The payoff of living green

Communication

Green living and sustainability is a hot topic these days. We are seeing real growth in non-fossil fuel based energy, an increasing number of hybrids are on the roads daily, and the number of “green” TV shows are growing. However, with its growing popularity, green living has also come under attack by some, saying its not practical, too expensive, and even a danger to our consumer way of life.

A few months ago my wife and I decided to dabble in green living. We took some simple steps, like using re-usable grocery bags at the stores, cutting back on buying items with eco-damaging packaging, hanging clothes out to dry instead of using the dryer, switching to cloth diapers for our baby, making some of our own cleaning supplies using household products, and (of course) recycling everything we could. We have even refused to run the air conditioning so far, which seems radical to our neighbors here in central Texas…

I will admit, I thought this would be a phase, and my wife would be screaming to use the dryer and stop making her own cleaning supplies within weeks. I silently predicted that the house would be overrun by infectious diseases once we started using cloth diapers… not to mention the very notion of changing and washing a cloth diaper seemed, well, gross. In summary, I thought living green would be a pain in the rear end, and that we would somehow end up paying more money for the privilege of the inconvenience.

The results so far have been shocking to me.

Financial benefits. By our accounting, we have saved approximately $140 each month in utilities (water, gas, electricity), by changing what we bought at the grocery store, and by (gasp) walking more than driving.

If we wanted to, we could actually stop our trash collection services and use only recycling since we are now putting out only a single regular sized bag of garbage every two weeks. That would save us another $50 each month.

Health benefits. Green living encourages healthy eating and a more active lifestyle. I personally have also lost 16lbs (yes, SIXTEEN) by eating more healthy foods and walking more. My wife states she has lost 9lbs. Both of us have more energy than ever, and there is far less tension in the house because we are both happier people.

In fact, we both feel so good we have recently started exercising as well.

Relationship benefits. I believe our move to green has improved our relationship. Although going green was my wife’s idea, and I was initially somewhat skeptical, the common goal of finding ways to live better has drawn us closer. We spend more time together coming up with ideas on how to improve our lifestyles, and work compromises when the ideas get a little crazy.

In short, we are both enjoying the experience, and enjoying working together on the project. I suspect that once we start our garden and composting this will turn into another family bonding experience as well.

Our green future. Let’s be clear. Neither my wife nor I are “green freaks.” Neither of us grew up on a farm. I personally do not even believe that we can, or should, “stop” global warming, nor do I even believe we are the cause of it… but that is a topic for another post…

However, we both feel an obligation to be good tenants of the planet. And, we have both decided that the simpler life is, the better. After living a greener lifestyle over the past 3 months, we can honestly say that neither of us feels inconvenienced by the changes. In fact, we are planning on moving to Phase 2 – which will mean going vegetarian for 5 days out of the week, starting a vegetable garden, composting, and making even more cleaning products on our own.

Someday we even hope to build our own home with environmentally friendly materials and run it on solar and geothermal energy. The home will also have a well and rain collection tanks for water. We will effectively be “off the grid.” The financial benefits should amount to over $600 extra per month in utility and maintenance savings. My research shows me that the building of the house itself, if done properly, will also yield significant savings over a traditional build.

All that being said, I am not yet ready to give up my SUV and move to a commune. I enjoy civilization, and am becoming aware that living in a low impact, environmentally responsible way does not conflict with living a civilized and sociable life.

So, the bottom line, based on our experience and research over the past 3 months is that the claims of living green being too expensive and impractical are patently false. The financial benefits alone make it worth doing. However, we have noticed other benefits as well in terms of improvements in our lifestyle, relationship and health. We feel more connected and responsible for living a greener lifestyle. I invite you to try it. Even small changes can make a big difference!

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