Earth Day 2013

GlobeFace it, short of nuking the Moon so that a large chunk of it falls to Earth and breaks the planet in half, we aren’t going to destroy the Earth. It will continue its journey around the Sun and spinning on its axis long after the human race has wiped itself out. Earth Day efforts are about making sure we aren’t shortening our time as a viable species on this planet. And in previous years I’ve written about ways that you can do your part mostly by focusing on saving yourself money. That’s not going to change really…

First off, as always, I love not getting junk mail. 41pounds is still around and they do good work. If you do nothing else for Earth Day, do this. The mantra of being better is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and it should be done in that order. The single most important thing you can do is not to have trash to begin with, Reduce. Then, Reuse items you have. Lastly, seek ways to Recycle trash into new things to avoid harvesting of more resources. Before I stumbled upon a company that would eliminate my junk mail, I would get at least 5 or 6 pieces of mail, per day, minimum. And rarely was any of that worthwhile mail. It was credit card offers and other mailers, all of which went from my mailbox and into the trash. Now, I sometimes go two or three days without getting a single piece of mail. If you don’t get it, you don’t have to throw it out. If enough people don’t get it, they’ll stop printing it.

Still not getting phone books. The opt out is so very nice. You should do that too.

Last year, we had some people come to the house and clean out the ventilation. They found construction garbage in there. The house was built in the mid 1990s. That stuff had been sitting in there for fifteen years. It wasn’t exactly cheap. Hundreds of dollars were spent. However, since then, our heating and air conditioning has worked better, more efficiently, and more cheaply. So, I recommend looking into that if you think your house might need such a thing.

In a sort of anti-Earth Day move, we are looking to have a bunch of trees cut down… but they will be replaced with better trees (because seriously, pine trees are pretty useless to the average person) and a garden. I’ll be posting more about that once it starts happening.

And, of course, coming up on the weekend of May 4th and 5th, the neighborhood is having it’s spring garage sale event. Hopefully people will come and buy my junk instead of buying the exact same things for much more from Amazon.

On another note, eating healthier is also usually better for the rest of us. The better you eat, the less packaging the food tends to come in, and therefore, less trash. Reduce, both your impact and your girth. Over eating and poor eating are also linked to lots and lots of health issues, and with the way the cost of healthcare is going, you want to limit your health issues as much as possible.

Anyway, enough Earth Day rambling out of me.

Save Yourself, Save the World

RecycleI’m a little late for my semi-annual plea. I missed Earth Day by about 5 days, or 371 days if you count the fact that I didn’t post last year…

Anyway, previously I’ve posted about services that help you eliminate junk mail. Unfortunately, those sites are all dead now, probably because they set their fees too low to be successful in the long-term., however, has managed to stick around. I can’t vouch for their specific service, but I can say that taking advantage of one of these services that will help get you off mailing lists is pretty awesome. They are currently running a special for $24 to cover every adult in your household for 5 years. $4.80 per year to stop most junk mail. Totally worth it in my opinion.

I also haven’t gotten a phone book in over two years thanks to their new opt-out policies. Yay!

We’ve continued the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra around the house. We generate about a bag of trash every two weeks or so, and I’ve been working harder to turn off unused electronics. I’ve gone 100% over to electronic billing, except for medical bills – hospitals insist not only on paper bills, but on generating several copies of every bill, and every bill contains the full accounting of the charges and payments. It’s a miracle that they allow me to pay online.

Both the wife and I have gotten Kindles, her the Fire and me the basic model. We’ve switched over to buying most new books in eBook form. I doubt I’ll ever buy comics or graphic novels that way, at least not until there is a cheap high quality 14 inch tablet that can view them full size without zooming or going panel to panel. And with two-page splashes the way they are, a 28 inch tablet is just impractical.

Most importantly though, and the intent of the title of this post, is that most of our efforts have actually been to save money. The eBooks are cheaper than they physical counterparts most of the time (especially when you read classics and keep an eye out for deals), electronic billing means so buying stamps and envelopes, keeping electronics off drops the power bills, drinking water saves on groceries, less junk mail means less trash bags, and so on and so on. Nothing we’ve done was specifically to save the planet. It was all done to save us money, and the side benefit is it just happens to be better for the world (or at least our continued ability to live in it) in the long run.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to afford solar panels and an electric car…

Earth Day 2010

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

This is the mantra of the efforts to “save the planet”.  Now, while I’m the first to deride people over that particular turn of phrase (I mean, seriously, the planet is not really in danger – the ecosystem humans require to live in is, but until a comet lines us up in its cross hairs the planet is doing just fine), I do actually agree with many of the methods and goals of environmentalism.

