can save.

Wear a Jacket: Make sure your hot water tank is insulated and it is in good repair. If you need a new tank look into the ‘on demand’ systems that only heat the water you actually use. The outlay may seem a big expenditure, but the savings are real as you are not heating up a huge tank of water you don’t use 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Wear a Jacket Too: If you’re making your hot water tank wear a jacket, you need to wear one too! Turn down the thermostat in low use areas like hallways and kitchens, and lower it a degree or two in the rooms you do use and wear a sweater instead – just not the same one your hot water tank wears, that would look … stupid.

Go On Strike – Garbage Strike: If you really want to see how much you throw into a landfill, go on garbage strike. Do not put your garbage out for a whole month and see what you are adding to your municipal mountain of waste on a regular basis. If it soon looks dangerous and smells unappealing – it doesn’t magically go away when the garbage men take it, the waste is just transplanted to a new area of town gets put in a landfill to rot for the next two centuries – smell and all. Doing this will help you evaluate what you throw away and what you can dispose of more ethically.

De-Tox: Everyone has a toxic home anywhere they keep cleaning chemicals – whether they are for the house, or the people inside it. Take time to find out and use natural cleaning agents like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. Not only will it lesson your carbon footprint on the earth, it will work out cheaper too.

Treat Your Windows: Does your hair ruffle beautifully in the wind? Wonderful – if you’re out doors, but inside it’s not so attractive. Caulk your windows and fit insulated blinds if you have leaky gaps in your windows to keep out the draft, but also look at other sources of unwanted cold air getting in like vents and flues.

Get Solar!: No, I don’t mean rush out and install solar panels to the top of everything you own, but use passive solar energy to heat your home. Make sure any south facing windows are kept unblocked by heavy drapes or outside foliage, and use the sun rays to heat your home. By the same token, make sure the north facing windows are insulated with blinds or drapes.

Grow Your Own: Growing your own vegetables is a great way to save money and eat organic too! Not only that, it gives you a good aerobic workout so you don’t have to drive to the gym or turn on exercise equipment.

Know Your Watt! Have you fallen into the habit of mindlessly blow-drying your hair every morning or tossing a pair of jeans in the dryer to “fluff” them up? Your hair dryer uses 1,000 watts of energy, and the dryer uses about 4,000! That’s not to say you shouldn’t use your appliances, but knowing just how much energy they consume can help you be choosier about when to use them, and when you can make do without.

Stop wasting food: Be honest, how often do you end up tossing out food that has gone bad in your fridge or in the back of your pantry? Before a trip to the market, note what you have—and only buy what you need to make a meal of what you’ve already got.

Cultivate Compost: Composting food scraps and other organic materials diverts that waste from landfills, ultimately reducing the amount of methane and other gasses formed there. Can’t be bothered? It’s easier (and less messy) to start a compost pile than you might think, especially if you opt for vermiculture – they even boast no smell so you can compost from the comfort of your own kitchen.

All of these totally green, money saving ideas only take a little adjustment in your daily routine and a smattering of dedication. As you incorporate each idea, and encourage those in your household to do the same, you make the future a little brighter by saving the earth, and saving your money.

Like what we’re doing? Want to share your story or tell others? Do you have a green business in Calgary and want to get in front of a large local audience? Let’s build a green community together!