Tag Archives: green

Recycling Is A Pain (But I Do It)

If you can make one change a year, I would add recycling a hard-to-recycle item on your list. We’ve struggled with this over the years as we didn’t have curbside recycling for many years, and we still often forget what is or isn’t recyclable.  However, in recognition of Earth Day, I thought I would share some new and old (recycled!) environmentally-friendly tips:

How to recycle even if you can’t get to a facility.  A simple, good idea if I do say so myself!

Recycling AAA batteries!  In addition to Jiffy Lube, I found a nearby hardware store that accepts household batteries. I feel so much better  doing this than dumping this toxic item into the trash.

Who knew you can recycle paint? Apparently in California, you can drop off used household paint at participating retailers like Sherwin-Williams, Vista Paint, Super Hardware (Mission Ace), Dunn Edwards and more.

I still can’t figure out a consistent way to recycle expired medications or Brita filters…

Of course, just as important as recycling is buying and using less stuff in the first place!

How are you doing in terms of recycling? Can someone explain to me how Recyclebank makes profits?

Waste Not, Want Not?

Earth Day is around the corner (April 22nd) which always makes me confront my horrible wasteful ways.   While many people connect simple living with green living, that hasn’t been my personal experience. I just find being wasteful much easier.  Isn’t it easier to just dump those batteries and cans in the trash? It’s definitely easier to use the dryer than hang things on a line.  

Every so often though, I try to be more “green”.  For me, that isn’t not only about buying organic cotton or recycled goods; it’s about consuming and wasting less.

The Good:

  • Recycling plastic / cans:  My husband and I used to recycle regularly.  In recent years, we’ve been giving our recyclable cans/bottles to a cleaning person at my work or cleaning person/nanny.  We don’t get the money but we don’t have to haul it away either and it’s win-win for all.
  • Paper: I am trying to write notes/lists on the back of used office paper. 
  • Baby Clothes/Stuff:  We’re good at donating gently used baby stuff to other parents.  We also buy used clothes in general.
  • Using What We Have:  I’ve had some success with using containers and bags that we already have around the house.   Also,  reading Your Money or Your Life has encouraged me to think before I buy.
  • Recycling home batteries (like Duracell, etc):  Most businesses only accept rechargeable batteries for recycling.  We were lucky that several Jiffy Lubes in Southern California actually accept and recycle these (AA,  AAA, C and D cell).  Battery toxins include mercury, nickel and leadI just think it’s important to recycle these; when they’re dumped in the trash, these toxins pollute water systems and increase levels of lead and acid in the environment.
  • Buying Organic:  We can’t afford to go all-organic but we do try to buy organic meats, eggs, milk and some fruits/vegetables.
  • Less meat?:  We don’t feel like we have to eat meat at every meal.  However, this is not something I’m actively tracking so I’m not quite sure how we do on this.
  • Green cleaning: We find that vinegar and baking soda does the job in most cases.  We also use greener laundry detergent.  We can still improve on this but I’m happy that we are breathing less/no toxic fumes!
  • Magazine recycling: I’ve been reading way too many fashion and design magazines. However, I give them away pretty quickly. That way, I am not too tempted.  I figure that sharing them among a few co-workers or friends prolongs their shelf life at least.

The Bad & Ugly

  • Paper (again):  We use paper plates.  My love of pretty notebooks is fighting with my desire to not waste paper.  I print things out way too much.
  • Recycling Medications: Not doing this even though I know that improper disposal of medications are a major environmental problem. I read that CVS pharmacy offers an environmentally sound disposal system but I have never seen any signage when I’m there.  Must check this out (and remember to do this…)
  • Diapers: No cloth for us!
  • Gas: No carpool partner in sight + long commute.
  • Dryer:  We dry clothes all the time.
  • Plastic bags: We used to be better about bringing our own grocery bags to stores.
  • More Pre-made foods = more trash?  I would assume that when you cook less and use more pre-packaged goods, you end up with more waste.

Are you very environmentally conscious?  I’d love to hear your best green living tips.

Inspired by Your Money Or Your Life

I’m reading Chapter 6  of Your Money or Your Life entitled “American Dream on a Shoe String” and I have to say it’s been the most inspiring section for me, so far.  I’ve read a lot about similar topics but it’s nice to see it laid out in one chapter and focusing on the big picture rather than giving tips.  Tips are useful but the author’s point is that this type of information can get very outdated quickly, and you can find tons of good tips on frugality blogs.

I got a lot out of this chapter although for very different reasons.  One reinforce what I’ve known for a long time and the other was a new way of looking at things:

What I’ve known forever is Stop Trying To Impress People.  I’ve written before about keeping up with the Joneses, or the mythic rich couple next door, and it’s a losing battle.  As the writer notes, “If you stop trying to impress other people you will save thousands, perhaps millions, of dollar.”  It’s not just about money and conspicuous consumption.  That’s because the desire to impress can affect all areas of your life from big purchases to career choices.  Unless you dig deep, you may never do anything that really brings you true satisfaction.

The more eye-opening statement for me was Meet Your Needs Differently.  This means that instead of relying on retail therapy or exotic vacations, you find affordable substitutions to satisfy your needs.  For example, a big trip abroad may mean different things for different people.  Maybe you want to a break from routine or want some downtime. Maybe you really like to try new things.  Once you figure out your real need, you can find a frugal substitute that can satisfy that same need.  You can get that break just by staying home from work. You can get downtime by hiring people to clean house and and do your chores for one day.   If you crave something new, you can take a foreign language course online or try out an exotic cuisine.  That’s not to say you should never take that big trip but just make sure you can afford it!

Two of my favorite indulgences are spa days (massages, facials) and traveling.  Both things are not very do-able for me at this time.  However, if I analyze why I love these things, I can probably find frugal substitutes.   For example, if I go to yoga, I get time for my self and relaxation, which are two of reasons I love spa days.  I may have to get better about mimicking the pampering aspects of a spa.  Some things that I can do is take a long bath with lavendar oil,  do a steam/facial at home, buy flowers, drink water with lemonade and play calming music.  

As for traveling, my favorite parts are meeting new people and trying new cuisines, both of which is very do-able in multi-cultural Los Angeles.  I like the feeling of seeing new things and it may be time to explore new neighborhoods.

As I progress with the book, I feel myself more reluctant to spend.  At the same time, I have been rationalizing the purchase of pricier skin products because those are important to me.  My husband made two lunch dates and the old me would have been a bit upset at the increased dining out expenses in the same week (and I had made separate plans too!); however, socializing with friends is a priority for us and I won’t sweat it.

On the other hand, I have been spending way too much on eating out at work. I’m going to make an effort to make simple sandwiches.  One favorite that is easy to make is toasted wheat bagel with sliced tomatoes, arugula and tuna in oil, plus a little mayo (avocado optional).  I just have to watch out for food waste, which negates all my money-saving efforts!

Update: I took a peek at the Madewell website.  I am so tempted…so many cute dresses, sweaters and tops on sale!  I don’t need anything but I do want a summery canvas bag, which of course is not on sale.  Help!

September 28: Recycling Made Simpler

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

With full-time jobs, kids, dogs and no curbside recycling at our house, it was very tempting for us to stop recycling bottles and plastics.  Very tempting.  I really don’t know how come we don’t have curbside recycling ; it should be mandatory! Anyway, the task of storing bottles and then loading these into our car and making an extra trip to the nearest recycling center was becoming just a big headache.  The nearest recycling center was located near a Ralphs supermarket but not the one closest to us.  So we had plenty of excuses to pollute the planet with empty beer bottles and plastics.

Luckily we came up with a solution that simplifies our life while helping others.  We let someone else haul away our recyclables (and they keep the recycling “income”)

Okay, this might not be revolutionary to my smarter readers but it was a perfect solution for us.  We made arrangements with someone to take away our recyclable bottles every 2 weeks or so.  They get the much-needed extra cash and we don’t have any green guilt nor too many piles of bottles.  You can find someone via Craigslist or ask around your neighborhood. You never know who can use that extra money.

At work, I give my empty plastic water bottles to the janitor after I realized that he was taking these out of the trash for recycling.  (I actually don’t drink much soda or bottled water so this isn’t too much help for him but I know he gets bottles/cans from several other employees).

Note for paranoid big city dwellers: You don’t want to advertise when you’re out of town so you should use caution.  If you can set bottles outside your fenced area, that person can come and go without knowing whether you’re home or not. Or just be smart and say you’re too busy to let them pick up if you’re out of town.

Do you recycle? Is it a simple process or extra chore?

The Battle Between Frugality and Simplicity, Part 2

I often come across stories about people who give up their corporate jobs to live closer to the land (i.e. make their own artisanal cheese on a farm in Vermont or something idyllic like that.)  However, scratch beneath the surface of that glowing story and you’ll realize that there is a lot of work involved in that simple life.   You get up at dawn to milk the goats or cows, make the cheese, hire and fire workers or do it all yourself, market your products.  Most likely you now earn less money and want to avoid conspicious consumption anyway.  So on top of your cheese-making operation, you have to clean the house, clean up after your kids and pets, clip coupons, plan your menu around supermarket sales, barter your cheese for another farmer’s vegetables, learn to fix things around the house, line-dry your laundry, etc…    

Why am I even writing about this hard-working cheese farmer?  I’m not planning to escape to the countryside but I do sometimes fantasize about a slower-paced and less materialistic life, without considering that this ideal “simple” life is actually not that simple. 

A while ago I posted about my personal battle between frugality and simplicity. I did a rundown of several areas where I choose between the frugal way (i.e. line-drying my laundry) or a simple, less time-consuming way (using the dryer).  In most cases, frugality and green living won out at the expense of time.  

With a full-time job and commute plus the usual commitments of life, however, doing things the frugal way was taking its toll.  After all, it’s much easier to breeze into a market without a plan than it is to cut coupons, browse the sales circulars and make a list ahead of time.  It’s much easier to buy lunch, throw cans in the trash, and hire a maid than it is to do most things yourself.  I resolved to re-visit several areas of my life to see if I could make better use of my time.

How am I doing in this battle? Have I learned to value my time and sanity as much as money? Not really….

1 ) Cooking vs. Eating out

We still cook at home most of the time.  My husband is truly a gourmet cook so this is actually a preference rather than a budgetary thing.  However, if we feel overwhelmed or the dishwasher needs a break, we have a few inexpensive restaurants as back-up.  I still don’t get take-out or call pizza delivery. Winner: Frugality. 

2 ) Recycling

We still do this.  I would feel too guilty throwing bottles and cans in the trash.  Winner: Frugality/Green.

3 ) Growing vegetables

Our summer vegetables are long gone.  Other than some tomatoes, a handful of baby zucchinis and one tiny bell pepper, this was a massive fail.  I’m not sure if or when we’ll do this again.  However, we will always grow herbs like basil, rosemary and sage because it’s important to have fresh herbs on hand.  Winner: Simplicity?

4 ) Line-dry clothing

We do this 90% of the time. It is Los Angeles after all!  I don’t mind this extra chore and feel the environmental benefits are worth it.  Winner: Fruality/Green.

5 ) Washing and grooming dogs

We continue to do this.  It’s time-consuming but we are saving money and our dogs look well-kept more often.  Winner: Frugality.

6 ) Comparison shopping

I have reduced the time and energy seeking deals at drugstores like CVS and Rite Aid.  Most of the time, the sale items are gone by the time I get a chance to go.  Even if the item goes on sale on Sunday, the best stuff are gone by Monday morning.  I imagine swarms of Money Saving Mom readers descending onto CVS like locusts!  I still try to stock up during sales and print out internet coupons.  However, instead of focusing on drugstore “deals”, I try to buy at Target or Walmart and buy generic when possible.  Winner: Tied?

7 ) Bringing my lunch

Lately I’ve been eating out more often.  I still want to bring lunch and snacks on a regular basis. I like having the time to read books or magazines instead of driving somewhere, plus it is definitely healthier to bring my own food. At the same time, I try not to feel bad if I do spend too much during a busy work week.   Winner: Frugality, by a hair.

On top of the above categories, my husband and I have not outsourced any of the housework or gardening.  Those chores alone can be overwhelming at times, especially when extra errands come up and take priority.  The vaccum breaks.  The kitchen sink is clogging up again. The car needs servicing.   The list goes on and on. 

I guess I’ve made some progress in terms of balancing my time and money.   In an ideal world, I would achieve the “perfect” balance but this isn’t always possible.  Sometimes I have more time than money; other times, I have more money than time.  It’s an ongoing balancing act.

I would love to hear if others  struggle with saving time vs. saving money.  How do you balance the two?