Simple choice: disposable or reusable?

solo br cupsOkay my friends… it’s as simple as this.  We had a choice.

Many people were going to visit our house.  The keg was calling out for a party.  Do you buy disposable cups or reusables? Quick! Make your choice.

It sounds crazy, I know, but I found myself facing this ridiculous question.  What… do… you … do?

I went to the dollar store. I bought cups. I bought reusable cups. I walked away from the disposables… and guess what?  We were just fine.  Everyone followed the rules.  They used the cups. They deposited them back into the kitchen.  They found their way into a (full) dishwasher. They were washed. They were stored for the next gathering. We threw NOTHING away. We won’t need to spend more money next time either. The next time, “we already have cups”.

Success. Yes. No trash. That’s all you need to do.  Wise choices, my friends.  Wise choices.

Simple tip: The greenest way to wash your car

car wsh kdzLike many parts of the country, my “neck of the woods” has been serving up some pretty rainy weather.  Doing much outside has been an anomaly, unless you’re a duck or enjoy ankle-deep mud. (Me?  Not a duck.  Don’t like mud.)

Add to that the street construction around my neighbor and, as a result, my car is filthy… constantly.  My kids happen to love helping to wash the car but not when it’s 45 degrees and raining.  Despite it all, I still need to get the road gunk off the car!

Have you ever wondered about the greenest way to wash your car? Well, much to my kids’ dismay, a commercial car wash is actually the greenest choice.

Commercial car washes use about 60% less water than do-it-yourself methods.  (And for my family, when you car wshadd all of the additional time spraying each other with the hose… well, that percentage is probably higher!) They’re also required to treat and filter the water before they release it into the environment… another big bonus.  And, if you wash at home (and don’t use eco-friendly cleaners) it just ends up going directly into the environment.

Next time your car is in need of a good washin’, don’t sweat it.  Drive through a commercial car wash and recognize that you’re NOT being lazy… you’re getting your car squeaky clean and keeping it squeaky “green”!

Simple tip: Whiten your smile with baking soda

smlLately I’ve been on a coffee kick.  (Nothing jump-starts me like a nice {BIG} cup of organic java!)  But coffee can certainly dull the whiteness of our teeth in no time.

I’m not inclined to run out and buy whitening strips or invest in expensive treatments at my dentist.  And there has certainly been plenty of debate over the safety and side effects of using some of the solutions on the market.  I’ll admit that about 10 years ago I tried some whitening strips at home and they made my teeth so sensitive I tossed them in the trash.

bking sda

Enter: baking soda

Besides all of its cleaning, deodorizing and health purposes, baking soda is a great, safe alternative to whiten your teeth.

A few times a week, put your toothpaste on the brush, dip the toothpaste in baking soda and brush away.  This is a great remedy to help gently remove stains, freshen breath, dissolve plaque, and prevent decay… and then, as crazy as it sounds, you can use some baking soda to polish your chrome bathroom faucets while you’re there!

Now, it’s time to get back to that cup of organic coffee (followed up by some baking soda brushing!).

Simple tips for cutting your electric bill (and emissions!)

(This article originally ran on Money Minded Moms, Suze Orman’s online community, where I’m a featured writer.  I wanted to  post it here also since the underlying theme of my articles are not only money-oriented but always address issues that relate to the environment.  We know that the environment gets the brunt of the greenhouse gas emissions created by excessive energy usage, so I hope you can take these tips to not only save money but also do something good for our planet while you’re at it!)…

powerstrip 2Have you ever received an electric bill that caused you to gasp? Or does your bill seem extraordinarily high every month? You might find yourself wondering what you did to create such an expense.

The problem may not be what you’re doing, but what you aren’t doing.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 20-25% of the energy used in our home is actually consumed by electronics in stand-by mode or even “turned off”. They still consume energy as long as they’re plugged into an outlet. They also estimate that this collectively costs us $7 billion per year.

Here are a few simple tips to cut those costs:

  • Use power strips – plug-in computers, printers, scanners, monitors, TVs, DVD players, TiVos/DVRs and game systems. (Up to 75% of the energy they pull is actually consumed when they aren’t being used!) With the flip of one power strip switchcphone chrgr you can nearly eliminate this “phantom” power. To cut consumption completely, unplug the power strip once you’ve flipped the switch.
  • Keep it unplugged – this includes microwaves, radios, clocks, lamps, etc. that you don’t often use. Consider even unplugging your washer and dryer. When you need them, just plug them back in.
  • Computers – your monitor consumes substantially more energy than your hard drive. Instead of letting it sit idle while you temporarily move on to another task, turn off your monitor or put it in rest mode.
  • The little things – constantly leaving your cellphone charger and infrequently used appliances plugged laptp compinto an outlet consumes energy, even when they’re not in use.

Survey your home. Use power strips or simply pull the plug from the outlet to reduce excessive energy usage. By not doing this, you could be allowing your electric bill to skyrocket (and remember, the environment pays the price right along with you!).

Simple tip: Keep your refrigerator from working overtime

frig dollrRefrigerators happen to be a home appliance that MUST consume energy at all times.  In fact, they contribute an average of 8-10% to our monthly energy bill, and that is unavoidable.

I’ve shared my simple “1-2-3” tips for ways to make your refrigerator as efficient as possible, but sometimes the energy loss has nothing to do what you’re doing… it can have a lot to do with what your refrigerator isn’t doing:  holding the cold!

Poorly sealing door gaskets may be the problem and (just like my recent tip to check water waste from your toilets) there is a simple way to find out if your fridge is failing you!:

  • Close a dollar bill (half-in/half-out) between the door gaskets. The bill should be difficult to remove.  If it slips out easily, your door isn’t sealing properly and you’re likely losing cold air… the gasket may need to be replaced.  Do this test for your freezer too.

I seem to be on a home maintenance kick, but my husband wouldn’t be surprise… he’s quite “un-handy” and dubbed me Mrs. MacGyver (while he’s more like MacGruber)!

Anyhow!… give the test a try. If your refrigerator keeps running and running… well, you better go catch it!