From the series: Life on Dog Hill

Did you know that estimates put the average American at producing 4.4 pounds of waste per day? Let me admit straight up — I’m a tree hugging, earth loving, green-conscious American. But my practice of living green and reducing waste has evolved over time as I’ve learned more about how little things can make a big difference. The great news is that living green can actually put money in your pocket!

Here’s my top five list of how to put more green in your pockets while living green.

1.  Recycle: I can’t think of a better way to green our environment than to recycle. Where we live, a truck picks up paper, plastics, glass and cans. For bigger items, such as yard debris, metal scraps, electronics, paints, and oils, we drive to a recycle station nearby. Besides keeping these items of out the landfill, it teaches our children to think about “where does all this stuff go?” and “how can we reuse this?” While everyone may not have curbside recycling, a little research should reveal the closest recycle center. In fact, some places even pay you to recycle your products! My personal favorite is TerraCycle, a company built upon the sole purpose of eliminating garbage. In fact, the company’s tagline reads “Outsmart Waste.”  TerraCycle created national recycling systems to receive and pay for recyclable materials. These waste is then used to make fences, backpacks, coolers recycle bins and more! TerraCycle is a great way for schools to make money, but any and everyone can participate.

2.  Compost: I love composting! I have a stainless steel container on my kitchen counter and two large recycle bins outside. Coffee grounds, fruit cores, vegetable peels and paper towels go into the kitchen container. Every other day this container is emptied into the bigger bins outside which also hold mulched leaves, old potting materials, and larger paper materials torn into strips. Keeping it moist and turning it weekly with a pitch fork yields beautiful mulch. Twice yearly, I deposit this rich mulch into my gardens. Live in an apartment? No big deal! Even renters who live in smaller dwellings can jump on the composting bandwagon and even earn money from it. Josh Peterson’s article on plantetgreen.com tells renters how to compost in small areas as well as how to sell their compost!

3.  Lower the thermostat: Hubby and I are pretty strict about how we set our thermostats since we have a two-story house with a full basement. With three different heating/cooling systems and propane gas about $3.30 a gallon, if one of the kids changes a setting, they endure an earful. In summer, the thermostats on all three floors are set at 72. In the winter, the thermostat on the main floor is set at 68 while both the basement and upstairs thermostats are off. We keep the upstairs bedroom doors closed at all times and mattress pad warmers keep us toasty all night. According to the Electric Blanket Institute, in most parts of the US, you can save 1% of the house-heating bill for EACH degree the thermostat is turned down for a period of just eight hours! In some cities, 2% or more per degree setback can be saved. Thus, for example, if your heating bill is $200 for one month and you turn your house thermostat down by 10 degrees just while you sleep you will save $20-$40 in your heating costs during that one month! Whoo-hoo!

4.  Buy used: Some people may have a stigma about thrift shops, but this is one of my favorite ways to live green and earn tax deductions. In our area, we have several PTA Thrift Shops which donate proceeds to our community schools. Not only can you find outstanding bargains, you support education. Some of my favorite thrift shop buys include jeans for $3, hardback books a dollar each and ties or belts for $1.50. Most recently, I bought a beautiful pair of black leather gloves for two bucks! Our biggest thrift shop purchase was a Sunfish sailboat in excellent condition for $600. Thrift shops are hit or miss, so you have to be willing to stop in whenever you have a few extra minutes to look around. The other great thing about second-hand stores such as the PTA shops, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity is that you can get receipts for any donations you make and then deduct it from your taxes. Bottom line: second-hand shops reduce the need for imports, save your money and provide needed funds for the community where you live.

5.  Educate yourself and others: Many people don’t have time to think about ways to be kinder to mother earth and they appreciate hearing what other’s are doing to make a difference — especially the easy things. Don’t be shy about sharing your green tips with friends and neighbors and asking your green friends for tips on how to improve your “green” thumb. In fact, I invite you to share how you make a difference by commenting below. Whether it’s lightbulbs or leaf mulch, every effort makes a difference.

How we choose to live today will impact the lives of generations to come. If we all commit to step up our efforts even a little, the overall impact will be tremendous! It’s easy to learn new ways of making a difference. Here are three great websites dedicated to sustainable living.

Here’s to a greener 2012!

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