With 2011 coming up on us, many of us may be making resolutions to lead a greener life. While the easiest things to do include recycling, using reusable bags at the grocery checkout and, of course, turning off household appliances when you are not around, there are some other great DIY solutions that will not only help save the environment, but save you money as well.
Insulate your homes better: For those that live in their own homes, heating bills can be atrocious come winter time. Whether you’re being heated by oil, wood, or electricity, the toll it takes on your pocket as well as on the environment can be high. Having proper insulation is the key to savings. Standard insulation might be expensive nowadays, but there is a way to make insulation at home with used cardboard or old newspapers, some borax, aluminum sulfate and a farm-type hammermill to grind everything altogether.
Make sure that the newspaper or cardboard is bone dry, as any moisture will create compost instead of insulation and that the area where you are insulating will also remain completely dry.
Great for insulating attics, hoists, and walls (though insulating the walls can be a bit trickier).
For those that live in apartment buildings, creating and installing your own insulation might not be feasible. Instead, place some foam insulation around the crevices in your window or even get some heavy-duty curtains to maintain heat inside your rooms.
Start growing your own plants and vegetables: While you probably won’t grow enough food to be completely sustainable, even having a little herb garden or growing some tomatoes, green beans and peppers could help reduce your carbon impact, since the transport time for those vegetables to get to the table is zero.
Growing at home also gives you control over the types of plant, fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides (if any) are used.
On top of that, planting flowers, vegetables and herbs will help diversify your local ecology and bring in all different types of nature from bees to hummingbirds.
For those that have limited space, shopping locally as often as possible can help dramatically bring down your carbon footprint.
Do some grey water recycling: Every day, a person uses an average of 123 gallons of water, 50-80 percent of which is grey water. With nearly 6 billion people on the planet, it’s no wonder that the amount of potable water is decreasing each year.
Grey water, simply put, is water that contains limited pollutants and comes from showers, laundry and kitchen sinks. These waters generally make their way out to rivers or streams, which can have adverse effects on the ecology of these small bodies of water.
For those that have started or already have a small garden, grey water can be recycled to water your plants. Instead of allowing water from the kitchen sink or water from a shower to go down a drain, use a collection basin for the water and then water your plants. While the nitrates and phosphates might not be good for streams, these ingredients are great for growing plants and are readily available in most conventional fertilizers. Kitchen sink water might be even better, considering leftover scraps from dinners can turn into rich compost for your hungry plants.
It is very important to use biodegradable soaps, shampoos, etc. as well if you want to recycle your grey water to keep from potentially contaminating ground water.
If you have a home, you can buy your own grey water recycling kit that filters out grey water from your standard septic tank and then incorporates the recycled water into standard irrigation. While this comes at a hefty price tag of around $600-800, it will inevitably save you on water bills and also help reuse water that would otherwise find its way to a sewer.
Buy used or recycled clothing: People like to look good and wear new clothes, but with our throw-away consumerism, the clothes that were in then are in the trash now. One single male polo shirt accounts for about 27 pounds of carbon emission, requires 33 KW of energy to produce and generally travels 14,000 miles during distribution.
Suffice to say, people have more than one polo shirt in their closet. This all comes down to consuming less and again, reusing and recycling. You can donate any clothes that are still in good condition to goodwill stores or patch them up like your grandmother used to do.
For those that are more talented with the needle, you can recycle old clothes together to create something completely new. Or if it’s too dirty, use the cloth to clean your apartment.
When making your New Year’s resolution this year, think a little bigger to ways you can reuse, reduce and recycle all in one.
Photo credit: Sushanskoltey's Blog