By Lindsey Rodrian & Nora Heston Tarte
“Going green” is easy. We did the math… and although the organic strawberries cost nearby double, picking up a few of these simple, easy practices will certainly save you some serious cash. After all, when you choose to live sustainably, you’re choosing to invest in a brighter, environmentally healthy and happy future.
Burn less fuel. Swap four wheels for two and reduce household emissions by 6+ percent, save forests from being chopped down to make room for rubber plantations, and help your wallet, too. Ditch your car completely and the car payment goes with it, pay less—or nothing—for parking, stop doling out dollars for public transit, drop the gym membership, and cut back on doctor bills (because you’ll be healthier!) Take what you’re saving and invest in cool products to pimp your ride, or indulge in a lunch to match your new lifestyle at Bikes & Bites in Lodi. 651 N. Cherokee Ln., Lodi (209) 224-8504, BikesandBitesLodi.com
Go solar. For a little change upfront, you can cut back on monthly expenses by going solar. Whether for home or for business, BTA Solar in Stockton can outfit your dwelling with panels to scale back on energy bills. Not to mention, California state rebates can add to your savings. Some companies even sell electricity generated by renewables back to the grid. 4639 E. Fremont St., Stockton (209) 464-5478, BtaSolar.com
Keep the heat in. You don’t have to invest in rooftop adornments to save on energy bills. Having a well-insulated home with double pane windows can also lower your monthly expenses. When heat is properly trapped inside, and not seeping out of hidden crevices, it costs less to keep your home at the temperature of your choice. Classic Design Floor to Ceiling in Lodi can assist homeowners in finding these pesky problem areas with solutions that won’t break the bank. 2303 S. Stockton St., Lodi (209) 334-4060, ClassicDesignFtc.com
Start composting. An estimated one-fourth of landfill waste is actually compostable, which means building your own backyard compost pile has serious upsides for the environment. However, the collection of decayed organic material can help put some in the bank, as well. Grow a robust garden without buying twenty-gallon bags of fertilizer. Then, cut back on groceries as you reap the benefits of homegrown produce. San Joaquin County Solid Waste Division, 1810 E. Hazelton Ave., Stockton (209) 468-3000, Sjgov.org
Wash dishes smart. Thinking about personal water use may be more common as California battles a record-breaking drought, but do you ever stop to think just how much it affects your wallet, as well? Skip washing dishes by hand (it dries out your skin anyway!) and use the dishwasher. An energy-efficient machine uses approximately three to five gallons of water; efficient hand washing uses eight. And while an older appliance can guzzle up to 15 gallons, not being a pro skyrockets water usage to 27 gallons for regular hand washing.
Wash clothes in cold water. Cold washing clothes not only cuts down on energy use, it’s good for colors. Utility bills will take a hit, and outfits will look brighter than ever. If you’re worried they won’t get clean, don’t fret! Cold water washing has proven an effective technique. Bonus for the environment? Use cold water exclusively and cut 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Let the sunlight in. Choosing blinds that let in natural sunlight not only creates an aesthetically appealing, open space, it gives reason to leave the lights off and put aside some dough. Save darkening shades for the bedrooms and make sure to consider direction (north, east, south, west) when installing new window treatments to get the most light out of your investment. Budget Blinds, 7819 Thornton Rd., Stockton (209) 933-9442, BudgetBlinds.com
Make your own household cleaners. Nothing beats a clean home. The countertops are sparkling, the windows are gleaming, and your house smells magical. What many don’t know? The cleaning products commonly used to create such perfection contain toxic chemicals that can negatively influence air quality within our homes, and have major adverse effects on water quality. Good news—inexpensively crafting Costco-worthy batches of your own family, animal, and environmentally friendly cleaners is a breeze. All you need is a little baking soda, vinegar, and yummy smelly essential oils.
2 cups filtered or distilled water
1/2 cup organic apple cider vinegar
¼ cup 70 percent concentrated rubbing alcohol
A few drops of orange essential oil
Mix all ingredients and store in a spray bottle
*Go even greener, and use a glass spray bottle!
* When cleaning, spray first on a soft cloth and wipe immediately.
Grow your produce. Here in the Central Valley, small time family farming is a no brainer. Though we face an ongoing drought—it’s still cost effective. Include family oriented, fun, inspiring, meditative and rewarding to the list of benefits, and sign yourself up. First timers can always start with transplants—but it’s quite rewarding to begin this venture with a bag of seeds. You’ll want to start preparing needed tools (like a quality batch of organic seeds, seed starting mix (soil) and seedling kit, or green it up a notch and use egg cartons) five weeks before the last frost. Dampen and mix your starting soil in a bowl and then fill your pots. Push a pencil ¼ down into the soil, drop two seeds in each pot, and cover with soil mix. Keep your seedlings out of direct light, for about a week, and soon you will see tiny little greens poking through. Get your seedlings in direct sunlight as soon as they show their face, and monitor them closely as they grow, watering frequently (but don’t drench soil!) Till, fertilize, and test the pH of the soil in your outdoor garden before transplanting! Make the move to your garden when plants are over an inch tall.
Update your light bulbs. How many San Joaquinians does it take to change a light bulb? Swapping your 60-watt incandescent bulbs for lower wattage CFL bulbs (14 watts for same brightness) or LED bulbs (9.5 watts for same brightness) is good for everyone. So how does this equate to savings? Nationally, electricity costs about 11.88 cents per kilowatt-hour. The fewer kilowatts you use, the less you spend.
