Smart Living Tips

Here are some tips that save you time and effort, reduce your energy consumption and help protect the environment. Feel free to email us any ideas to add to this list.

1.0 Saving energy and $$$$

1.1  Eliminate phantom power consumption

Electrical equipment that are left plugged in continue to consume small amounts of power, even when switched off.  To eliminate this, plug equipment such as computers, printers, televisions into a switchable power strip.  In addition, a switchable power strip also makes it easy to unplug valuable equipment in case of a lightning storm.

1.2  Install ceiling fans

Ceiling fans can considerably reduce the need for air conditioning in summer.

1.3  Open windows

If you have mesh screens to keep out insects, you can open windows on opposite sides of your home to let in a cross flow.  Not only does this cool down a house quickly, it brings in fresh air.

1.4  Install attic fans

Attic fans can pump out the hot air in the attic and reduce air conditioning load in summer.

1.5  Plant trees on the south side

Deciduous trees planted on the south side (in northern lattitudes) shade the house in summer, reducing air conditioning demand and allow the sun to warm up the house in winter when they shed leaves.

1.6  Install a clothesline in your garage

You will be amazed at how quickly clothes dry up especially in winter.  Clothes dryers are huge energy hogs.

1.7  Install a programmable thermostat for climate control

A programmable thermostat can save you a lot of money by enabling you to turn down the heating or cooling in your home when you are away.

2.0 Saving supplies and $$$$

2.1  Saving soap

2.1.1  When a bar of soap becomes too small to be used, don't throw it away.  Instead break it up into smaller pieces and put it into a soap dispensing bottle.  Add water and you have soap solution for hand washing.

2.1.2  If you stay at a hotel,  don't leave behind the soap bar that they give you.  If you do, they have to throw it away.  Instead wrap it in a paper towel and bring it back with you and use it at home.

2.1.3  When hand washing dishes, don't use the concentrated soap solution.  Instead dilute the soap solution with water and then use it for dish washing.  The Zojila sponge and soap solution holder is specifically designed for this purpose.

2.1.4  Install a liquid soap dispenser in your bath.  This way you don't have to bring out fresh soap bars when you have guests and wastage is kept to a minimum.

2.2  Saving paper napkins

2.2.1  When you order food at a drive thru, usually you get more napkins than you need.  Don't throw away the extra ones, instead keep them in your glove compartment.

2.2.2  Do not use paper towels for cleaning your kitchen or bath counters or other surfaces.  Instead use cloth napkins.  They clean equally well, can be used dry or wetted with warm soap water for effective cleaning.

2.3  Saving paper and stationery 

2.3.1  Always print on both sides of paper.  Save paper that's been printed only on one side for future printing on the other side.

2.3.2  Often you get envelopes in the mail which may not be used.  Save these for future mailings.  Make sure though that you cover any printed addresses or barcodes with labels or black them out.

2.3.3  Make your own note paper by cutting up sheets of paper that would otherwise be thrown away.  Keep them in your kitchen drawer  and use to make a shopping list.

2.3.4  Stop junk mail from being delivered to you by calling the appropriate number in your area.

2.4  Saving on printing supplies

2.4.1  Use a font that consumes less ink., for example Times New Roman.

2.4.2  Make sure your printer settings are optimized for printing to conserve ink

2.4.3  Take your used cartridges to Cartridge World and exchange them for refilled cartridges which are considerably cheaper than new ones and work just as well.

3.0  Conservation

3.1  Fill a plastic bottle with water, close the lid tightly and put the bottle in the flush tank of your toilet.  Now each time you flush you will use less water.

3.2  Get a rain barrel installed in your garden and use the collected rain water to water your garden.

3.3  If you water your garden, do it in the evening to reduce evaporation losses.

3.4  Start a small prairie or wildflower patch in your back yard.  This will reduce the area you have to mow and provide great color through spring, summer and fall.  Prairie plants being native to the area are well adapted to survival without being watered and provide a great habitat for insects and birds.  Such habitats, are in great need especially in urban areas to prevent the massive die out of insects such as honey bees, which is threatening food production.

