November 13, 2010
I was over at my friend’s house the other day when he just so happened to get his energy bill in the mail. He opens it up and I hear “Are you serious, $365.44 for the energy this month?!?!” Luckily, I live in the Bear Creek Apartments so my utilities and other bills are included in my monthly rent and that’s one of the reasons I chose to live there. I’ve heard some horror stories from friends about roommates taking hour long showers or washing 3 shirts in separate loads during a week and…wham…a huge water, energy, gas or electric bill. This made me think about all the little things we can do around our places to change that. Not only is it better for the environment but as a college students, it’s easier on our wallets. So, whether you’re looking to reduce your impact on the Earth or just the hole that your money seems to be falling into, here’s a couple things I already do and you can too!
1. Reusable Bags – I know, we’ve all heard this over and over and I’m sure we all have some lying around somewhere. My issue is I can never remember to put those bad boys in my car before I go to the store. And as fate would have it, I always remember them right as I’m finding the best parking spot AT the grocery store. I have a few solutions for this, at the top of my grocery list I write “take bags” so as I’m making my list before I go to the store (to curb spontaneous purchases…another problem for my bank account) I am reminded right before I leave. If you don’t keep a list, throw a couple in your car so they’re already there!
2. Reusable Mugs/Bottles/Containers – I’m the Ziploc, Nalgene, Ceramic Mug Queen. Mugs are obviously easy to use. Go buy two so your excuse of “well it’s dirty and I haven’t had time to clean it” vanishes. Bottles. I think we all know how horrible these are for the planet and ourselves. We’ve been told they can potentially cause cancer and we’ve seen the ‘continents of trash’ killing the wild-life. Here’s a map of the journey it takes:
In a paper written by Captain Paul Watson called “The Plastic Sea” he states: “Americans alone toss 2.5 million plastic bottles into the sea every hour.” So grab a reusable bottle, and use it!
3. Air-Dry Your Clothes - This one is something my family does because we got tired of things shrinking in the dryer. Now that I have to pay for laundry I do it to save money. After you wash your clothes lay them out or hang them to let them dry naturally. I know that dollar-a-load for a dryer can add up and it’s especially frustrating when it doesn’t fully dry your clothes anyways! Your clothes will dry and now you have a couple bucks in your hand.
4. Easy on the Paper – Alright, in my apartment there’s three main paths for paper: Paper Towels, Toilet Paper and Printer Paper. And you wouldn’t believe how much you spend on those things. I tried arguing that we should get less homework because CU’s paper consumption is destroying the Earth. I failed in convincing my professor but, The Daily Camera informed me last month that “A separate report on university-wide sustainability efforts shows that paper consumption has decreased 12 percent over the past year -- with the university purchasing 115,402 reams of paper this past fiscal year, compared to 131,049 in the previous year.” That’s a crazy amount of paper! So I started printing smaller and double-sided to curb my ink cartridge and paper costs. For class notes I try to print ‘landscape’ with 2 pages on each sheet and then print double sided. The person sitting next to me in class was impressed that our professor’s 42 slide presentation was on 3 pages for me instead of 10 pages for her. As far as the paper towels and toilet paper go, just pay more attention. Do you really need that much? Can you use half the paper and still get the job done? I’ll let you determine that one on your own.
5. Use Your Windows and Blinds as a second heating/cooling system – This is another lesson from home. I can remember my mom saying “well, if you’re cold put on another jacket, we’re gonna be homeless if we turn the heat up anymore!” Heating and cooling bills are no joke, you can talk to my mom if you don’t believe me. So I had to resort to creative ways to avoid wearing gloves in my room during winter. Since it’s starting to get cold, instead of turning up the heat, open your blinds during the day to let the sunlight warm your room. At night make sure they’re closed or even use a towel to seal the cracks so warm air doesn’t get out. If you’re still cold, throw on a jacket…apparently it kept me from being homeless.
The same applies for the hot spells: keep your blinds closed during the sunny hours of the day to cut down on your room feeling like a sauna and then open up two windows for a nice cross breeze in the evening to cool the place down. As a last resort, use your heater or cooler, just make sure it’s not cranked up and forgotten.
6. And then there was light – this one is like the reusable bags; we’ve heard it over and over, yet we still can’t seem to remember to turn them off (if my roommate is reading this and rolling her eyes…turn off your desk lamp, I know it’s on and you are probably in the living room!) Next time you need to buy light bulbs pick up those CFL bulbs too. They cut down your energy bill and they’re pretty cheap. The key to turning off the lights is to make it a habit, keep reminding yourself (and your roommates) and before you know it, you’ll be a pro.