When we first moved into our house I tried using a push mower. I could not do it. I tried, but our grass is just too thick. It would not cut the grass, it just slide across the grass. That was the first time I realized that you can't always be perfect, sometimes you have make choices. So we got a gasoline powered mulching mower, next time it will be an electric mulching mower. We have substantially reduced the area of the yard that is grass, by planting fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
We have a compositor. Food scraps that we do not compost, we cook and feed to our dogs.
We don't rake the leaves, we sweep and rake them off the sidewalk and into the garden area where they are used as mulch.
We produce some of our own food. Each year we try to do a little bit more. We raise chickens and some years we raise turkeys as well. This year we are going to try to raise turkeys. The eggs from our chickens are so much better than the ones from the store. The turkeys can get enormous, and they can be mean. When they get big enough they chase the dogs and when our daughters were little they would chase them too. We typically give the turkeys names such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. One year we had a 45 pound turkey. It was so big we did not have a pan big enough, so we had to buy a foil container to cook it in and even then it wasn't really big enough. We have a big family, but that year we invited all the neighbors and there were still leftovers. Occasionally eat one of our chickens; but like we told our girls when they were young, we only eat the bad ones.
We grow a lot of fruits and vegetables. Since we use no pesticides, you occasionally have to cut around a spot of two. It is pretty cool to be able to walk out to the garden anytime and a pick a vine ripened fig, apple, pear or whatever. The taste is amazing and it costs hardly anything.
We replaced our charcoal BBQ, with a propane BBQ grill. It has a burner on the side. It not only burns much cleaner than charcoal. We cook outside during those very hot days, which helps to keep the house cooler. Another benefit is that you can cook fish outside without smelling up the house. A gas BBQ is a good thing to have in case of emergency such as a major earthquake. We don't trust our government to provide in the case of a natural disaster.
All of the houses in our area were built without fireplaces so we installed a pellet stove, but left the gas furnace as a backup. It not only lowered our gas bill, but really added charm to our living room. Note: last year they changed the rules on "Spare the Air" and pellet stoves are no longer allowed to operate on these days. It is unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game.
I have installed solar flood lights that are activated by motion detectors. This improves our lighting while reducing our energy use. It has also inspired two of my neighbors who now plan to do the same thing.
We've replaced almost all of our light bulbs with compact florescent lights. I had now idea just how many lights we have in this house. They advised us against replacing the ones in the refrigerator. I have noticed that some fixtures have multiple light sockets. I don't feel obligated to have a working bulb in each socket.
Led lights are the next generation, but I don't think they are quite ready for prime time. I bought two from Heartland that were supposed to be the equivalent of 50 bulbs. They were so dim. They did not give out anywhere near what a 50 watt incandescent bulb would. I tried them in a number of places. Finally I gave one to my neighbor. I bought a different type of LED bulb, if fits a normal light socket, but is shaped like the old fashioned Christmas lights. I added some aluminum foil to the top of the fixture to reflect the light so that it would increase the amount of light on the porch. My daughters have agreed to let me keep it that way if I add lights along the walk way. I am installing solar powered led garden lights.
We have five sky lights in our house. Two are in our kitchen. They use these polished aluminum tubes. During the day they are amazingly bright, even when it is overcast. There are two skylights in our sun room and one in my in-laws bed room. The skylight in my in-laws room not only provides light during the day, but when it is hot, it helps cool down the room as well. The ceiling rises to a point where the skylight is. It can be opened by using a hand crank. Since heat rises, the hot air rises up through the skylight opening and out of the house. This makes a significant difference in the temperature.
My father-in-law has even repaired a knife with a piece of wire. It is an important lesson. The three R's are Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. They are listed in order of what is best. Repairing the knife was a case of reducing by not purchasing a new knife and reusing the one we had.
Back at home we put a blanket on our water heater.
We installed three rain barrels made from recycled pickle containers. We are in the process of installing some old whiskey barrels. These barrels capture the run off water from the roof to be used to irrigate our landscaping and wash our cars.
We have a water pitcher from PUR that has a water filter built in. We used to drink a lot of bottled water at our house. This solution should reduce our cost, and save a lot of plastic, which is made from petroleum. Reducing is better than recycling. For my moms birthday, we gave her a water purifier pitcher and a water bottle for when she goes out. Giving green gifts is another way to make a difference.
We replaced all of the fresh water pipes, replaced the leaky faucet in the kitchen and our hot water heater (with a much more efficient model). Before replacing our pipes, the water pressure throughout our house was way too high. The shower was amazing. We now have low flow heads on all sink faucets and showers courtesy of my friends at Green Suites. I thought I would be really disappointed when I took a shower, but these new low flow shower heads are fantastic. We have replaced both toilets with low flow toilets. One 1.5 gallon and a 1.2 gallon flush. The fixture in the kitchen sink also has a temporary cut off valve.
I put an egg timer in the shower. I set it for five minutes. My goal is to get it down to three, but I really enjoy my time in the shower.
The attic was already insulated, but not the bottom or the walls of the house. My neighbor and I insulated the bottoms of both of our houses together as a joint project. I paid to have walls of my house insulated, along with a full energy audit. They did an air pressure test, sealed leaks and made recomendations. One was to improve the insulation in our attic, which we did ourselves.
A few years back, we decided to replace the family van. It was a Van Conversion. It seated 7, had lots of cargo space, a TV, VCR, is was cool; but the gas mileage was terrible. We decided to purchase a Ford Escape Hybrid. One goal I have for that vehicle is to convert it to a plug in hybrid, which will allow us to increase it's MPG significantly. I can't help wonder what improvements will come over the next few years with diesel hybrids, electric cars and the hydrogen fuel cells. Even with all of that it is better to reduce, so I telecommute about one day a week.
We had to replace our roof. We also took the time to replace a fair amount of siding that was damaged by dry rot. In doing this we used old growth redwood, that was reclaimed from another project. Sure we had to fill in some nail holes, but it was worth it.
I went to an Eco Fair recently where Safeway gave away free cloth shopping bags. I figured I should give Safeway a plug since they gave me two free bags and I don't live near a Safeway, so I use them at our local grocery store, which gives us five cents per bag each time we use them.
Like most people, we recycle our paper, glass and aluminum cans at home. I set up boxes to collect these in the office where I work back in the late 80's.
The amount of junk mail that we receive is terrible and there is no easy way to reduce it. With unsolicited phone calls you can register on the National Do Not Call Registry, but there is no equivalent for junk mail. I have used mainly Charity Guide and Eire County Works and followed their advice. I have called individual catalog companies on their own toll free numbers and had them remove us from their mailing lists. My daughter Lila was not happy that I called See's candy and had our address removed from their mailing list and I have to admit that was the hardest one to do. Recently I discovered Catalog Choice. It is a free service that allows you to take your name off of the mailing list of a number of catalogs. If the catalog you are looking for is not there, you can request it to be added to the list. This is done in co-operation with the catalog companies.
We do a fair amount of canning and freezing our own home made pies and breads. We want to try and do more each year.
This list helped me to feel a bet better. It is clear that the Green Journey is a never ending one.