I’ve blogged numerous times about reducing junk mail, and I’m about to do it again.  I simply cannot say enough about the program that was called Green Dimes, then Mail Stopper and is now called Precycle.  Back when I first bought my house we were getting a mailbox full of junk nearly every day.  There was so much wasted paper that it was a pain in the ass to bother dragging it to a place that would recycle it.  It seemed like such a no-brainer that better than recycling junk mail was to stop it from coming at all.  Combining the use of this service plus switching over to eBilling for nearly all my bills, I have an empty mailbox three or more days a week.  The junk is just gone.  So, not only do I not have to deal with it coming in, I also don’t feel guilty about throwing it out because I’m too lazy to recycle it.  Win-win.

We’ve switched over almost entirely to drinking water (or Crystal Light which is just water with some powder mixed in), so this means less cans and bottles.  Much like the Precycle above, not having things to recycle is better than recycling.

We also tend to buy in bulk when we can, which reduces the amount of packing materials.  Combined with the stopping of junk mail, I almost feel ripped off paying for weekly trash service because we only cart the can to the street once a month (more often if it’s stinky).  I say almost because driving to a dump and paying per bag ends up costing about the same, and since a few dozen of my neighbors use the same trash service (and more often than us) I wouldn’t be saving anything by cancelling our curb pickup.

Over the winter, the wife an I experimented with a space heater.  Rather than heat up the whole house we kept the thermostat relatively low and then just heated up the room we were in.  It worked out fairly well and we managed to save a little money.  It’s a plan we are going to try this summer as well with the use of fans.  Though while a heater is a heater, a fan isn’t an air-conditioner, so we may be met with limited success.

All in all, I really do feel like I’m doing my part.  I encourage everyone to take a look at their lives and see where they can make changes, not just for “the planet” but for themselves and their own pocket books.  Saving the environment is good.  Saving money is great.  When you can do both at the same time, that’s awesome.

Who needs phone books?

Face it.  The world is changing.  I moved out of my parents’ house back in 1994, and in all the years since I have received a full batch of anywhere from six to ten phone books, yellow and white pages, every year.  And in all that time, I can recall perhaps five or six times I ever used them.  Nowadays I can find anything I might possibly need a phone book for on the Internet.  Or rather, I’m going to use the Internet and any business that isn’t out there is probably not going to get my dollars.  Even the Yellow Pages themselves have opened up, and if you happen to live in a state serviced by AT&T you can even browse an online version of the printed phone books.  I’m sure more services are out there as well…

So, given my penchant over the last couple of years to stop junk mail, you can imagine how I feel about my annual stack of phone books that appear on my door step.  True, I simply drive them over to the post office where they have a dumpster for phone book recycling, but the printing of the books is just a giant waste to begin with.  (Yeah, yeah… I know, “In Case of Emergencies”, but I keep written down all the emergency phone numbers I would need, especially the ones I would need if I had no power or Internet access.)  That’s why I was very happy when I got an email from Green Dimes about Yellow Pages Goes Green.

I’ve signed up to have them stop sending me phone books, and now I just have to wait and see…

Doing My Part

Today I loaded up the car with all the things I’ll never sell at my garage sales: 3 monitors, 2 printers, and 2 scanners.  They were all old.  The monitors were not LCD or Plasma, they are 15″ and 17″ tubes.  The printers were an old EPSON and an HP, both with printing speeds of about 1 page per minute, and requiring old ink cartridges that are getting harder and harder to find.  The scanners ran about a page a minute as well… or rather a page every two minutes since they don’t have feeders and you have to manually change pages.  They all functioned, however, and so I was loathe to just throw them away and have them wind up in a landfill.  Most places won’t take them for free, asking you to pay anywhere from five to twenty-five dollars per item to “recycle” electronics, though I suspect many places are just taking the money to offset the cost of landfilling the items and make a little profit to boot.

But today I took my treasure trove of unwanted goods to a local place that was running a one day collection of small electronics.  They were sorting them, palleting them and trundling them off for donation and auction.  In other words, asking for your old junk that someone else might want and trying to keep them out of the landfill if they can.

So, feeling pretty good about clearing out a good bit of storage space without dropping it into a dumpster, I decided that I should blog today and once again pimp out GreenDimes and urge people to do their part to eliminate waste.

Back when I lived in an apartment complex, they would keep trash cans next to the mailboxes specifically for people to dump their junk mail into.  It would be overflowing in a couple of days, often just after one.  So much unwanted crap gets mailed to people, and it just goes in the garbage.  When I bought my own house, in only took a month or two for the junk mailers to find me.  Soon I was bringing in an armload of mail each day, of which maybe one or two items a day were actually anything I wanted to see.  At first I decided to try to fight the glut myself.  I called the companies, who would direct me to other companies, who would promise me I was being removed.  For the first year, I fought the good fight, but I was losing.  The mail didn’t stop.

