1. Buy in bulk.
Buying in bulk not only saves a lot of money, but most products have significantly less packaging than products bought at normal sizes. If you have some excess storage space, invest in a wholesale warehouse membership and start stocking up on non-perishable items like toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, paper towels, CF (compact fluorescent) light bulbs, etc.
2. Revolutionize your cleaning.
Most household commercial cleaners come with scary labels warning against touching, inhaling or ingesting the contents. Natural cleaners work just as well, are cheap and completely non-toxic. The basics include baking soda, borax and white vinegar (bought in bulk of course). For more information on cleaning green visit: geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/8088/clngrn.html
3. Go paperless
Paying bills online cuts down on paper consumption and saves the cost of paying for checks and stamps. Contact companies that send monthly bills and ask them to change your monthly payments to online billing.
4. Reduce your energy use.
As energy costs continue to rise an easy way to cut back on monthly expenses is to save on your power bill. It is actually quite easy to save at least 30% every month without affecting your normal routine.
TVA and NES have partnered to offer a “do-it-yourself” home energy audit. Go online and fill out the audit and you’ll receive a free Energy Conservation Kit in the mail. Visit nespower.com/energy_audit.aspx
Replace all the conventional lighting in your home with CF bulbs – they cost more initially but use 65-75% less electricity than an incandescent bulb and last 8-15 times longer (remember to properly recycle CF bulbs as they contain trace amounts of Mercury).
Invest in a programmable thermostat or turn the AC off when you leave the house.
Set your water heater to a lower temperature – 120 degrees is sufficient and will ensure a longer lifespan for your heater.
Unplug all electronic devices that are not in use (including cell phone chargers) - they are called “energy vampires” and consume a lot of power.
5. Reduce your water use.
Metro recently raised the water bill, so now is a good time to start to take a few steps towards conservation. Always be conscious of turning off the water while shaving and brushing your teeth. If you have a garden, invest in a rain barrel for irrigation during the summer months.
6. Grow your own garden.
It is quite easy to grow your own food. A 3’ x 8’ space that has good sunlight and rich soil can readily supplement your pantry with food for many meals. Peppers, tomatoes, beans, lettuces, squash and herbs all grow well in small spaces.
7. Buy local produce / join a CSA
If you are not ready to take on a garden of your own, another way to economize on fresh produce is to shop at the local farmer’s market or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Both offer huge savings over conventional super markets and they support local farmers while helping lower the pollution associated with shipping food. For an amazing resource on local farming visit localtable.net.
8. Cook at home.
Eating at a restaurant is almost always more expensive than cooking at home. Instead of killing your social life by never eating out, try cooking at home a few nights a week and taking leftovers to work for lunch. Most lunch meals cost between $6-10 each - if you take yours to work four days a week, that’s a savings of almost $2,000 per year!
9. Eat less meat.
As a vegetarian, the one area of the grocery I bypass is also the most expensive – the meat section. Even if you have no desire to become a vegetarian, cutting back your meat consumption is not only a great way to tighten your economic belt, it will also help loosen the one around your waist.
10. Use public transit or carpool.
With gas prices steadily climbing back towards last summer’s highs, a quick and easy way to save some money is to take the bus or carpool to work. Nashville’s transit system might not work for everyone’s schedule, but if you work Downtown and live along a bus line, it offers a great stress free way to save some green.
Tip - approach your company and ask to have the money they pay for your parking as compensation for taking the bus. My office does this, so when I carpool or take the bus, I’m helping the environment and padding my wallet.
Gary Gaston is the Design Studio Director of the Nashville Civic Design Center
and serves on the Mayor’s Green Ribbon Committee.
He lives with his partner and dog in East Nashville.