A Tale Of Two Garbage Bins

I wrote a while back about our new garbage service. Well, it’s been in place for a little over a month and I have to say that it is working out great!
The city provided two bins, one is a 90-gallon trash bin and the other is a 65-gallon recycling bin. The new recycling program takes a LOT more stuff than I’ve ever seen. They take cardboard, all types of paper, plastic bags, and all plastics labeled 1-7. Most recycling programs I’ve seen take only those labeled 1 or 2.
Mrs. Beagle has led the charge in our house to be more conscious of recycling. As such, we have found that we’re recycling most of our stuff and the garbage is very empty. In fact, we wish that they would allow us to switch the bins and make the larger bucket the recycling bin, which would give us more room.

Needless to say, the recycling won, as it has been since we started using the program.
One of the cool things is that we participate in a program called RecycleBank. When you recycle you get points that you can then ‘cash in’ for coupons or gift cards for local or national retailers.
We average around 70 points per week so far. Some of the example rewards are:
  • 100 points will buy you a $10 off $30 purchase at Bed Bath & Beyond
  • 125 points will get you $6 off two dinner entres at Olive Garden
  • 1225 points will get you a $10 gift card at Applebee’s, Lowes, or Borders
These are just a few of the things that you can get. While the rewards do provide extra motivation, it is reward enough to know that we’re helping save some of our precious natural resources.
One thing that they have that’s really cool is a little indicator that adds up all of the recycling you’ve done and puts it in somewhat everyday terms. They have a widget available that I can add to my blog to automatically update the information but I need to work on fitting it into the site, as it was causing problems when I attempted to place it due to the size requirements. But, here’s what it tells me:
In the five weeks we’ve been part of the program:
We have saved 0.56 trees
We have saved 37.41 gallons of oil from being required to produce new materials
And the most fun statistic,
Our recycling to date weighs as much as….

A penguin!

How cool is that?

What We Do To Make Things Greener

Today is Earth Day, and it gave me pause to reflect on things that we do around our household to be environmentally conscious:

  • Use CFL bulbs – Most lamps and overhead lights in our house have CFL bulbs. We just put a new lamp in the nursery the other day, and I insisted that we purchase a CFL bulb. Luckily, Meijer (our local grocery store) had them on sale for 50% off to celebrate Earth Day so on top of being good for the planet, we saved money too!
  • Use our energy saving washing machine – When we moved in, we debated whether to get the less expensive traditional washer or the more expensive energy and water saving washer. We opted for the more expensive type, and it definitely uses a lot less water and energy. In fact, it will probably pay for the difference many times over depending on the life of the machine.
  • Use reusable shopping bags for groceries – Not only do they reduce plastic consumption, the great thing about these is that they fit as much as normally goes in 2-3 plastic bags, so instead of lugging in 8 or 9 bags a week, we typically fit just about everything in our 3 reusable bags.
  • Use a programmable thermostat – We had one when we moved in, but if we hadn’t, I would have put one in anyways had there not been one.
  • Set the thermostat lower in the winter – We’ve dialed down to a maximum temperature of 68. While it can be colder, we have learned to make sure to keep our sweatshirts handy to bundle up.
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle – Our city just began to participate in Recycle Bank, which was just featured on Oprah’s Earth Day show today. In addition to taking more types of products than any recycling program I’ve seen (as an example they take plastics 1-7, not just 1-2 like most recycling), they partner up with local and national merchants to offer rewards based on how much you recycle. As an example, you can ‘purchase’ gift cards to various restaurants or retailers like Target. They have a widget that keeps track of how much or recycling to date weighs, how many trees we’ve saved, and how many gallons of oil we’ve prevented used, but it was wreaking havoc on my site. Perhaps I’ll attempt to incorporate it when I re-design the site later in the spring.
  • Use containers for lunch – I take my lunch in a re-usable bag, and also have Rubbermaid containers for my sandwich, fruit, and carrots. We made the switch after realizing the cost, both to the environment and to our pocketbook, of using multiple plastic bags every day.
  • We added insulation to our attic – This reduces the amount of heat and air conditioning we need, and saves us money.
  • Borrow books from the library – Instead of buying lots of books that I read once, maybe twice, I’m using something that will get repeated use.
  • Wasting less food – We rarely let food go bad, wasting resources for food that’s never eaten. I used to be a lot worse at this when I was single and living alone.
  • I have a water bottle at work – I bought a stainless steel water that I re-fill at work instead of taking a bottle of water.

There is room for improvement. I would like to do other things as well, including:

  • Using natural fertilizer – I use the traditional fertilizer to keep our lawn green and weed free, but I’d like to switch to a more natural solution. Right now, they’re quite price prohibitive and not as effective, but I’m sure time will help with both of these.
  • Use more natural cleaners – Especially with baby on the way, some of the harsh cleaners are also not the best for the environment
  • Cut out paper towels – Right now, we use paper towel for cleaning and a lot of everyday usage. I hope that in a year from now I can say that we have drastically reduced our consumption of paper towel
  • Reduce our battery consumption – This one could be tough. We’re expecting the baby in a few weeks, and everything used to entertain the baby seems to run on batteries, and what I’m finding is that they all say not to use rechargeable batteries. I’m not sure why, but have started looking into this. I would dread having to buy the amount of batteries that I envision needing, only to have them be single use.

Overall I’m happy with our efforts to ‘go green’ though I know that there is a lot more that we could be doing.

It’s A Holiday Weekend…And That Means It’s Time To Buy Paint!

