Monday, June 16, 2008

5 Things You Can Do About High Gas Prices

On Friday, I suggested that only Apple had the capability (as far as I can see) to transform the automobile industry. Today, I want to tell you from my own experience 5 things you can do now to transform your life to offset high gas prices ... if you follow all of these suggestions, it will be like gas prices never rose at all ... you'll have the extra funds available. I believe these suggestions are realistic. Most "green" suggestions tend to be unrealistic. These are things I do that I don't consider frugal, freaky, or absurd.

1) Reduce. Recycle. Reuse.

Look, I don't believe in global warming ... I see it as a cycle. That being said ... I don't believe in littering the environment with pollution ... I consider polluting the air nothing short of throwing a bag of trash out of the window of your car. You should consider it the same as well. The area where I live started a campaign last fall called, Breathe Easy. While much satire has been written about it ... I like it. It's not really a "green campaign" as much as it is a way of life.

I believe the #1 thing you can do to reduce, reuse, and recycle is to turn off and turn down electronics. One thing I have been proud of over the last few years is how I've been able to manage to keep my electrical bills for my house under $40 a month.

1) If you can ... dim the screen on your television, on your laptop, and on your monitor. This not only saves energy, but prolongs the life of your screens.

2a) Turn off the lights EVERYWHERE you can and ANY TIME you can ... if you or no one else is going to be in a room turn off the lights and the fans and close the doors. Many people have the misconception that lights don't consume a lot of energy. The best way to test this is to shut off all the power in your home except one circuit. Go to your power meter, then have someone turn on a 100 watt light bulb ... you will be able to see the energy spent with your own eyes. If you have a problem with doing this ... at the very least try dropping down a few watts on your light bulbs and if you can switch to fluorescent bulbs. I buy my fluorescent bulbs from the flea market because there's a huge price differential ... "going green" doesn't have to cost you extra if you find the right places to buy. Don't have a large flea market near you? Try a close-out or discount store. Combine a trip to a flea market with a large grocery store trip. Most flea markets have fresh vegetables and good deals elsewhere - go for those deals and get the things you need too.

2b) Unplug anything you don't use every day or that doesn't have a settings memory. Anything you have plugged in to your wall outlets sips electricity - even if its not on. It's hard to know who has the right statistics on how much energy it would save if everyone just unplugged their electronics and appliances that aren't needed.

3a) Reuse bath water if possible ... soon I will be routing the bath drain in my home to fill up a tank under the house that I can use to water my plants. Currently, I take my nice soapy water (which plants love and bugs don't) and water my plants and bushes outside. Just a few pitchers do fine. It may sound slightly gross or inconvenient ... but it's not. Of course, if you wash toxic chemicals off of your body every day ... this may not be a good idea.

3b) Take baths and showers together with your soul mate more often. Not only is it romantic but it really does save water. Saving water isn't just about saving you money in the short term ... saving water puts less stress on the local water system and therefore there is a slightly less chance of water bills rising or facing a drought in your area. You can also install a water restricting shower head and take shorter showers. A purchase such as this should pay for itself within a year.

4) Cut back on luxuries a tiny bit. I've all but stopped getting my nails manicured and my feet pedicured. It was nice while it lasted. I've been doing it for almost 8 years - usually once a month. I may treat myself at my birthday and maybe before a special event each year now. I've got my own clippers ... but something that puzzles me ... most of my girlfriends have enjoyed clipping my nails. Go figure. I also used to get my hair cut every 4 weeks ... usually on the 15th of the month. I've extended that to every 5 weeks. One other small luxury I've I've cut way back on my budget - dessert. I eat far less desserts and chocolate than I used to. This has been one of the hardest adjustments I've had to make.

5) Recycle ... but know that a lot of recycling is not beneficial to the environment or to your budget. I recycle two things: Aluminum cans and organic kitchen scraps like egg shells, rinds, onion peels, hulls etc for compost. The organic compost makes great fertilizer for the garden. I recycle aluminum cans only because they make me money. Plastic costs more to recycle and pollutes the environment more than making it from raw materials through collection, remolding, etc. Plus ... many don't know that the majority of plastics cannot be recycled into a new product. Most plastics company use a 25% recycled / 75% raw materials mix. Recycle whatever you wish ... it's all a good thing ... but recycling aluminum drink cans can actually be profitable. I also pick up cans when I walk or run.

