As we move into 2015, we wanted to share some green tips that don't cost any money. With all the spending and indulging over the holidays, we liked the idea of finding simple and free ways to care for ourselves and the environment. So, feel free to add these ideas to your repertoire of eco-friendly behaviors! And, as always, we invite you to share these tips with your family and friends. Happy New Year to you all:
- Borrow instead of buying. Books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks are available at your local library and you can even reserve them online. Your local library is a wealth of information and, if something you are looking for is not at one library, the staff can request your item from another branch. Also, consider sharing media with your neighbors and friends to increase your personal library and theirs. You can also share tools and appliances with your neighbors; why buy a dehydrator or chain saw when you can borrow it?
- Join the Freecycle Network; an online membership community that works to reuse and exchange items locally (www.freecycle.org). It's free to join and has thousands of groups all around the world with over 5 million members, where unwanted items are offered to members for free, keeping them out of landfills. A recent scan of our local group found TVs, furniture, moving boxes and persimmons offered for free. Check it out!
- Add fireplace ashes to your compost pile. Or your neighbor's compost pile. The ashes are a source of potassium carbonate and help maintain a balanced pH while the material is decomposing. However, don't put ashes from painted or stained wood or synthetic starter logs into the compost. Other non-food items you can compost are paper egg cartons and coffee filters, wooden popsicle sticks, dead flower bouquets and house plants.
- File taxes electronically instead of using hard copies. According to the IRS, 100 million tax returns were filed electronically in 2012--a full 70% of all returns--so maybe we're preaching to the choir here. You probably already know that filing electronically is free and fast and with it, you get confirmation of receipt by the IRS. If you make under $57,000 annually, you can download FreeFile software. You can also get the forms electronically, fill them out online and file them directly. And, if you have professionals prepare your taxes, the IRS requires them to file your return electronically, unless you specifically opt out.
- Get the junk out of your trunk. Did you know that extra weight in your car decreases fuel efficiency? Smaller vehicles are more affected than larger ones; realize that 100 pounds of extra weight can reduce gas mileage by 2%, or cost up to the equivalent of 6 cents per gallon. Remember to keep tires properly inflated and wheels aligned, since they can both greatly affect your vehicle's gas mileage.
- Trade in your old clothes for credit or cash at consignment and barter stores. You can also sell your unwanted clothes in good condition on many sites, like Copious (www.copious.com), Tradesy (www.tradesy.com) and Threadflip (www.threadflip.com). Check out the web for more clothing-specific sites and don't forget Ebay, Amazon and Craigslist, which reach wide audiences. And, if you have items you never wear and don't want to get rid of, how about turning them into a blanket (of any size) through Project Repat? This is not a free service, however, we love the idea and wanted to pass it on.