Environmentalex!
Like everything else I get into, I go overboard with environmentalism as well.  I reduce, reuse, and/or recycle everything.  Here's an incomplete guide to Alex's (environ)mental disorder.
Bins
The recycling bin is on the left.  I actually called and had the size of the garbage bin reduced last week because we were only putting it on the curb once a month.  This was the smallest size I could get.  It's $5 bucks a month cheaper besides.

And, yes, that is a manual push mower.  I do have a gas-driven one as well, but it only gets used on maybe every second or third cutting.


We have one general purpose bin in the kitchen for glass, plastic, and aluminum (This is where the beer bottles go, Rich).

As for other materials...


Paper
I have three bins in my house just for regular paper.

One in my office for computer paper or mail I had to look through.

Then there's another in the kitchen for cereal boxes and other pulp-based packaging..

Finally, there's a big bin (pictured) as you walk in where all the junk mail goes, which is probably about 75% of the paper trash our house "produces."

Good thing Tandy isn't "paper trained."


In the kitchen is a bin (okay, it's a cardboard box, the one under the trash can) for plastic grocery store bags (some of which end up as extra garbage bags for small trash containers). 

I also throw other cellophane-type packing in here (e.g., candy wrappers, etc.) since it's the same material.  This all gets bundled together and dropped off at the plastic bag bins at Wal-mart's entrance.

One of the aforementioned paper bins is on the microwave.


All the paper and cardboard go to community bins (like this one) that support local schools or other non-profit institutions (so long as they aren't churches).  This bin is just around the corner from my house.

Since I don't include the paper with the rest of the recyclables in the curbside bin, that's less sorting for them to do as well, so the whole process is a little more efficient.  Naturally, the city gets the aluminum which is the most profittable component (hence it's the material that primarily funds the recycling program).


Packaging
I've been sell my junk on eBay for years now.  No need to hoard crap I have no use for.  By selling things, I hope I'm reducing the need for manufacturers to consume more materials in order to produce more goods.  If you've got junk you could turn into cash, then you need to get off your ass and unfreeze some of your assets.

All this packing material was recycled from earlier mail-order/eBay purchases or was found in stores while clerks were stocking. 

I've been selling guitars and other things lately.  About a week before this picture was taken, I had three times as many packing peanuts and enough bubble wrap to ship the Statue of Liberty.


The downside to selling things on eBay is that you have to keep a lot of packaging handy because you never know what size boxes you'll need at the end of the auctions.  These, of course, are all recycled.  (There are a few more in the shed, believe it or not.)  I absolutely cannot wait until I'm done with eBay so this stuff can go in the community bin.

Just out of the frame here is a large box where a lot of cardboard refuse ends up.  Let me know if you need some for a craft project or to build a fort.


Conserving/Reusing Materials
I can't help but pick up stuff off the curb.  In this case, I was thinking about potential raw materials for a Halloween project.  (If you're thinking, "Hey, it's only July," then you don't know me very well.)

I usually find things like baby car seats/carriers or other items that are still in great condition that get tossed when kids have outgrown them.  A few years ago I had a neighbor who was moving who used to toss out perfectly good stuff like that.  Once a week I picked up all sorts of furniture and baby things and brought them to Goodwill so someone else could put them to use.

I've lived around white trashy people a lot in my life, but I still don't understand that mentality.


There are a lot of places to get things used, especially if you're a DIYer.  And junk yards make great places for photo shoots as well, right Kristi? 

Few people realize you can reuse "dead" batteries in low-current devices such as remote controls, calculators, and clocks.

Most of these batteries are ones my digital cameras ate through before I switched over to rechargables.  It turns out they run my GPSr for several hours (or about a third of what fresh batteries would run it for).

Rechargable batteries are a better way to go, however.


Organic matter
Anything organic that the dog(s) won't try to eat gets tossed in the yard.  For example, old vegetables or peelings and cores, stale bread or popcorn, etc.  Rather than composting, I tend to spread it evenly.  I've found that it's gone within a day or two.  If it's still there by the time I need to cut the grass, it's going to become mulch as soon as the lawnmower hits it.

Saving Water

I thought I had fixed this leak, but it came back intermittently about a month after I replaced the washer.  I would suggest everyone start by attempting the repair.  As always, you're welcome to borrow my tools and/or limited expertise.

However, since that repair didn't hold up, I started putting this container in the tub under the tap.  I use the "waste" drippage to water plants around the house and/or to fill the dogs' bowls.

Ideally, I would rather have a grey water system for the house, but that's a larger investment than I'm willing to make just yet.


