As I look forward to this new year and set goals and resolutions for healthier living, I can’t help but reflect back on what we accomplished last year. Last year, we didn’t really set out to “go green” or become “eco-chic” or any of that other trendy bandwagon stuff. It was a slow dawning. It was a series of illnesses from lack of essential vitamins and nutrients in our systems. It was a string of headaches from indoor chemicals. It was a new awareness that common sense should prevail in life. It was many, many small steps that upon reflection, really helped to accomplish something big. And to me, “going green” or “eco-chic” is just common sense. And easier on the pocketbook. That’s right. It’s not more expensive. We’ve saved tons because it forces us to plan and to make overall better decisions.
Last year, here are the healthy choices we decided to make:
1. Eric gave up soda…cold turkey. He used to drink 3-4 sodas a day, if not more. We watched King Corn. He hasn’t drunk one since. (I haven’t drunk soda since Junior High. I was never a big fan…) Not only are we much healthier, but we’ve saved tons of cash not paying money at the grocery or the vending machines on sugar-in-a-can. Not to mention the amount of trash that we have cut down on…cause we didn’t recycle. I won’t lie.
2. We switched to a fabric shower curtain. Not only do we have less chemicals from the curtain itself, but we spray less chemicals trying to get the thing clean. We have a cleaner bathroom, too, because all we have to do it throw it in the wash. (And we waited until the old one was in complete shambles before replacing it so that we didn’t have unnecessary trash.)
3. We switched to an all-purpose plant based cleaner. When I’m feeling really productive, I’ll whip up my own natural cleaning solutions. But I really hate cleaning so it doesn’t happen very often. I’m one of those lucky ladies whose husband came trained equipped with the domestic knowledge to know how to iron and put the toilet seat down.
4. I switched about 75% of my toiletry items: facewash, shampoo, lotions, etc. as I ran out. Check out The Cosmetic Database to see what grade your beauty regimen receives. While I didn’t go “all organic”, I simply tried to make healthier choices. I researched the worst offenders, and avoided those. I also tried to cut back and use less, so that less irritants were making their way onto my body. I saved money by not needing to stock up as much, and I had less trash.
5. When our car went kaput, we bought a more fuel-efficient car. We get about 10-15 mpg better (it depends on who’s driving!) than we did before. We didn’t go hybrid, because I don’t think the technology is fully there yet for the price, but again, we just made a better choice. Because we have the unique benefit of both of us living not even two minutes from work, we carpool. When it’s nicer, I’ll walk back and forth. It takes all of 7 minutes to get home. Again, common sense! Why WOULDN’T I walk?! (Oh, because creepy people stop and try to pick me up…)
6. I completely revamped my eating habits and diet. It’s a whole separate post. Eric calls it the “Caveman Diet + Chicken.” I call it the “Caveman Diet + Chicken…and the Occasional Cinnamon Roll from Panera Bread Co.” We do a lot more shopping at Whole Foods and a lot less shopping at McDonald’s. The closest Whole Foods is 2 hours away, so our trips have to be planned. They also are not a superstore, so we don’t throw unnecessary or unplanned items in the cart which rack up the bill.
7. We started taking vitamins and herbal supplements instead of OTC medicine or even prescription drugs. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a Tylenol. I use acupuncture and exercise (ummm…sometimes) to treat my ailments.
8. We unplugged electronics that we don’t use very often, like our Wii, VCR (we totally still own one), and office stereo. We don’t leave cell phone chargers plugged in all day. We’re sure to turn the lights off. Another “green” tip that helps the pocketbook!
9. I started using Paperback Swap and the good ole-fashioned library. I could quite possibly take up residence at Barnes and Noble. I would sometimes buy a few books a week, but now I get them for free which equals less money spent and less clutter in the apartment. I’m not normally one to read books more than once (Twilight excluded…::sigh::), so again, common sense asks, why would I spend $20 on something that will get used once and collect dust? Working at a college has its perks as I have access to a state interlibrary loan system. I find the book in the catalog, click “request”, and the book is hand delivered to me at my desk a few days later. For free! Beats Amazon hands down. After two semesters in graduate school, I’ve yet to pay a dime for books…
10. We also started using Netflix. We own hundreds of DVD’s. They take up space. They collect dust. They cost a lot of money. We used to run out a few times a week to buy a movie. We spent anywhere from $10-$60 a week (a week!) on movies. Now, we spend $8 a month. We usually choose the Watch Instantly option, which satisfies our instant gratification need, but also provides us with new material to watch. Many of the options to watch instantly aren’t new releases, so we get a kick out of watching our favorite stars “way back when”, you know, in like 1997. Less trips to Wally World, aka Wal-Mart, means less extraneous stuff making its way into our cart.
11. As lightbulbs blew out, we slowly switched to Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs. CFLs not only consume up to 75% less energy than their incandescent siblings, but also last 10 times longer. Your savings account will appreciate the switch–the average U.S. household will save $180 per year by swapping their current bulbs for CFLs.
12. We took winterizing seriously. Lima is cold. Because it’s flatter than Cinci, the wind feels worse here. We also live in an old apartment with (I’m betting) no insulation. We used plastic on the windows, rearranged rugs to cover more of the linoleum, and made draft blockers for the door. This was fairly simple. I used an old pair of brownish pantyhouse (they match our décor!), and stuffed them with Eric’s old stained and holey tee shirts that we were going to throw out anyway. Looks cute, was free, and made an instant difference!
We have many more healthy living goals for this year, but reflecting back helps me to know that we can, and will, do it. At the time, we just realized we were being smart, but looking back, we really saved a lot of money, and our “Down Payment Fund” does reflect that. A few small changes really does add up.