05 April 2011

Going, Going, Going Green

There's been a lot of debate in the news lately about the introduction of a carbon tax and an emission trading scheme. The arguments for and against have all been compelling but I'm not sure that either side has actually put forward a completely convincing case and I expect the discussion will become a lot more heated before a firm decision is finally made.

When we first started living like Cheapskates the intention was to maintain our standard of living on a greatly reduced income.  At the time living an environmentally friendly lifestyle was the last thing on our minds and I had never heard of carbon emissions.

Thanks to disaster, we now live a very green lifestyle.

These days I make Cheapskates Washing Powder and line dry all the washing unless it's raining, then it goes over the clothes horses.  We haven't used commercial cleaning products in the house in 15 years. Instead we use white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, laundry soap, borax, washing soda and microfibre or pure cotton cloths.

I changed the way we do the grocery shopping, from a weekly (at least) trip to the supermarket to a once a month trip. And I use green bags for the groceries and veggie bags for the fruit and veg. I even take a calico bread bag to the bakery when I buy bread.  Tracking our footprint has become a challenge for us all.

We have almost eliminated plastic bags from our home entirely. I still use the odd grocery bag for rubbish or to protect something going into storage, but otherwise we are a plastic bag free zone.  I even have a supply of string bags I use when I go shopping so I can say "no" to store bags. Hannah carries one in her school bag for after-school shopping expeditions.

We time showers and use low flow showerheads, watch the electricity and gas use, re-direct grey water onto the lawn.  I cook from scratch, buy in bulk, recycle as much as possible and compost to reduce the amount we send to landfill. Our challenge is to put the bin out once a fortnight.

We took advantage of the light bulb swap and switched all the lights and lamps in the house to compact fluorescents. We turn appliances off at the wall (all except the fridge and freezer) when they are not being used.

Walking or using public transport are our choices before getting in the car and driving. I love going into the city on the tram. Yes, it takes longer but it's so relaxing (if I time it out of peak hour) and I can read or knit in peace and enjoy the ride.  Walking to the local shops is not only good exercise, it ensures I don't buy anything other than what I went for because I would have to carry it home.  Relying on public transport has taught the kids to be independent too.

And now we are growing as much of our food as we possibly can. The rest I try to buy locally before I go to the supermarket.

I'm sure there's more we do that would be considered green, but right now I can't think of them. These are all easy things that anyone can do, they take a little effort and a big shift in thinking but they are low-cost and when combined have a large impact on greening our environment.

There are other things we could do to be more green, but they all take a big financial commitment, even with government rebates. Switching to solar power and hot water for instance or installing more water tanks would certainly be environmentally friendly. Unfortunately they wouldn't be Spending Plan friendly for us at this stage.

So I need to be content with our green-ish lifestyle and continue to work towards becoming self-sufficient and lessening our impact on the world we live in.

I'll keep on looking for ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle the Cheapskates way and keep on saving for those solar panels and water tanks.  Saving money, time and energy is after all the Cheapskates motto.

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