I used to think it was gross that Dani let the dogs lick the bowls, but it makes them happy and it's less washing to do  (although I still am creeped out enough that I rinse the dishes thoroughly before putting them in the machine washer.  It's a bad habit, I know). 

If you don't have a dog, at least rinse off the dishes right away so you don't have to soak or scrub them later.


Leave a brick in the toilet.  No, not that kind of brick.

Unless your toilet tends to stop up frequently, odds are you're wasting water.  If you place a brick or two in the toilet tank (out of the way of the mechanism, of course), you won't use as much water.

BTW, if you're thinking anything other than "That's the ugliest toilet I've ever seen," then have yourself checked for color-blindness or other sensory deficits (like taste).


If you're watering your lawn, do it at night.  That's just common sense, right? 

But go one step futher: Do it without a sprinkler.  A lot of water is lost to evaporation if you're spraying over your lawn instead of on it.  Basically sprinklers are good at watering the air (and the sidewalk/street if you're an idiot like some of my neighbors and can't figure out how to properly place a sprinkler).  Sprinklers also put a lot of back-pressure on the flow, so it comes out half as fast (at best).

I tend to put the open end of the hose down in the yard and let it pour out to give the area a good soaking.  I move it periodically so things get soaked more evenly... usually while I'm on the phone with you.


Call in water leaks.  This isn't run-off from a sprinker or left-overs from a summer shower.  Water runs out of the ground here 24/7 (and then down my street). 

The water main busted in almost this same spot last Xmas Eve, although it was a lot worse... which explains why they got out there pretty quickly that time as opposed to the two calls I've made so far which haven't accomplished anything (sigh).

Update (7/31/06): They're out there fixing it (finally!) as I write this.


Saving Electricity

Get a "Little Gray Box."  This is a timer you can find at larger hardware stores and online.  You can install fairly easily on your water heater (electric only; sorry) that allows it to run only during the times you specify.  You can set it for up to three blocks of time, although a well-insulated water heater probably won't even need to be run for more than an hour a day unless you've got something against birth control and ended up with a Catholic-sized family.

Presently, I have my box set for 7-8am since that's when Dani always showers, and there is still plenty enough hot water to take a (another) shower late at night even after other uses (e.g., dish washer). 

There is also a manual override on/off switch right on the front of the box in case you need to deviate from the settings.  These boxes sell for ~$50 at Home Depot or Lowes (and pay for themselves within a couple of months).

Note: You can also lower the thermostate on the heater itself to conserve even more.


Get an X10 system.  This is a home-automation system that allows you to turn on/off (or dim) lights from anywhere you have a remote.  Since I have remotes everywhere (including one on my keychain), it is very easy to use. 

How it saves you money is that you can turn on lights on the far side of the house and light your way from a distance without turning on intermediary lights.  For example, if you want to go upstairs, you can turn on the bedroom light without having to turn on the hall lights along the way.

Components can be purchased online including on eBay.  It shouldn't cost more than $200 to set up, say, four lights in your home, which is about all you need for anything less than a mansion.


Do you know what the ambient heat in the environment is called?  It's "free energy."  Why are you paying to run your microwave to heat your food while you pay for your air conditioning to cool your home?  Let frozen food thaw in the fridge before you cook it.  If you're in a hurry, you can let it sit out for a bit as well.

You can speed things up by placing frozen items on surfaces with a good heat transfer rate such as in a metal or ceramic sink.  You can also find "hot spots" such as near windows where the surface is being heated by sunlight.

Conversely, let fresh food cool off before you put it in the fridge so you aren't working the fridge to remove heat that your air conditioner will just have to remove again.


Fill your fridge.  When you open it, most of the cool escapes when the air flows out.  You can reduce the volume of air by keeping a lot of, say, water bottles in the back.  This buffers it against changes in temperature and makes it more efficient to operate. 

Set your screen saver for one minute.  If you are still staring at your monitor for longer than that without having moved the mouse or touched your keyboard, then you need some coffee.  Or to stop masturbating.

Additionally, I save my monitor by loading any writing I need to do (e.g., emails, work, tomorrow's MySpace bulletins, etc.) onto my Alphasmart.  That device consumes virtually no electricity thanks to its LCD screen, and I can take it wherever I want while the computer takes a nap.


Update: Put up a clothes line or rod like this.  I put this one up on my back porch just outside the laundry room.  I hang these up at night after a load, and in the summer heat we're dealing with at the moment, they're usually dry by the next evening.

A few more ideas:
Copyright 2006 Environmentalex (7/26-28/06).  Update 7/16/07.
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