It’s President’s Day weekend, and that means that it’s time to take advantage of Home Depot’s Behr paint sale.
Through the 16th, you can purchase paint at Home Depot, and receive $5 off every gallon, or $20 every five gallon bucket, via a mail-in rebate.
We’ve used this for a couple of years in a row, and it’s worked out well. In fact, two years ago in May is when we were close to purchasing our house, and we took advantage of the sale. We hadn’t yet closed, but we knew approximately how many gallons we would need, so we purchased it unmixed, and took it back a few weeks later to get it mixed. I think we got a $65 rebate a few weeks later, so it was definitely worth it!
We purchased three gallons of paint, two for the nursery and one which is the color of our hallways, so that I can hopefully do some touch up work and also paint the stairways to the basement.
This year, they made it so that you can submit the rebate online, simply by entering your rebate information and your receipt information. They look up the purchase to verify eligability. Saves time and a stamp!
I’ve found that Home Depot usually runs this around most holidays, so if you miss out this time, mark your calendar for a future holiday if you have any painting on the horizon.

Our Energy And Water Saving Washing Machine

When we moved into our house last summer, we had to purchase a new washer and dryer. I owned a condo before we bought our house, and had a traditional (top loading) washing machine and a matching dryer. But, I had to leave them behind as the offer for the condo stipulated that I had to leave the washer and dryer. Given that the real estate market was already soft, I was more than willing to include this.
Once we started looking, it was apparent that the biggest decision would be whether to go with a top loader or one of the ‘newer’ front loading washing machines. The up front cost of the front loader is much higher, often $400 or more difference.
The main benefit, however, is that they are much more energy efficient and use a lot less water and a lot less energy than a top loader. Up to 65% less in both cases. That’s many less gallons of water wasted per year, as well as a lot less energy usage.
In the end, we decided to go with the front loading machines. I’m happy to say that we are pleased with the purchase. The part that makes me happiest is that the water usage difference is significant and is more of an impact because of the water rates in our city.
For some reason, the cost of water in our city is one of the highest in the area. Since we moved in, we’ve been hit with increases of 15% and 12%. Therefore, it became apparent that any way we could save water is welcome. I would have very much regretted it if we would have chosen the top loading machine.
When we purchased the machines, one of the salesman told us that the top loaders will most likely be phased out over the next few years. I don’t know if that was just ’salesman’ talk, but in these days of trying to save energy, this would make sense. After all, I have also heard from numerous sources that the incandescent bulb is expected to be phased out within the next 5-10 years in the interest of energy conservation.
As water and energy become more expensive and more valuable, it would only stand to reason that a gradual switch to front loading, energy efficient washing machines would also make sense. In our case, the difference is huge, and as we expect to use the washer even more once Baby Beagle comes, the savings will continue to add up.

My Next Project Around The House Became Clear To Me Today

I went down into the basement today and it became clear that some work needs to be done down there in order to protect against heat loss. I noticed two things:

  • As I was scooping out some kitty litter, I felt a cool breeze. I felt around and could feel that there is actually air coming in from the cheap windows. It’s really cold here as highs are around 20 degrees Fahrenheit these days, so the chilly air became very apparent.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s a part of the basement that’s a bit too warm. About half of our basement is finished and as such, it has a drop ceiling. I went into one of the rooms, and felt a rather warm breeze coming from a part of the room where part of the ceiling is open to let light in (from one of the windows that’s letting in cold air). I investigated and found that it’s very warm in the space between the drop ceiling and the joists for the first floor. How is this? Well, the duct work for the heating system is contained within the drop ceiling. So, this tells me that there is some serious leaking going on, which is common, as the metal duct work is not air tight.

So, the solutions appear to be:

  • New glass block windows for the basement windows – This is something I had been thinking of having done anyways. I wonder if it’s too cold to get them installed or if I’ll have to wait until springtime.
  • Sealing the duct work with insulating wrap that’s designed to do that – I did a small portion last year, but the amount of heat loss I am guessing is happening warrants going through and doing this for the rest. This is something I can do myself but will take some time, as I’ll probably do little bits and pieces as I have free time. It isn’t fun having to work around the false ceiling either.

Still, I think that getting both of these things taken care of will help tremendously with energy efficiency which will hopefully save money by lower bills. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

Saving Money By Mulching The Leaves

We have a lot of trees on our property, and so the fall brings lots and lots of leaves.
I’ve been raking them and bagging them, but my pack of 25 bags that I bought at Costco ran out last week, and I forgot to buy more. I started wondering if I could just mulch them instead with my mulching lawn mower. I did a little research and found that mulching leaves can be very beneficial to the lawn as it will provide nutrients.
I’ve since read additional information that helps me believe that using the mulching mower is not a bad thing. Unknown to us, there are still earthworms in the ground that will use the mulched leaves to create valuable nutrients that will help the lawn next spring.
So, this past week I actually used the mower and it looks great. The mower shreds the leaves a lot smaller than I would have guessed, and it saved me from having to buy more yard waste bags.
Some highlights from the article, others that I’ve read, and from my own personal experience:

  • It’s better to mulch leaves when they’re dry. Mine were still damp from a rainfall the previous night. If they’re damp, you just have to go slower to let the mower have more time to mulch
  • If there are too many leaves, you should probably stick to raking. When you cut your grass and it leaves clumps, that means it’s probably too high and you should bag it. The same principle applies to mulching leaves. If they’re more than an inch thick, the mower probably won’t be effective at mulching them and it’d be better to rake and bag.
  • You can collect the mulch and spread it around other areas. Apparently a layer of mulch a couple of inches thick around bushes and flower beds will also help provide nutrients to those areas.
  • I probably wouldn’t mulch every time since we have so many trees. I figure if I never collected the leaves, I might be placing too much mulch down would not be doing any benefit after a while. I’d recommend mulching no more often than every other time.

Happy raking and mulching!

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