Think Green to Save Green

I don’t need an incentive to be green. I’m green for green’s sake.

I drive a hybrid, use my own canvas bags at the store, recycle with a vengeance, own Gore’s movie on DVD, and Kermit is my favorite Muppet.

Heck, just last month, I set up a composting bin.

To bolster my greeniocity, back on April 16th I attended the Tarrytown Mayor’s Conversation on Climate Change at the Warner Library. The meeting was all about continuing to make Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow as green as can be. Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell gave an update on the success of the outdoor recycling program and the construction of the new Village Hall, the Sleepy Hollow Chamber of Commerce gave awards to Coffee Labs Roasters and Massage Therapist Karen Diefenbach for being ahead of the eco-curve, Warner Library pledged their support to the effort by swapping all of their bulbs, and we divided into groups to brainstorm action items for the community.

It was the featured speaker, Mr. John Cusack, Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, that truly opened my eyes. He gave a presentation on the “Local Impacts of Global Warming.” What made his presentation especially effective was how he framed the entire environmental issue in financial terms.

In other words, going green can make you some serious green.

I suppose I’d always been peripherally aware of this fact, but it had never been important. For me, being green has always been its own reward. But Mr. Cusack showed us slide after slide demonstrating how buildings and communities had saved gobs of money by being more efficient in their energy use. It was pretty convincing. Mr. Cusack has been painstakingly explaining this to businesses for a decade until it’s become an obsession, and you can envision him standing in the driveway like his Hollywood namesake holding a boom box above his head. Only instead of Peter Gabriel, it’s Melissa Etheridge’s "I Need To Wake Up From An Inconvenient Truth." Though, now that I think about it, instead of a boom box, he’d probably be holding up an iPod Shuffle and an ear bud, which wouldn’t impress Ione Skye half as much.

The upshot of his talk? While increasing our use of renewable energy is important, and in the future we may get all the energy we need by texting “Power Up!” back and forth, right now the best thing we can do for both our planet and our bank account is use less energy and reduce our carbon footprint. All of us. Even you.

Luckily, there are lots of simple things you can do right now to get your own earth-friendly, wallet-friendly ball rolling in addition to switching out your light bulbs.

Chill with the hot water. One cycle of using your washer and dryer generates five pounds of carbon dioxide. 40% of that is used just in heating up the water if you’re using a hot or warm cycle. I know what the tags on the clothes say, but what if you washed those in cold once a week? In the same vein, how long is your shower in the morning? A 10-minute shower creates 4 pounds of carbon dioxide. A 5-minute shower cuts that in half. Get in, get clean, get out. Save on your water bill, save on your power bill, save the Earth.

Power-down. How many electronic devices are plugged in 24/7 in your home? A cell-phone charger expends energy even if it’s not being used. Same for your computer. Your TV. Anything with a blinking light or a digital clock. In fact, 75% of electricity used by home appliances is used when they are “off.” I keep my printer plugged in 24/7 and use it, maybe, once every two weeks. The rest of the time, it’s just sucking energy to keep the power light lit. And when was the last time you needed your DVD player to tell the time? If you’re not watching something, unplug it. If you don’t want to deal with plugging and unplugging things, get a power strip and just turn it off.

Used = Green! Buy stuff on consignment like at Déjà Vu Consignment in Tarrytown (http://www.dejavu-consignment.com/), shop thrift stores like the Nearly New Shop at 35 S. Broadway, or re-use what you already have in your home, especially kid’s clothes. You know how fast those little people grow? Surely you have friends somewhere with kids just a little younger than yours that can use all Junior’s clothes once they’re too small on him or her. If you really want to get smart, pair up with another couple and alternate kids. You guys all buy one set of clothes for the first kid, then the next family gets them for their first kid, then it’s back to the first family with their second, and so on. For added savings, get everything at the children’s consignment store, Affordables, in Dobbs Ferry (10 Main St. 914-693-3610 http://www.affordablechild.com/). Think of the savings!

There are lots more ways to save money by going green. Want to cut 30-40% off your home energy bills? Get better insulation! Doing a renovation? Going green from the start will save you a fortune down the line in energy costs. Put in a geothermal heating/cooling system. Go Solar. And for Pete’s sake, use the CFL bulbs!

For more ideas, check out Con Edison’s "100 Handy Tips To Help You Go Green at: http://www.coned.com/thepowerofgreen/100tips.asp.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go unplug my printer.

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About the Author: David Neilsen