4.0  Cleaning tips

4.1  Don't throw away orange peels.  Instead put them in your sink (which has the garbage disposer), add some ice cubes and run the garbage disposer. Not only will this clean the garbage disposer, it will make your sink smell of oranges.

4.2  You can clean pretty much anything in the house with a mixture of water, baking soda and vinegar.

To remove stubborn stains on kitchen counters, wet the surface overnight with the solution.  To remove stains from the kitchen sink, fill it with warm water and then add baking soda and vinegar and let stand overnight.  To remove stains from your dish drainer drainboard wet a cloth with vinegar and let it sit overnight on the drainboard.

Make a mixture of one cup each of water and vinegar and add 2 tblsp of baking soda. Fill this mixture in a spray bottle and use it to wipe down surfaces.

5.0  Reduce, reuse, recycle and become a Zero trash household

5.1  Recycle all items that are ready for recycling such as paper, plastic, glass, metal

5.2  Compost all kitchen waste in a backyard composter.  Use the compost in your garden

5.3  When mowing your lawn, put your mower in the mulch setting.  Mulch provides all the nutrients needed for the lawn and so you can avoid buying fertilizer.

5.4  Yard waste such as clippings, trimmings can be composted.  Larger waste such as branches will need to be broken down using a chipper for either composting or use as mulch.

5.5  If you have things that you need to get rid of, consider taking them to Goodwill

or advertising them on Craigslist or Freecycle  You can also post notices for free items in your grocery store, library, news paper or other places.

5.6  Often you have things that are broken that need to be gotten rid of.  For these items, you will have to dismantle them into component parts so that they can go into recycling.

5.7  Stop junk mail.  This is not as easy as it sounds and you may have to sign up at multiple places, but at least you can stop some of it.  Here's a link for more information on how to stop junk mail

5.8  Don't let those old shoes go to the landfill, instead let Nike recycle them. Find your drop-off location here Nike Reuse a Shoe

5.9  Use your own shopping bag.  Keep a couple of cloth shopping bags of various sizes in your vehicle.  Take them with you to the store and refuse plastic bags.  Some stores will even give you a small discount for bringing your own bag.

5.10  Keep a coffee cup in your vehicle and use it when you buy coffee.

6.0  Trash to Gold

6.1  Often you find things sitting on the kerb on trash days that are perfectly usable.  Pick them up and run ads on craigslist to sell them.

6.2  You can actually make money from your trash. Sign up at Terracyle

6.3  If you are remodeling your home, do not throw away good bulding materials. Instead donate them to your local Habitat for Humanity unit. Check Habitat Restore to find your local drop off location.

7.0  Your health is your greatest wealth

7.1 Grow your own vegetables

If you have yard space, a vegetable garden would be a great idea to organically grow your own vegetables and eat healthy food straight from your garden.  Not only will this give you good exercise for the mind and body, you will lose weight, look better and live longer.  Now your kitchen wastes can go to the compost bin and from there to your vegetable garden

7.2  Become a vegetarian

Vegetarianism is a very healthy lifestyle. You can get all that your body needs from a vegetarian diet.  The practice of growing food to feed livestock and then eating their meat is hugely energy intensive and unsustainable. As the population of the world grows, more and more land, usually forested, is cleared for growing crops to feed cattle.  A meat based lifestyle is far more expensive than one based on grains.

7.3  Bike to work

We do realize that this idea may not be practical for everyone, but many of us live within a few miles of work and in climes that are moderate enough for bicycling. Bicycling not only gives you a great workout, it is great for our planet and your wallet. The more people that bicycle, the more bicycle lanes that cities will add making it even safer.

8.0  Do It Yourself

8.1  Home maintenance

Anybody can learn to do basic maintenance and repair.  The internet is a great resource for pretty much any situation, whether it is fixing a leaking faucet,  patching dry wall, or changing the filter in your furnace. Start by tackling small jobs and buy the tools required for that job.  Pretty soon you will have all that is needed to tackle most home maintenance jobs.  The more you tackle, the more you learn and the easier it becomes and pretty soon you will be a DIY expert.

