If there is one resounding theme for 2009, it is change. And a useful thing to change is bad habits to good ones: new habits for saving money and living greener.
1. Brown-bag it with a lunch from home. Not only does it save money, it is also likely to save calories and lead to healthier eating. Office vending machines and corner sandwich shops might be convenient and even appear low-cost, but that $3 to $6 spent daily adds up quickly. Brown-bagging does not have to be boring. … Mix it up. Reheat leftovers in reusable containers, make a wrap instead of a traditional sandwich or create a portable salad bar. Try to bring lunch from home at least three days per week.
2. Separate from your car. Try carpooling or, if feasible, use public transit. Weather permitting, bike or walk. Use an alternative option to commute at least one day per week. Gas prices have dropped, but vehicle exhaust still contributes to air pollution.
3. Wean yourself from caffeine. If that sounds too drastic, bring it from home in healthier versions than that high-fat, expensive grande mocha latte. And that chocolate doughnut … from the lips to the hips. Many coffee products are available for brewing at home, as are thermal containers that hold enough servings to last the workday. For those who prefer their caffeine carbonated, there are six- and 12-packs of 12-ounce cans (aluminum recycles most easily and keeps beverages cooler). For chocolate-lovers, treats are available in packages of bite-sized or 100-calorie servings.
4. Shop locally. Support local small businesses. Even if prices are a few pennies higher than at the big-box store, the extra cost is made up in customer service. Small retailers and service-providers give consumers more choices – and if we do not give them our business, they may have to close. That will mean fewer options and fewer local jobs.
5. Bank locally. Look for a bank that provides good customer service and meets all banking needs. Shop around and compare services, rates and fees. Locally owned and managed banks are more likely to be community-minded. For example, First Bank & Trust supports the community by sponsoring events, lending its facilities for business gatherings and holding paper-shredding days. The next paper-shredding day will be held Jan. 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at 820 Church St., in the bank’s adjacent parking lot.
6. Power down and unplug. This can mean anything from turning off the light when leaving a room to shutting off small appliances when they are not in use.
Changing a few habits can help lower the energy bill as well as help the environment. Put on a sweater and lower the thermostat; turn down the hot water temperature to 120°F. Unplug energy-zapping devices such as battery chargers, computers, DVD- and VCR-players and microwave ovens when not in use. For more energy-saving tips, visit energysavers.gov.
7. Reduce and reuse. Clear the clutter – from the basement, closet, or garage – and give away anything not used in the past six months. Good Will, Hadassah House, and The Salvation Army resale shops come to mind as destinations for those items. Another option is the Freecycle Network, a grassroots and entirely non-profit organization of people who give and get stuff for free in their own towns. It is all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each group is moderated by a local volunteer; membership is free. Get details and sign up at www.freecycle.org.
Try some or all of these suggestions – and economize while taking steps to live greener.
Contact Eco Gal at firstname.lastname@example.org.