This year, I wanted to do something a little different with the New Year's plan. I set the typical goals:
Put money in the savings account, fund the Bean's 529 plan. Pay down $3,600 on the student loan. Lose that 10 pounds of baby weight that is holding on to my belly for dear life.
But I wanted to do more. Something sufficiently green to try to get our day to day life more in line with our values. After some thought, we decided to generate a list of earth-friendly resolutions as well. Or rather, an earth-friendly plan.
1. Reduce our electricity usage by 10 to 20 percent by the end of the year.
The next electric bill we receive will set the benchmark we will use to gauge our progress. It lists our month-to-month usage for the past year.
Hubby and I both would like to put solar panels on our house, but frankly, our electric bill is enough to make your jaw drop. That's not particularly conducive to solar panels. The first thing the installer will tell you is "Conserve." It saves you money on your solar installation because you'll need a smaller system to cover your needs, and it's much cheaper and easier to save energy than it is to generate it.It'll also save us money on our bill, and considering our utility plans to raise rates 45 percent in the next three years, why not start now?
The question now becomes how do we reduce our usage? We have developed a short plan, that I am sure we will have to add to later.
- Insulate the garage door. We have an electric heat-pump furnace (a geothermal system, so it's the most eco-friendly you can get, but it still burns a lot of electrity.). It runs constantly in the winter, in part, because the garage chills our kitchen to the bone. We have only a hollow-core door standing between the kitchen and the freezing garage. Step one is to replace that door with a solid door, and step two is to insulate the garage. It should cost us about $200 to $300 to do this, and will increase our comfort in summer and winter.
- Replace three windows with Energy Star windows. Last winter, we replaced most of our single-pane aluminum windows with Energy Star replacement windows. But, being finance geeks, we only do what we can afford to pay cash for, and we couldn't afford to do all of them. We chose three windows that had the least impact on our energy bills, and decided to wait on those. This is the year to finally replace those three windows. We have put in the order, and it is going to cost us $1,644 to have those windows made and installed.
- Invest in a Kill-a-Watt and use it to find out what our biggest energy drains are, and address those.
- Tackle vampire electricity. The energy your appliances and electronics suck on when they are supposedly turned off is probably adding a huge sum to our energy bill. We have a lot of electronics, so the plan is to hook them all to power strips and shut the power strips off when we aren't using the electronics in question. This will probably seem like a hassle until we get in the groove.
- Replace our washer with an Energy Star, front-loading washing machine. When we bought this house, we were living out of a storage space and recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Our house didn't come with any appliances, so we had to buy all of the big-ticket items at once: fridge, washer, dryer, etc. I admit I probably didn't buy the most efficient on the market, because I had to keep an eye on the price tag. Now that we are settled, I want to replace our washer with a more efficient version (a la scratch and dent to save money).
- Add laundry lines to the basement and the backyard. Dryers eat up a lot of energy. They don't even have Energy Star dryers. Hubby loves to line dry. Me, not so much. I guess I hate having crunchy towels and underwear. Call me old fashioned.But I do recognize that dryer use adds up, and to encourage line-drying I need to make it easy and ample. As an added bonus, every time we line dry I will add 25 cents to the vacation fund.
- Switch from compact flourescent to LED lights. This may not be practical in every lamp and socket, but one by one I'd like to change out the bulbs that make sense. It may also be a slow project, as LED bulbs are very expensive. There comes a time when we can even do better than compact flourescent bulbs. They are a great technology but if you want to go greener, you've gotta move to LEDs.
- Pay for an energy audit. I'm sure we've missed something. We may be able to insulate or plug up leaks and do even better.
We also have some other green goals for the year.
- Produce 100 pounds of veggies and fruit. I want to grow a lot of organic, lovely veggies at home this year. We enjoy eating out of the garden and it'll be good for the Bean to see where food comes from. I'd like to plant dwarf sweet cherry or apple trees for future fruit production, but I'm not sure where to put them. I want to build planter boxes for the front porch, which will be used for a kitchen herb garden. My goals is also to preserve or freeze everything we grow this year. No waste. This will mean I have to learn some new skills, but it should be interesting.
- Plant a row for the hungry. I will plant extra veggies and donate it to
the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. I also hope to get my neighbors involved, by
asking everyone in my neighborhood to drop off excess produce at my
house twice a week, and I will then drive it to the food bank. I don't
know if they will be willing, but it can't hurt to ask.
- Add three more rain barrels. If I can find food-grade barrels at low cost, I will attempt to make these myself. If not, I will buy them. Water rates are rising 10 percent next year, which is added incentive
- Make a second composter. One composter isn't enough. We have had to throw away compostable material while we have waited for our current batch to finish. I'm not sure if we did something wrong, but hey, it was our first try.
- Foster habitats for native species. The only way I know to do this is a butterfly garden, and making a bat box. I will search the OSU extension office Web site for more tips.
- Further reduce plastic bag use. We need to be super vigilant and remember to take reusable bags with us everywhere. This may mean acquiring many more reusable bags and stashing them everywhere, so no matter where we are, we have a bag. My favorite so far are the DIMPA bags from IKEA. They are strong, cheap, pretty and hold TONS of stuff.
- Reduce the amount of garbage we produce. Can we do better? Probably.
This means thinking more about packaging, about reusing before we
recycle, buying in bulk, etc.The composter will help with this, but it's not the only solution.
Do you have any eco-goals for 2009?