Buy for the long term. There are some home items just worth the investment. It’s hard to pass up a free, good-looking couch in someone’s driveway but chances are, quickly, the filling will flop, the upholstery will tear, a leg will break off, and it will be headed to the landfill. Though we totally support the secondhand function of reduce, reuse, recycle—it’s not a bad idea to make an upfront investment for an item that will stay in your home for over five years. Yes, it’s a larger initial cost, but you won’t be buying a $400 “new-to-you” couch every two years. Daniger Furniture, 4 W. Lodi Ave., Lodi, (209) 368-0107, DanigerFurnitureLodi.com
Turn everything off. Another way to gain some green is to turn electronics off altogether. Flip the switch before leaving a room, don’t let the television act as background noise, and unless your pooch insists, cut off the music before jumping in the shower. Turning electronics off when they aren’t actively in use is a surefire way to bank some Benjamins.
Conserve energy and the life and look of your clothing. Utilizing a drying rack or a clothesline supports not only the environment and your cash flow, but also the life of your beloved clothes. Avoid the catastrophe of accidently shrinking your daughter’s jeans by simply skipping the dryer! Hanging clothes to dry, either indoors or outdoors, gets the job done in more ways than one.
Swap out your hand soap. Purchase a re-usable hand soap dispenser that compliments your décor and avoid over-priced plastic dispensers that call for monthly replacement. Take it a step further, and instead of purchasing gallons of hand soap, make your own! Stop by Sheri’s Sonshine Nutrition in Lodi for some Certified Fair Trade, USA Organic Pure Castile Soap. Packed with organic oils and natural ingredients, the highly concentrated 32 oz bottle will last what seems to be years. Dilute with water and enjoy scents like lavender and peppermint. Yum. Sheri’s Sonshine Nutrition Center, 6 N. School St., Lodi (209) 368-4800, Sheris.com
Replace non-stick pans with cast iron. Today everyone’s taking a deeper look into the preservatives and chemicals found in our food—but what about the tools used to prepare what we consume? Teflon, the common substance coating nonstick pans, can release toxic gas at high heat levels. The Environmental Working Group reports heating nonstick pans over 680 degrees releases at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens. Cast iron, first utilized by the Han Dynasty in China and still today reigns among chefs, boasts chemical free cooking, is nonstick, and will add to your iron intake—a vitamin that many people lack in their day-to-day diets.
Clean out clutter and buy used. “Reduce, reuse, recycle…” “Someone’s trash is another’s treasure…” We’re all familiar with these sayings but have we experienced their true magic?! With all the consignment stores, and killer estate and garage sales in the Central Valley there is plenty opportunity to sell, trade, and swap your stuff for “new-to-me” items, sure to be packed full of charm. If you simply want to spring clean, consider posting items in your “throw away” section on Facebook. Groups like Buy Sell Trade 209 offer an easy medium in which to recycle!
Air-dry your hair. Does your hair feel brittle, dry, and damaged? Do you spend more money then you’d like to admit on products promising a rebirth that will leave your hair looking and feeling smooth, oh, and of course a heat protectant? One natural way to seriously improve the health of your hair is to ditch your blow dryer—good for you, good for the environment. If you feel you need a blow out to truly style your hair, try to reduce your weekly use.
Say goodbye to plastic everything. Many are aware of the controversy behind bisphenol-A (aka BPA), the industrial chemical used in plastic productive since the 1960s. BPA was found in everything from water bottles to utensils, dental sealants, and more, before falling under public scrutiny for its potentially harmful effects. In 2012 the FDA banned BPA use in bottles for infants, and many manufacturers began to print “BPA Free” on their boxes and labels. Today, BPA is commonly replaced by BPS (bisphenol S) and now, reports are surfacing that BPS is just as harmful. How do we keep track of FDA reports and new findings? Don’t. Just say no to plastic and instead turn to glass. You can literally find every plastic product you use in glass form—spanning from water bottles and food storage bins to spray bottles, containers, and more.
Ditch the beauty products. In recent years both the power and the price tag of beauty products has skyrocketed. Whether you have wrinkles, acne, flat hair, big veins or simply dry skin—there is a product for that, and it likely costs at least 15 dollars and is made with toxic chemicals. The Environmental Working Group recently published a study reporting that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. Many popular products are made with chemicals also used to keep concrete soft and de-grease auto parts, (yuck!) Because our skin is the largest organ in our body—and absorbs lotion, make up, and serum—it also absorbs any toxic chemicals used to form, preserve or create the product. Scary, huh? The easy solution could not be more cost effective or simple. Get rid of all your beauty products—your body wash, lotion, toner, and replace them with the natural products mother earth provides you. Use of coconut oil and shea butter result in silky smooth skin at a fraction of the cost, a spritz of Organic apple cider vinegar clears acne, and oil pulling can whiten your teeth.
Continue to educate yourself. Stay in the know on the newest trends to help cut costs while also shrinking your carbon footprint. Whether it’s buying an innovative appliance, trying a new technique, breaking a bad habit, or taking on an earth-friendly project, there’s always fresh ways to keep the earth green and your wallet full. Visit Stockton’s Earth Day Celebration on April 25 at Victory Park to keep abreast of all things green! LiveGreenSanJoaqin.org