8.1.1 Changing the belt on a vacuum cleaner

Vacuum cleaner belts are easy to change and cost under a dollar.  Most of the time, a change of belt is all that is needed to fix a broken vacuum.  The most common cause of vaccum cleaners underperforming and breaking is due to materials like cartpet fibers and hair that gets wound on the brushes.  If you clean these regularly, your vacuum will keep working like new for years.

8.1.2  Installing a new wax seal on a toilet

This is usually a 2 person job, although it can be done by one person if you are strong enough to lift the toilet.  The steps involved are shutting off the water to the tank, disconnecting the hose, removing the nuts holding the tank to the toilet and the toilet to the floor, lifting off the tank and toilet, cleaning the old wax, putting on the new seal and reversing the steps to put everything back.

8.1.3  Don't throw away that leaking hose

Leaking garden hoses are vey commonly thrown away in the garbage yet they are easily fixed at very little cost and can give good use for years to come.  Hose repair kits are available at hardware stores for less than a dollar.  To fix a leaking hose, cut the hose an inch on either side of the leak. Heat some water to almost boiling and then dip the end of the hose into the hot water. This will make it soft and easy to slip on to the coupler. Repeat for the other cut end and then assemble the coupler. Your hose is now good to go for another 3-4 years before it develops another leak and then you know what to do.

9.0  Transportation

9.1  Servicing your car

We have been brain washed into getting engine oil changed in our cars every 3000 miles.  If you look at the owners manual of your vehicle, it will tell you to change your oil every 5000 miles or even more.  Most modern cars can go even further between oil changes.

9.2  Keep your tires properly inflated

Maintaining the correct air pressure in your tires can make a big difference in fuel economy besides contributing to safety.

9.3  Anticipate stops while driving

If you see the light turn yellow ahead of you, take your foot off the gas pedal and coast until you reach the light.  This will not only save you gas but prolong the life of your brakes.

9.4  Inspect your air filter

It would be a good investment to change a dirty air filter ahead of scheduled maintenance, because it will improve the performance of your car.

9.5  Use public transportation and share rides

9.6  Drive at optimum speed

Wind resistance increases not proportionally but by the square of your speed.  For best gas mileage, drive no more than 65mph

10.0 Gardening

10.1  If you have clay soil

A lot of homes have very poor soil in their yards.  In newer homes this is due to the fact that developers remove the top soil before the build a home, leaving the home owner to buy a thin layer of top soil to support the lawn. Clay soil has a lot of nutrients but hardly any organic matter or humous. Clay soils also tend to be alkaline in their pH value. Mulching the lawn helps a lot. You can also add discarded coffee grounds to your soil. Coffee shops produce tons of these every day and would be happy to give them away.  Next time you go to your favorite coffee shop, ask for the coffee grounds, take them home and spread them on your lawn. They will help restore the pH of your soil so trees and other plants can grow better.y a thin layer of top soil to support the lawn. Clay soil has a lot of nutrients but hardly any organic matter or humous. Clay soils also tend to be alkaline in their pH value. Mulching the lawn helps a lot. You can also add discarded coffee grounds to your soil. Coffee shops produce tons of these every day and would be happy to give them away.  Next time you go to your favorite coffee shop, ask for the coffee grounds, take them home and spread them on your lawn. They will help restore the pH of your soil so trees and other plants can grow better.

10.2  Planting trees

When planting trees, make sure you remove the wire cage they are put in by nurseries.  This is recommended by pretty much every horticultural agency, including well known ones like the Morton Arboretum. However nurseries and contractors try their best not to remove the wire cage because they feel that the chances or survival of the tree are reduced and may even threaten not to offer a warranty if you have the wire cage removed.  The solution is to have them place the tree in the hole and then cut the wires and pull them out. This is more work but they cannot use their usual arguments any longer once the tree ball is in the hole in the ground.  If you don't remove the wire cage, the wires cut into the roots as the tree grows and create openings for infection.  This might take many years but the tree will ultimately die.  Unfortunately most cities that plant trees continue to let nurseries and contractors have their way, thus wasting tax payer money.