My Green Weekend

It’s my job to write about the environment, so I try my best to walk the walk when it comes to the size of my carbon footprint. But even this ecophile can do more. So one weekend my fiancé, David and I set out to make a few easy, eco-friendly adjustments to our apartment that could also reduce our utility bill. And, we figured, what better time to finish greening our home than while our friends’ young daughter, Rebecca was visiting.

First thing Saturday morning, we went through each room, taking stock of all appliances and electronics that were plugged in to various sockets. They included everything from lamps and coffee pots to computers and cell phone chargers. We came up with a total of 21 plugged-in appliances and consolidated them into five power strips with on-off switches. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, unplugging idle electronics and appliances can cut as much as 75% of the electricity they consume. Now when we walk out of a room, we automatically save energy by simply clicking off the power strip.

Next we decided to tackle lightbulbs. The apartment was lit with the incandescent bulbs of old, so we decided to switch to their greener counterparts, Compact Fluorescent LightBulbs. CFLs use just a quarter of the energy, last up to 10 times longer and can cut lighting costs in half! So how many environmentalists does it take to change a lightbulb? In this case, two. I let David and Rebecca handle the hardware, while I tended to some laundry.

Already washed, the clothes just needed a little shaking out before I hung them to dry on two retractable clotheslines. (Clothes dryers typically rank second, after refrigerators, on the list of biggest energy-gobbling home appliances.) Since it was chilly outside, I let the heating do double duty and dry our clothes for us. Of course, if the weather happens to be nicer, you can hang your clothes on a line outside.

The best way to calculate just how much money you’re saving by reducing your energy consumption? Check your monthly electricity bills, and take note of reduced fees and the kilowatt-hours used, which should be listed on the back of the bill. For a complete analysis of your household’s energy use, go to the government’s Home Energy Saver website (

With our work done, we then began brainstorming activity ideas for tomorrow. Eventually we decided that we’d visit our nearby farmer’s market to pick out ingredients for a nice Sunday-night dinner. The recipe we had in mind was vegetarian lentil stew. Not only did the dish sound appetizing for a cold winter’s evening, but organic legumes and vegetables grown by local farmers — which is good for the planet, the pocketbook and the waistline!

The next morning we set off with our reusable tote bags and a rolling, collapsible shopping basket. We could have driven there, but we opted to walk, saving gas and getting some fresh air on a beautiful Sunday morning. At the market we filled our bags with onions, spinach, red lentils and a loaf of fresh-baked bread.

And that night we enjoyed our savory stew by candle and lamplight. It was a peaceful and eco-friendly note on which to finish our green weekend.

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