Eco-quandary: When is enough, enough?

I’ve been working hard on our eco baby steps around here. I got several gasps of alarm at the no-TP move, but that’s really a drop in the bucket (or toilet) in terms of waste. I realized this especially on Sunday afternoon, when I was madly re-organizing the basement.

I wound up throwing out two 13-gallon bags full of things like Styrofoam — and to boot had two bags of trash this week instead of one, totaling 7.4 lbs.

I’ve been weighing our garbage a la the 90% Reduce program, and the last couple weeks we had about 4.5 lbs. of garbage for the week. But we also hand over a three-quarters full recycle bin every other week. Last week we had a big bundle of branches left over from trimming our tree in the spring (although many of the branches have been re-purposed into garden fences, trellises, tools and playthings for Little Cheap).

It’s all discouraging. Yes, I could possibly recycle Styrofoam by driving 35 miles away to a recycling center that will accept it. But I have only so much time in my life. I just can’t do it right now. I’ve been trying to save water, but in doing one project I turned on the hot water flow to my laundry sink — and now it’s dripping constantly, so I’m collecting that water for flushing while I look for the time to call the plumber to come fix the leak because I don’t have the time to figure out how to do it myself.

Therefore, in an effort to cheer myself (and those of you who might find yourselves in the paragraphs above or the list below), here are the activities my family does to save the environment — and many of them save money, too. Perhaps one will give you a new idea — or if you want to hear more about any in particular, just ask.

Saves Money?
Hang laundry to dry Yes – $6/month
Do not accept plastic bags Yes – bag credits – $1/month
Mr. Cheap takes the bus to school Yes – bus pass free with tuition; saves parking
and gas
Compost waste Yes – no buying purchased garden fertilizer
Recycle waste No
Turn off lights we’re not using Yes – $2/month if we save an hour a day with a
60-watt bulb
Turn off water while rinsing/brushing Yes – minute
Use high-efficiency washing machine Yes
Dishwasher – full loads, water saver, turn off
dry cycle
Yes – over regular dishwasher load
Use cloth handkerchiefs Yes – $1/month on tissues
Use cloth napkins Yes – $1/month on napkins/towels
Bring own water bottle Yes – $5/month on purchased drinks
Make own foods (less packaging) Yes – $5.81 in June
Buy bulk products & refill Sometimes
Wash and re-use plastic bags Yes
Grow our own vegetables Yes
Drive gently to get better mileage Yes – $10.93 in June
Use re-usable lunch bags Maybe
Use re-usable juice box container Yes
Bring re-usable coffee cup No
Use low-flow toilets and flush less Yes – $0.22 in June
Choose EnergyStar appliances Yes
Add low-flow showerhead and faucet aerators Yes – minute
Get books/movies at library instead of buying/renting Yes, lots
Use evaporative cooler, not A/C Yes
Use programmable thermostat to turn heat down
at night/when gone
Use bio-friendly soap No
Clean with baking soda & vinegar Probably
Bought recycled rubber rug pad instead of new No
Eliminated subscriptions (1 newspaper, 10 catalogs,
3 companies)
Yes – $3/month on the paper
Buy many items used Yes – $122 in June
Recycle, Freecycle, consign, donate instead of
trashing items
Yes – tax deduction for donations
Choose “cleaner” energy-using appliances Yes
Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs Yes – $1/month in our case
Use natural light instead of electric Yes – minute
Invest in “social” funds No
Use cloth toilet “paper” No
Use cloth pads Yes – $1.25/month
Buy organic and/or local foods No
Turn refrigerator temp from factory-set 38 degrees to 43 degrees Yes – minute
Unplug my officer copy machine Yes – minute
Attach TV/DVD to a power strip and turn them off Yes – minute
And the grand total saved per month: $160 in June

It’s a drop in the bucket, but at least it’s something. Onward and upward! Or maybe, in terms of consumption, that should be onward and downward.


One thought on “Eco-quandary: When is enough, enough?

  1. Oldnovice says:

    I think where to draw the line on our envirowhackiness is a personal decision and will be different for all of us. For myself, I’m a 20 minute drive (40 minutes round trip) from a farmer’s market that offers very little once/week. OTOH, I can walk with my cloth bags over my shoulders or pulling my granny cart to Kroger or Albertson’s. These stores employ folks in my community. If we don’t support the stores in our community, they’ll eventually close and we’ll need to drive out to the big box stores. Considering the tradeoffs is an important part in drawing the line, IMO.

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