In order to save on energy bills this summer, I’ve been avoiding running my air conditioning unless I have friends over. It’s not too bad, particularly after I sit in my freakishly cold office all day, but I have learned a few tricks for keeping cool.
- Top knot. If my hair is off my neck, I feel way cooler.
- Strip it off. As soon as I get home, I get down to as few layers as possible. Currently I’m rocking a tank and short shorts that I’d never wear in public, but I’m also a huge fan of pulling out an old sarong.
- Cucumber water. My vegetable bin is overflowing with cucumbers, which are delicious sliced up into a pitcher of water. Also, it saves me from having to eat any more of those, since I’m going to burn out soon.
- Popsicles. I’m currently obsessed with homemade fruit popsicles. Puree some seasonal fruit, add a pinch of sugar, pour into molds and you’re done. Right now I have a batch of blueberry, peach, and blood orange. A friend always has several strawberry lemon.
- Fan. Fortunately this area has low humidity and cool off from 100 during the day to 55 at night. I’ve perfected propping a fan in the window of my second story bedroom window and can lower the temperature of my room by almost 10 degrees.
Any other tips for keeping cool during a hot summer?
I’ve mentioned here several times how much I love my garden. It’s a small one, actually a series of glorified flowerbeds, but I love to make things grow. I mostly plant herbs since they’re pretty and edible, and since I prefer to keep my life as organic as possible, I like to use compost to enrich my topsoil and act as a mulch layer. But, organic compost is expensive, so last year I set out to figure out how to make my own compost and in a small space.
There are a few small composters available commercially, but I didn’t want to spend $100 on a plastic contraption, so I hit my beloved Google. I found a how-to for making your own apartment-sized composter, which sounded about right for my condo and its flowerbeds. So, far it’s held up really well, and has made more than enough compost for my garden.
I throw in there all my vegetable scraps from cooking, egg shells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, paper towels; the list goes on and on. The only food waste that can’t go in there is meat (which I don’t eat) and dairy. To balance the moisture of food or “green” waste, experts recommend adding “brown” waste. Since I don’t have dried leaves or pine needles, I throw in shredded junk mail and old bills: any non-glossy paper without colored ink. Every week or so, I turn it over with a shovel, and I haven’t had a problem with smell yet.
Small Composter How-To:
- 1 large plastic bin with lid (like this one)
- power drill
- 1 extra bin lid (optional)
- 3-4 bricks (optional)
Drill holes through the base of the bin, and along the bottom half of the sides of the bin. If you’re planning on leaving it on a patio or balcony (anyplace without drainage), place the extra lid on the pavement upside down, set the bricks on lid, then set the bin on top of that, to provide space, and a catch basin, for any drainage. Keep the composter covered with original lid.
Someday I’d like to meet the person who decided that the entire first story of my condo needed pink tiles for flooring. It’s not just pink; it’s a uniform, pale, pale pink that shows every speck of dirt or drop of water that enters my house. And between my tendency to splash or spill when I cook and a dog that loves mud, there’s an awful lot of dirt that shows up on my floor. I know tile does clean easily, but I’m too lazy to pull out the bucket and mop once a week and the Swiffer wet cloths get expensive. But, I had a stroke of genius a few weeks ago and had to share it with y’all.
Step 1) Grab a rag (the microfiber ones are best for scrubbing)
Step 2) Squirt some all-purpose soap on that rag
Step 3) Wet the rag and wring it out
Step 4) Attach to Swiffer like you would the wet cloths
Step 5) Mop floor
Step 6) Throw rag in washing machine
It’s quick, it’s cheap and it’s more environmentally friendly than a disposable cloth. What else could a girl want? Well, besides a floor that isn’t covered with stinking pale pink tile.
Not my biggest or most exciting post ever, but I just got a stack of old towels on Freecycle. Obviously, I immediately threw them in the wash, but I’m kinda excited. I’m trying to cut back on using paper towels, and I think I could cut these up to make rags to replace those. But, I’m not sure if they’re going to fall apart in the wash, and if so, if I have the energy to hem them all. Any advice?
With my new emphasis on cutting back, I’ve been riding my bike a lot more recently. It saves money, is good for the environment and is great exercise, so I get to feel smug all around. I thought I’d share some of the fun things I’ve been doing via bike.
My friend and I love an Irish pub in the city about 20 miles away and we are thrilled that they recently opened a second branch in our town. Being a bit of a nerd, I friended them on Facebook, and saw 2 weeks ago that they were organizing a free Pub to Pub Ride. I immediately signed my buddy and I up.
We caught an early bus to the city this morning (free with our monthly passes) and were vaguely intimidated by the array of cyclists waiting at the pub. We count ourselves as intermediate riders: we have road bikes, padded shorts and non-cotton tee shirts, but no clip-in pedals, curved handlebars or fancy team jerseys. Fortunately there also a few people in regular workout clothes, old sneakers and propping up cruisers. We had a great 15ish mile guided ride through the city, across the wetlands, and into our own town.
We were pretty hungry by the time we got into town, but lunch at the pub was out of our budget. Then we remembered it was Farmer’s Market Day, which we never manage to get to. We headed over there and sampled our way through dried and fresh fruits, popcorn, cheeses, and dips before splitting a $3 sticky bun, still warm from the oven, and getting a $2 cup of coffee.
So, for $3.50 I got exercise, a morning with a friend, and a delicious and filling snack.
I got an email from the power company that my gas and electric use is up over last winter. If I can lower my usage down to last winter’s level, I’ll get 10% off my next power bill, get below that threshold, 20%. Now that I think about it, I can see how I’m using more energy. I’m cooking more, including baking my own bread & boiling beans from scratch. Last winter, I got ready at the gym almost every day, so more use of hot water in the mornings. I’ve had friends over more often and spent quite a few days home sick, so more bumping the thermostat up. I also hung Christmas lights outside, which while not huge, can add to a bill. So, I’m making a list of things I can do to cut back on my energy usage, save money & be good to the environment, a win-win scenario.
- Go to the gym & shower there 3 days/week
- Take shorter showers, rather than waiting for all the hot water to run out
- Finally wrap my hot water heater in the insulating blanket I bought
- Only keep lights on in rooms I’m using
- Replace dead light bulbs with compact flourescent bulbs
- Put tv, computer & modem on power strips, since even when “off” these things use energy
- Only use tv or computer at a time, they’re in different rooms, and it’s not like I’m actually multitasking
- Only raise the thermostat when friends are over, otherwise, resort to more layers, fingerless gloves & throw blankets
- Be more efficient with oven usage: bake bread while I’m roasting squash, etc
Anybody have any more ideas for what I can be doing?
I don’t actually live in the same town as where I go to school. I live in a much cheaper town, about 15 miles away. 5 days a week I drive 20 minutes, park near a friends house and take a 10 minute walk to my office. On days when I have classes or meetings across campus, which often ends up being everyday, I load my bike onto the back of my car, then bike around campus all day.
While my car is fairly fuel efficient (~30 miles to the gallon), my gas budget is $125 a month, and I know I can do better. The regional bus system has a depot a mile or two from my house and there’s a bus that goes right by campus. As a student, I can ride this bus for free. So, today I loaded my bike onto my car, drove to the bus depot (I know, lazy, but it was cold), caught a bus with said bike, got off at campus and biked over to my office. Total time? 45 minutes.
There will still be days when I have plans or need to run errands after work, or when I just feel lazy. But, I figure if I ride the bus at least 3 days a week, I can save at least $50 in gas. Plus, I get to be more environmentally friendly, which appeals to the hippie in me.
Planned monthly savings: $50