Then I found GreenDimes.  It was recommended to me by a friend, and I figured that twenty bucks was worth giving it a shot.  I am so supremely happy with the service, that I highly recommend it to everyone.  They have been far more successful at getting me (and the previous owners of my house) removed from mailing lists, and that combined with my switching to paying all of my bills online, I actually get no mail at all a few days each week now.  I still do get a few local mailers, and I even use them… see, when I get mailers or coupons once or twice a week, I actually read them, unlike when I was getting eight to ten a day and would put them straight into the recycle bin or trash can.

Sure, some people might argue that I am missing out on things by not getting junk mail… but seriously, we call it junk mail for a reason.  Arguing in favor of junk mail is like arguing in favor of email spam.  Does anyone actually think email spam is a good thing?

Anyway, overall cutting out the junk makes me feel good, and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

Garage Sale

One of the advantages of living in an actual house in an actual neighborhood is the neighborhood garage sales. Everyone carts all their old crap they don’t want anymore out on to their yards and tries to pawn them off on anyone willing to take them away… I mean, people try to divest themselves of things they no longer use and pass them on to people who will make good use of them, for a small fee.

The wife and I decided to take this opportunity to thin out our bookcases and to cut down out CD collection, and even empty a closet or two… and to try to beg people to buy my old computer junk. We dragged out two card tables worth of books, paperbacks and hardcovers, and easily over 400 CDs, a handful of DVDs that, frankly, no one should own, which is probably why I owned them. We also had a table of stuffed animals to which we held no special attachment and some board games we never play. There were some old blankets and sheet sets, all the light fixtures we’ve replaced in our house, my Body By Jake Ab-Rocker (no, it doesn’t really work, I did it every day for a year and I never got even remotely close to a 6-pack), and some odds and ends. And lastly there was my table of crap… 3 old 17″ monitors, 3 printers, 2 scanners, a DVD player, a box of assorted PCI expansion cards (a couple of network cards, a couple of video cards, a sounds card, an SCSI controller, a parallel port card), and a roll of 50 feet of coaxial cable.

No one buys my computer crap.

In the end, we managed to sell some books, CDs, a couple of DVDs, the odd board game and stuffed animal, and the DVD Player, netting us a grand total of $177. Now its time to box the junk back up and wait for the next neighborhood garage sale.

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.

So, being that that is what today is, I figured it was time for another edition of what I will from now on refer to as “Probably Not Saving The World!”

Previously on the blog, I’ve mentioned my efforts to reduce my junk mail. The first couple of steps I took helped, but it always seemed to be a momentary slackening of the flood, not a stoppage. Then I was pointed at GreenDimes. I signed up for their $20 premium package, and the junk mail has all but stopped. At this point, the only things I get that I consider junk are a few local items, which I can excuse because they are local advertisements of local businesses and not big chains. Its nice, and it makes me feel better about not wasting all that paper.  With the GreenDimes service, you can even get the names of previous tenants dropped from lists, which is great since at this point nearly a third of my junk was for people who don’t live at my house.

We still keep up on the recycling, but even more so, I recently suffered through caffeine withdrawal in order to stop drinking Cokes, and have pulled way back on the number of canned and bottled beverages I drink. With a decent filter, tap water is just as good, if not better, than anything you can buy at the store. Plus, the more things you buy at the store (like sodas and bottled water) are more things that need to be trucked around the country. While I haven’t gone totally for “buying local”, I am trying to cut back on all the things I buy where I can.

Next up, we are looking to have an energy audit done on the house. That’s where someone comes and inspects the house to find all the places where you can improve efficiency, mostly for heating and air conditioning, to cut back on usage. As it is, we are trying to let the house stay cooler in the winter and a little warmer in the summer if we can stand it.

I’m really hoping that within the next five years I can get solar panels put on the house. You can even get money from the government to help with that, and get a tax write off.

So anyway… Happy Earth Day! Even if you don’t believe in “Global Warming”, garbage is still garbage, and less garbage is good.

An Ebbing in the Tide

A while back, I posted about my efforts to stop junk mail. In January even, I posted here about how I was still getting junk. And even though I can’t seem to win the fight against direct mailings for local businesses, the war is go well on other fronts.

In particular, the fight against credit card offers is going extremely well. In my first post on the subject, I provided a link to a site from the credit card offers themselves. This, perhaps in conjunction with other efforts, have actually resulted in a near complete stop of credit card solicitation.

I say “near complete stop” because the companies I already have credit cards with do occasionally send offers for different cards they represent, or sometimes offers to my wife if she isn’t listed on my card with them. While still undesirable, this is at least tolerable, since it is, at most, one a month in total. I will make an effort to stop this as well, but its no longer high on my list.

