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Not-So-Green Confessions

This is a Guest Post by Sustainable PF who writes with his wife, Mrs. SPF, at Sustainable Personal Finance where they discuss balancing their financial goals with their lifestyle and beliefs regarding sustainable living in Ontario, Canada.

Psst.  I have a not-so-green confession to make.  Actually, make that five.  Mrs. SPF and I don’t do every last thing we possibly could do to be green and save money.  We write about our ideas and actions a lot but I have to admit we don’t actually implement each and every sustainable / green / eco-friendly thing one can dream of.  Today I will share a few of our not-so-green confessions with you. Specifically, I’ll want to discuss areas where we are looking to improve in our journey and challenge to achieve balance between our beliefs regarding sustainable living and our personal finances.

First, I drive too fast.  Here in Ontario, Canada we have a highway that has a posted speed limit of 100 km/h (65 mp/h) but if you are going 100 km/h you are being passed by every car on the road.  The truckers, the minivans filled to the brim with Mom and kids and senior citizens too.  The police don’t seem to enforce the speed limit until you’re speeding away at 125 km/h or more.  To feel safe when driving on this main highway, believe it or not, you almost need to “go with the flow of traffic” or else you are having your bumper ridden and other motorists are weaving in and our to get by you.  Thing is, by speeding I am not using fuel efficiently and I know it.  Every 10 km/h over 100 km/h I drive I know I burn fuel 10% more quickly and that means 10% less fuel and financial efficiency.  Driving at 125 km/h means our car is getting 25% fewer miles to the gallon.  Additionally, more oil is extracted from the earth and burned into the air we breathe and all the while our family has less money because we burned too much gas by keeping up with the joneses.  So I’m trying to slow down when I drive.  The other weekend on the way home I dropped to 110 km/h (and was passed by every driver on the highway) but I could see the mpg reading on the dash was much higher than usual, which was a good feeling.

My second confession is that we don’t yet have a clothesline installed at our new (very old) house.  We definitely see our share of winter here in Ontario.  About 5 months of the year you risk the chance of your wet clothes freezing if they are “drying” on the line.  The other 7 months however, we have the opportunity to dry our clothes outside – we just haven’t done so yet.  After buying a home together last fall it didn’t make sense to put a clothesline up as winter was on its way.  This spring (hopefully around the corner – the snow is almost gone!) we plan to install a clothesline.  This should help us save electricity and the power required to generate the electricity which will reduce our carbon footprint.  If we get really gung-ho about clothesline drying we may hang lines in our basement for winter time drying.  It may take a few days to dry clothes but running a dryer is a major drain on the grid and our bank balance.

Along our winter theme, our third not-so-green current habit, we really need to stop using salt to melt the ice from our walkway and driveway.  I’ve seen some “eco-friendly” de-icing products for sale but haven’t taken the time to research how green these products are in terms of being plant and pet friendly.  My summer / fall homework will be to read more about these “green” de-icers.  If they aren’t all they’re advertised to be we’ll make the switch to using kitty litter to reduce ice and make our sidewalk less slippery.

Mrs. SPF and I bought our home knowing it had an inefficient heat source in the sunroom addition – baseboard heaters.  Electric heat is an extremely inefficient way to heat a home.  The rest of our home has boiler/radiator heat which is a nice slow and even natural gas heat but that sunroom is a massive hit to our electric bill.  For our fourth improvement these baseboard heaters have to go and we need to install a more efficient solution.  We performed our ecoEnergy Retrofit last fall prior to the program ending so it seems silly to us that we have a very efficient (for a 100 year old house) home with one room still wasting energy and money.

Lastly, we confess that we love to buy local food. Last weekend we bought some local maple syrup, eggs and beef.  When we have the opportunity we try to buy local apples, pears, pork, apple cider, wine, berries of all sorts and dairy products.  The one thing we have not been buying locally has been chicken primarily due to local free range chicken being so expensive (like $25 for a chicken!). Lo and behold, Mrs. SPF told me tonight she learned that the local market & butcher that is a five minute walk from our house is selling free range, organic, fresh chickens for approximately $10 a piece (compared to about $7-$8 in the grocery store for mass produced poorly treated chickens).  We’re sold!

So these are our confessions.  We will make some changes in our lives this year that are long overdue.  Our wallets and more importantly the earth we inhabit will be the better for it.

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.


Thursday 17th of March 2011

$25 for a free range chicken! Yikes. Glad you have found a better source now. It will probably taste much better too.

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

Thursday 17th of March 2011

Great tips SPF. We actually have been shoveling the whole winter and have not tried the salt thing which means it is rare for us to ever have a fully clean walkway;always a bit of snow.

I too have an issue with clothes drying outside because I also have a 5 month long winter like yourselves. We do hang our clothes to dry in our laundry room though which works well.

Sustainable PF

Thursday 17th of March 2011

Thanks for the feedback Miss T! As we're in a new house and it was our first winter we (I) learned some ins and outs about how water pools then re-freezes. One spot, at the base of our steps was particularly bad and the Canada Post carrier wouldn't walk on it to put mail in our box. The saying goes "neither rain nor sleet nor snow .." but it doesn't stipulate ice! hehe

Eliza from Happy Simple Living

Thursday 17th of March 2011

These are great tips, and I'm envious of your new source for organic, free range chickens. It's great that you're able to find local sources for so many other ingredients, too!

Sustainable PF

Thursday 17th of March 2011

Thanks Eliza! Being we live in Canada our opportunities to get local food, let alone organic (produce) is limited to certain seasons, but we sure do try! What will be REALLY interesting is if we try an All-Ontario diet this summer!

Sustainable PF

Thursday 17th of March 2011

Good idea on the drying LH. I've also learned that a quick minute or two in the dryer will help make your clothes a bit softer when drying them, especially inside your home.

We actually need to move our washer and dryer. They are currently on the 2nd floor which is convenient, unless, as we learned, if something breaks (like ours did - a 2"x2" hole in the washer drum) and then water travels all the way to the basement!

Little House

Thursday 17th of March 2011

We hung up a laundry rod above our washer and dryer since we now live in an apartment and don't really want to hang our laundry on the patio. Many of my husband's shirts dry on this rod and it does cut down our use of the electric dryer. So even if you can't hang your laundry outside during the winter, you might be able to hang some of your laundry over the unit!

I also didn't ever think about areas where salt is used to de-ice sidewalks and driveways. Thanks for sharing these tips!