When it comes to going green, some Chatham residents and businesses have led the way. But if you aren’t ready to throw some solar panels on the roof like Liberty Drug & Surgical and ditch your power company, we have 20 tips to help you start living a greener life—and save you money—by making a few small changes to your routine.
Around the house:
1. Buy food, including spices and flour, in bulk. You’ll save money and reduce the amount of packaging that goes in the trash. Costco in East Hanover offers bulk food options.
2. Make sure your thermostat is set properly. Lowering the default settings during at night, when the house is empty and over the summer could save you almost $200 a year, according to Energy Star. More tips at energystar.gov.
3. Insulate your hot water heater. To see if you need to insulate, touch your heater. If it is warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation. You will lower your water heating costs with this single step.
4. Cut down on car trips and run your errands on your bike or on foot. Rusty on two wheels? Ask Bike Land, the Chatham Club or your gym for help.
5. Rip up some lawn and plant a vegetable and flower garden. You will save a ton of money on food, and delight your children as they watch things grow over the summer. Need help getting started? Check out Town and Country Garden Club or another of Chatham's local gardening clubs for tips.
6. Get involved in a local gardening effort. There are plenty of opportunities, from the Chatham Borough Community Garden to the rain garden in Memorial Park to upcoming town clean-up days.
7. Expand your hand-me-down circle. Organize a clothing swap for your co-op, preschool or a group of friends. Have everyone bring gently used and clean kids’ clothes to your garage; parents can take as many items as they donate. The rest goes to charity. You can get some real finds--in my clothing exchange group in college I found a shirt I'd loved as a child, but in an adult size.
8. Have your kids make their friends’ birthday cards and wrapping paper. Paper bags from the grocery store are easily transformed with pastel crayons, markers or stickers, and unlike most wrapping paper, is still recyclable. Plus, kids love getting a handmade card—as do adults.
9. Organize a Halloween costume swap in September. This can be a great service project for a Girl Scout troop. Reserve a room at The Library of the Chathams and publicize to local preschools and PTOs. Green Halloween is a great resource for ideas on how to get started.
10. Check out Swap.com, a “valet service” that collects your unwanted clothes, gear, media, toys and décor and sells them on its site. You set the prices and you can take your windfall in cash or stuff.
11. Use cloth napkins whenever possible, even in school lunches. You can find great cloth napkins at affordable prices at Target in East Hanover, or at local boutiques such as Quartet.
12. When stuck in line at the bank drive-through or school pickup line, turn off your engine. This not only conserves gas and protects the environment, it's also the law in Chatham, and local police have said they will begin to give out tickets to idlers at schools, churches and government buildings. Get other driving tips for tree huggers on the Car Talk website.
13. Ditch those dreaded sandwich bags and get some washable containers or bags. I love ReUsies, washable cloth sandwich and snack bags made in Seattle.
14. Save up to 30 percent on your monthly heating bills by having a home energy audit done by a professional. Ask if your local utility will cover some of the cost.
15. Give and accept hand-me-downs.
16. Replace your old light bulbs with LED bulbs. They last 15 times longer and use 75 percent less energy. Find stores with bulbs at energystar.gov.
17. Got an older house? Install double pane windows and you’ll see immediate savings on your heating bill.
18. Ditch the dryer and use a clothesline when the weather permits. You can purchase a clothesline at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond in East Hanover or online at Amazon.com, or just pick up some string and clothespins at Dreyer's Lumber & Hardware or another favorite local hardware store.
19. Dump your bottled water costs. Buying bottled water is one of the worst things you can do to the environment. Instead, pick up some snazzy metal water bottles for everyone in the family--they're available everywhere, from your favorite Chatham High School sports team to the grocery store--and a personal filter for your kitchen faucet. You'll could save hundreds of dollars a year.
20. Replace your shower heads with low-flow models. Low-flow shower heads can save you up to 15 percent of water heating costs.
TELL US: How did you go green?