Some of the other junk does appear to have stopped. At least once a week I will go to the mailbox and find nothing there, sometimes even twice a week. And the days of my mailbox being jammed to overflowing with catalogs and coupons appear to be over.  To make further inroads against junk, I’ve signed up for GreenDimes, which has gotten very positive reviews from people I know in regards to how it helps stop mailers, especially those nasty “Resident” addressed ones.

All in all, I’m much happier not getting all that junk.  However, the United States Postal Service isn’t happy about it.  My brother forwarded me a link to a Washington Post article which in part is about how the USPS actually relies on the revenue generated by junk mail in order to keep running, and how as an employer of millions of Americans, the USPS (and by association, the junk mail) plays an important role in the economy.

Personally, I’d rather see them reform the USPS system rather than continuing to try to justify the support of the glut of junk mail being sent. 


Last week, I finally decided to call in service on my refrigerator. The panel with the water and ice dispenser in it has been loose for a while. So I went looking for the receipt and the service numbers which resulted in my sifting through the piles of papers and junk that has collected in my filing cabinet since we bought the house. After dealing with the fridge (which turned out to be that the panel was never installed properly, not that it was broken), I decided to clean up my files.

Dealing with old papers has always been a thing for me. I’m a pack rat by nature, and I keep everything. Not that I keep it organized so that it is useful or anything, I just keep it all. Since I have had my mail stolen a time or two, and I know there are people out there who go through the trash looking for items to perpetrate fraud with, I wanted to make sure I disposed of everything properly.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. About 8 months ago, I did a semi-cleaning of sorts and I threw out some stuff, but not a lot, so I just tore everything up into small pieces by hand. But for this new overhaul, I knew I’d have more to throw out, so I borrowed an electric paper shredder from my father. 🙂 Man, is that thing fun to use. You just drop paper in the slot and it powers up and shreds. It even has a nifty warning label on it specifically telling you not to put your tie in it, just in case you were tempted to try it.

Even I was unaware of just how much crap I had accumulated. Back in 1992 I got my first job doing night stock work at the local Kroger, and after a few paychecks I went and opened a bank account. I actually had in my filing cabinets, 16 years worth of bank statements and canceled checks. Well, almost. The canceled checks stopped back in 2000 and I went to eStatements in 2006. I also had every credit card statement from 1993 to 2006, and some even to 2008. I had warranty cards for items I haven’t owned in more than a decade.

Overall, if makes me proud of myself to know that most of that can’t happen again. I’ve gone to electronic everything as much as possible, and most companies offer to keep PDF versions of your statements and check images and whatnot for up to seven years if you turn off your paper mailings. So I get to keep the same records I had, only now I’ve got them all on a hard drive instead of in a filing cabinet. However, as proud as I am of that, I also now have more than three full thirty gallon Hefty trash bags of shredded documents. I checked, and my local recycle place won’t take shredded paper for recycling, only unshredded. Seems silly to me, but I guess they must have a reason.

Oh well, at least its just a one time thing, dumping this much paper into the regular garbage instead of the recycle bins.

The Neverending Flood

It has been a while since I posted about my efforts to reduce junk and go a bit green. So, here is an update…

Despite my best efforts to make it known that I do not want to receive direct mailings, it seems that there is no way to get them to stop outside of becoming a hermit. The problem appears to be that no matter how many lists I get myself removed from, old lists will always exist and get resold. The post office also seems completely uninterested in my plight. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to convince them that my wife and I are the only residents, all previous owners don’t live here anymore, and we do not desire to have any mail addressed to “Resident” delivered here. Despite this, they continue delivering mail here for people who have not lived here for over two years. Sometimes I’m tempted to get a P.O. Box and move all the mail I want to it and then just ignore the mailbox until they can’t fit any more junk into it.

One by one, as lights in my house burn out, I’m replacing them with lower wattage bulbs. Most of them go from being a 40, 60 or 100 watt bulb down to a 7, 11 or 15 watt bulb. It takes some getting used to as depending on the bulb type and manufacturer, some low watt bulbs start dim and “warm up” to their full brightness. Also, all my outdoor lights are properly shaded so that light from the bulbs goes downward, and I’m still refraining from reporting the street light that is out. I really dislike light pollution, and now I have the benefit of when I walk outside at night I can actually see the stars.

Winter came, and to try to lower my own costs and whatnot, the wife and I have been keeping the house at 66 or 68 degrees. That’s new for us as we (I) usually like to keep the house warmer so that I can be comfortable wearing shorts and t-shirts, but I’ve switched over to sweats and long pj’s. Now I just need us both to get into better shape so that when summer comes we won’t feel the need to combat the heat of our out of shape bodies with blasting the air conditioning.

All in all, I’m spending less money, lowering my footprint, but still losing the war against junkmail. Here’s to hoping I can turn the tide eventually…