Even though the leaves are changing to orange and it may feel cool, green is still hot. And with the change of season, there is a plethora of things you can do to help out Mother Earth and your wallet. Sounds crazy, right? Most everything you do, from recycling to trading out your appliances, will save you in the end.
Think about this: Just by switching to recycled toilet paper, you could save $40 a year. Here are a few tips for saving the earth this fall and fattening up your bank account, one dollar at a time, according to David Bach's 2008 book "Go Green, Live Rich."
SHED SOME LIGHT
When daylight-saving time ends on Nov. 2, you'll be flipping on the lights earlier. Now's the time to switch out your old light bulbs and replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (also known as CFLs). The bulbs are everywhere, even Wal-Mart, and although they cost about $3 more per bulb, they use less electricity. The investment will pay for itself 10 times over during the life of the bulb.
"It's just so much less energy," said Fenton Rood, director of waste systems planning for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. "Just be sure to recycle them when they finally do go out." The bulbs are made with mercury, so dispose of them at the Oklahoma City Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, 1621 S. Portland, or your local Home Depot.
Average savings = $45 over the lifetime of the bulb
There's a chill in the air, but don't get in a hurry to crank up the heat. If you keep the temperature in a consistent range, within three degrees year-round, you'll save energy.
"Check the seals of your doors and windows," said Donney Dorton, demand site management consultant for OG&E. "And be sure to change your air filters regularly, so they can breathe easily."
OG&E offers an online custom energy report for citizens to enter their bills and utilities to determine the amount of energy they are using.
"The benefit is that you can save money by knowing where you're at," Dorton said. "It's not an actual energy audit " which can cost about $250 " but it's a great first start."
Average savings = $114 a year on energy bills
Purchase a power strip and you'll avoid what the industry calls "phantom loads," which are appliances that draw electricity even when you have them turned off, according to Rood. Plug your TV, DVD player and stereo system into one power strip and flip the switch off after you're finished watching the new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "House."
Average savings = $94 a year
SPIN YOUR WHEELS
Now that you can actually hop on a bike without sweating through your clothes, why not use pedal power to get around? Fall is the perfect time to use your bike for transportation and get in some good exercise while saving gas money.
Where will you put it? Not to worry, if you're in the city; Urban Neighbors and Downtown OKC Inc. teamed up to install 35 bike racks all around Automobile Alley, Deep Deuce and Bricktown, which were just unveiled this month.
Average savings = $215 a year (if you traded out one day's commute each week)
Unless you're eating from Oklahoma farmers, your food has traveled at least 1,500 miles to get to your plate, according to Rood. Thankfully, he said there is a big local food movement here.
The Oklahoma Food Cooperative has more than 2,600 food and non-food Oklahoma-made items available each month. Not only will you have fresh " and mostly organic " food on your table, you will reduce your fossil fuel footprint and put money straight back into the Oklahoma economy, which further supports our community.
Average savings = keeping your money right here in the state
SIP WITH CARE
Did you know that coffee is the No. 2 most valuable, legally traded commodity in the world? Let's keep that value right here in Oklahoma. Neighbors Coffee's organic and fair-trade coffees are roasted right here. Area coffee shops like Java Dave's, Will's and Starbucks offer a discount for bringing in your own reusable cup, and Coffee Slingers sells organic, shade-grown and fair-trade coffees. Take advantage and you won't feel guilty drinking your next cup of joe.
Average savings = about 10 cents per cup
Skip the bagging and rake fallen leaves into a compost bin for great fertilizer to improve your garden and houseplants. Or, even easier yet, mow leaves and use them as mulch in flower beds. Contact the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service for simple composting tips.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but the lack of recycling could affect Oklahoma more than you think. Muskogee's largest employer is the Georgia-Pacific paper plant, which uses 100 percent recycled paper.
"The best way to support recycling isn't only to recycle," Rood said. "When you buy products made of recycled materials, you're creating the economic demand for recycling."
Even if you don't have curbside recycling, keep your paper in a bin and take it to your local school or church. Red and yellow bins have been given to these institutions by AbitibiBowater " North America's largest newsprint company and among the top recyclers of newspapers and magazines in the world " to participate in the Paper Retriever Program. Each time the bins are picked up, AbitibiBowater gives back to the school or church for the paper they collect. Oklahoma City and Tulsa are two of 21 areas with this program in North America. Help our kids and the earth " what do you have to lose?
Average savings = giving back to our schools and churches
CHECK YOUR TIRES
When the temperature changes, your tires do, too. For every drop in temperature of 10 degrees, you lose one pound of air, which can lead to low performance and more gas used. According to David Bach, author of "Go Green, Live Rich," "Having your tires inflated to the right pressure can increase your mpg by up to 3 percent." And, while you're at it, get a tune-up and be sure you have a clean air filter.
Average savings = 10 cents per gallon of fuel. "Valerie Kramer Davis