Rather than spending money, being green should be about developing the right state of mind.
So much of all the current attention to going green and saving the planet from environmental disaster is nothing more than slick marketing to get consumers to spend money. But in these hard economic times for most people, with punishing food and gas prices, going green should be seen as applying a green consciousness and savvy consumerism to everyday actions.
Take the replacement of ordinary incandescent light bulbs with the energy-saving fluorescent bulbs. It is correct that they save a large amount of electricity that helps curb pollution from power plants and also saves money for consumers. All too often, however, stores charge high prices of several dollars for each of the new devices. In reality that means a very long payoff period before consumers see a net economic benefit. However, I have purchased a large number of the energy-efficient bulbs for about one dollar each. How? By paying attention to very good sales offers. And that is what everyone should do when it comes to reacting to marketing for green products. Think carefully about the price and how whether there is a more profitable way to go green.
And most importantly it is even more effective to routinely curb your electricity use. Get in the habit of turning lights off unless you really, really need them on. Leave the room, hit the switch. Instead of using the oven to defrost and heat food, consider using a microwave oven for a much shorter period. Turn computers off if you are not going to use them for awhile. The more you pay attention to energy use, the more smart opportunities you will find to become greener.
As another example, are a host of green products for lawn and garden applications. So often, I was tempted to buy a non-chemical variation for a particular job. But I learned that the real choice was not using any such product. Because no matter how green the product may appear we must always remember that its manufacture, packaging and ultimate disposal incur environmental costs. I would rather not buy any product to kill bugs or to fertilize my lawn. That is being green in a smarter way.
And now we have so much attention to cars with better gas mileage. Yet for nearly all people it makes little financial sense to buy a new car for this reason, especially one of the hybrids. What is smarter? Cut down on your driving, and recognize your automobile addiction and forcefully attack it. Every time I use my car I try to make three to five stops for errands and shopping so that I only have to use the car once a week for such things.
When it comes to heating and cooling homes there are remarkable opportunities to be smarter energy-wise. In the heating season nearly all of us could greatly cut down on energy use simply by wearing a sweater and putting on an extra blanket at night. In hot weather, try using small fans in rooms where you are spending a lot of time. Installing relatively low cost ceiling fans in bedrooms, in particular, can easily allow you to comfortably set your thermostat at a higher temperature. It is a wise, green investment.
Of course recycling of household waste and trash is green behavior. The trick is to be very conscientious about it and make use of all the options provided by your local government. By focusing on separating plastics, glass and metal for one container and paper for another, the amount of trash going to the landfill is now only about 10 percent of my household trash. With high petroleum prices, recycling plastics is more important than ever before.
Reducing household water use is also something that costs nothing and actually reduces your water utility bill. Just by paying routine attention to water use it is possible to cut it by 20 to 40 percent. In my backyard I purposefully have several leftover plastic containers that collect rainwater, which I then use to water shrubs and flowers around the deck. In dishwashers and clothes washing machines there are often settings that can minimize water and, especially, hot water use. And do you really need to flush the toilet every time after peeing in it? Not really. And just get in the habit of never leaving the water run in the bathroom and kitchen sinks while you are doing something other than using the water.
Yes, each of us needs to help save our environment. But we also need to avoid spending money unnecessarily and succumbing to all kinds of deceptive marketing pitches. Every action we take and every spending decision we make has an environmental dimension, either positive or negative. Our goal must be to take the time to gather the information and use it intelligently to make the right environmental and economic decisions for ourselves and for our world. Go to any public library and you will find countless books with mountains of data and recommendations for going green. If you can walk to one or take public transit, even better.