Thursday, August 23, 2012

How the Environmental R's Will Save You Money

You all know that I am ALWAYS looking for ways to save money, and today I'd like to share some more of them with you.

On Tuesday night, I gave a presentation about worm composting.  To make things less boring, I included some fun worm facts:

  • There are over a million earthworms in just one acre of soil.  Together, these worms can eat 10 tons of leaves, stems, and dead roots a year, and turn over 40 tons of soil.
  • Earthworm castings contain 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphorus, 11 times more potassium, and 1000 times more beneficial bacterial than the material the earthworm initially ingested. (same source as fact above).  This is why you pay $15-25/pound for worm castings for your garden - this is natural fertilizer for your plants on steroids!
So now I'd like to add the third fact I used.  Our town is a smaller town.  We have just over 30,000 residents, living in just over 10,000 homes.  If every household in our town put only 1 pound of food waste either into a worm composting bin or a regular compost bin/pile every week instead of our trash, we'd keep over half-a-million pounds of trash out of the landfill.  The exact number: 528,008.  But who's counting, right?!

That big number got me wondering some more, and I did some more looking.  Did you know that a garbage truck holds about 22,000 pounds of trash?  That's a lot of trash!  I crunched the numbers again.  This means that if we did the 1-pound thing, we'd keep 24 trucks a year off the road a year.

And this is where these numbers start to really make some financial sense.  Those 24 trucks use 8,600 gallons of fuel (total) a year.  Do you know who pays for that fuel?  Not the company.  They pass operating costs (which include fuel) onto you.  Your monthly fee, which is negotiated either by you directly or through your municipality, includes the costs of fuel.  And labor.  And the space to take all that trash.  Less trash means that eventually you or your local municipality can negotiate a lower fee.

Guess what?  Those same garbage trucks are not hover crafts.  At least not yet.  They put wear and tear on our roads, just like the cars in your neighborhood, only greater because they are so much bigger.  Think of it this way, an average sedan weighs about 3,000 pounds.  A garbage truck driving down the road is like 7 cars driving on your street.  At once.  All on top of each other.  Over time, this wear and tear on your street causes little things like pot holes.  Who do you think pays for those pot holes?  You do - either through your property taxes or local sales taxes or in some places both.

Wow - that one little pound of potato peels is starting to look pretty big, huh?!

So now imagine if we all did 2 pounds.  Or we were a larger city.  Or our whole state.  What if it was all of the above.

Now, being the compassionate person that I am, I wondered about the jobs of all those folks who work at the waste companies.  My BIL worked for one of our local waste haulers for many, many years.  I don't want to see ANYONE lose their jobs.  These companies are smart.  They will apply the simple "supply and demand" principles to their operations, and move folks from one area to another.  Don't believe me?  Look at the City of San Francisco.  Residents have a set of 3 garbage cans - one for trash, one for recyclables, and one for compostables.  They demanded it, and the company is now supplying it.  And making money.  And employing people.

And that's just your trash...

What about switching to LED light bulbs?  They use so much less electricity, and they don't contain mercury like CFL's.  Yes, they will cost a little more up front, but to ease the cost, you can switch out the ones in the areas in your home that you use light the most.  Even one bulb can help.  What about getting a rain barrel to help conserve water?  What about mulching your grass into your lawn to fertilize it and lower watering needs?  What about composting your yard waste instead of paying for bags?

Maybe you have a little more room in your budget for a bigger investment.  You don't have to fork out for a whole solar array on your roof to save money. What about a solar tube skylight?  We put one in our mudroom, took the tax break, and hardly ever turn the light on in there.  Ever.  We've even talked about saving up and putting one in the bathroom.

What about setting your thermostat up a few degrees in the summer or lower in the winter?  We keep our thermostat set on 81 in the summer and use our ceiling fan.  When it gets too hot in the main area of the house, we all migrate to other areas that are cooler.  We turn off the computer and TV and XBox.  I cook in our little convection oven or crock pot on our front porch to keep from heating up the house.  Or we grill out or eat out.  On many warm days like the last few we've had, we skip the air all together, and just open the windows.  In the winter, we keep the heat set at 71 degrees.  Cold?  Put on a hat.  Put on socks and/or slippers.  Put on another layer.  And trust me, I'm the queen of layers!  On the coldest days, I try to do my baking, and let the oven help keep the house warm.  I also try to make more warm, filling dishes to keep us warm from the inside out.

So we did a little RETHINK today.  Hopefully you had a cup of coffee before we started!  I've just had this information weighing on my heart so much lately, and felt really compelled to share it.  If I find a way to pinch some pennies, I want to help you save some pennies, too.  And if we can do it in ways to help our environment, so much the better!

Have a great day!

No comments: