Most of what I write isn't relevant to Instructables. My main blog is here: biodieselhauling.blogspot.com
**End Digression... On to the Good Stuff**
Everyone has a reason to use less energy.
-For the environmentalist, obviously, all forms of energy have some ecological impact, and the ones we use the most (oil and coal) happen to be the ones which are most destructive.
-For the patriotic, using less energy means less dependence on foreign oil (and natural gas).
-For the selfish (I don't mean that in a bad way), it means lower bills, and therefor more money in your bank account (or cash under your mattress) that you can spend on other things.
Using less energy is definitely a win all around.
And yet, as much talk as the idea gets lately, few seem to be very serious about it.
There are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of articles consisting of tips and tricks to conserve energy and be a little more ecological.
While they have plenty of valid ideas, a great many of the most common suggestions are things which either:
1) cost a whole lot of money upfront (with a promise of saving money in the long run), making them impractical for most people - things like "buy a hybrid" or "replace older appliances with Energy Star models; or
2) are tiny steps which will save an insignificant amount of energy. You may as well do these things, but you aren't going to see reflected on your next bill, and they aren't going to change the world - things like "clean your air filter" or "turn up the thermostat a few degrees" or "keep your car washed for less wind resistance".
These suggestions seem to be geared towards a very specific demographic, implying that being "green" is limited to middle class families who can afford to be.
In reality, the change to be more environmentally friendly means spending much LESS money than the typical American consumer; not only in the long run, but upfront as well.
I will not suggest that you buy a new hybrid or turn down the heat a few degrees.
If you take some of the steps to follow you will reduce your "carbon footprint" and have more cash in your wallet as well.
Step 1: Buy less stuff
But first and foremost, this is the land of consumerism, so of course just about every company is jumping on the bandwagon, and marketing their product as "green"
This leads people to think that being environmentally conscious means paying a premium.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Because, no matter how much better a "green" item is than whatever it is replacing, not buying either one is always the most environmentally benign choice of all.
The truth is that, due to technology, Americans today have access to more stuff for less money than any point in our 500 million year history. Even the poorest among us can afford cars and TVs. And we have long past the point where getting more stuff actually leads to any tangible long-term increase in happiness. We basically buy stuff for no other reason than that we can.
The really great thing about it is, by doing right by nature (by not buying lots of crap, which necessitates stuff being mined, manufactured, and shipped - frequently from the other side of the world - only to eventually end up in landfill a few years later) you also end up saving a truly shocking amount of money.
Personally, I was turned on to this concept less than a year ago, by Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme
All of my life I have made a fairly low amount of money. Due to various life events outside my control, combined with my low income, I had varying levels of debt all my life (or so I thought!).
Well, I finally paid down the last of my debt about a year ago, and started saving a little bit, just before I stumbled across Jacob, who was promoting the idea of early retirement via spending less money.
Not that I was ever an ultra-consumer to begin with: outside of the occasional broken down auto, cross country move, new motorcycle, or going back to school, I generally lived within my means.
But once I discovered this new idea of becoming rich simply by not buying stuff, I started to pay much more attention to what I spent my money on.
So far its only been 8 months. During that time I made about $26,000.
In that time I have saved $17,000 dollars.
And in all honesty, going from spending 100% of my income to spending less than 50%, I haven't really felt any change in my lifestyle.
The trick is really simple.
Literally anytime you are about to reach into your wallet, stop for a second and ask yourself a few questions:
- Is this purchase going to last at least the next 10 years?
- Will this purchase continue to make me significantly happier for the next 10 years?
- Is there an alternate way I can accomplish the goal that buying this will serve, without spending money?
- Can I borrow this item from someone?
- Can I buy this item used?
- If this is a replacement item, have I tried to fix the old one?
If the answer is "no" to questions 1, 2 or 6, put your money away.
If the answer is "yes" to questions 3, 4, or 5, put your money away.
If the answer is "yes" to 1 2 and 6, and "no" 3 4 and 5, put your money away anyway!
Wait for a month or two. Then ask yourself the same questions again. If after two months you still want whatever it is, go ahead and buy it.
Obviously this does not apply to food - although you can save both money and environmental damage by buying less pre-prepared food and by eating more plants and less animals. As with all shopping, food fits into this general rule for acquiring things:
"If you want it: grow it, raise it, build it, or fix it yourself." (that was taken verbatim from PS118 in the comments)
This concept should seem like a given to readers of Instructables.
For some of the most accessible and fun elaboration on the topic of getting rich by buying less stuff that I have found, try the Mr Money Mustache blog. (When you feel confident enough to call yourself Mustachian - or at least understand the idea - go on to the more advanced and sometimes esoteric ERE blog)