6) Use less paper, use less paper towels, use less napkins. If you can ... print out less ... store and back up files on your computer. If you have to pack things ... such as I have to do with eBay - shred paper and use it packing material. Use a nice towel in the kitchen draped over the oven handle ... have a few towels to spare to wipe up messes and spills. Use dark cloth napkins whenever possible.

Many people listen to the hype by the car companies and oil changers - that we must change our oil every 3000 miles and our air filters every 10,000 miles. They say ... if you do these - you'll get more engine life and better gas mileage. The truth is knowing the proper maintenance for your car can save you a lot of money. The important thing is not to neglect your car. Your car is as close to a living thing as man can make ... you should treat it as kindly as you would a dog.

2) Know your car ... know the difference between marketing & making do.

1) Most cars can usually go between 5000-7500 miles before an oil change. Most oil additives don't help your engine. I have found that adding ZMax every 3 to 4 oil changes does help. With ZMax I have a smoother sounding engine and slightly better gas mileage. The $40 cost of ZMax should be balanced with your gas savings.

2) If your car has one available - get a reusable air filter. Clean it every 5000 miles. These filters typically cost about $60 - the cost of 3 or 4 air filters. This may seem like a long term savings ... but if you live in a city your air filter most likely becomes dirtier faster. A clean air filter saves you gas mileage <--- its the air that goes into your engine. It's also the filter for the air that enters the cabin of your car. A clean filter can make the air quality better in your car and put less strain on your air conditioning system. A clean air filter also has the advantage of better filtering out bad smells such as those from roadkill.

3) Clean your car and empty your car of unnecessary weight. On the season finale of LOST; the passengers of the rescue helicopter had to throw excess weight overboard in order to be able to have enough fuel to get to safety. So ... think about that logically ... if you are carrying around a whole bunch of boxes and a lot of dead weight - you are having to spend extra fuel to carry that weight around.

Keeping a clean car with a smooth exterior. If you don't wash your car at least every two months - you are making a mistake. Not only are you potentially ruining the resale value ... but you could be causing slight aerodynamic problems. Having a car with missing pieces and/or hanging metal or plastics from accidents that weren't fixed also dramatically reduces aerodynamics and reduces gas mileage.

About six months ago, during an oil change, the mechanic accidentally ripped a seal strip that sealed my hood to the grill of the car. For months I noticed that my hood was bumping up a bit at higher speeds. Then I started monitoring my gas mileage. I used to get around 30 miles to the gallon ... now I was averaging 27mpg. I waited another month and still noticed the lower gas mileage. Finally, I replaced the seal and after my next two fill ups I noticed my mileage went back up. Something as small as a $5 fix was causing me to get 10% less gas mileage.

4) Read up about hypermiling - I will have a whole article dedicated to this topic later in this series.

5) I know these next suggestions may be unrealistic for some of you and I'm sure you've all heard them before.

• Plan your automobile trips.
• Try to combine trips.
• Walk if you possibly can.
• Get a bike.
• Carpool with neighbors.
• Visit local stores.

3) Start doing more stuff for yourself. One example: Try to grow your own tomatoes or peppers. These are two of the easiest things to grow and don't require much of a green thumb. Growing your own is easy even if you live in a high rise apartment. Vegetables can live in window boxes. I used to have kiddie pool full of dirt on my condo roof. It was a full garden that yielded over $300 worth of vegetables for about $40 cost (including the kiddie pool).

Stay tuned ... I'll share two more things you can do on Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

You advocate pouring soapy water on the ground? That sounds a little irresponsible.

FYT said...

ummm ... laurel sulfate (a common fertilizer ingredient) ... which is also considered an organic water surfactant ... is perfectly safe in any quantity. How is it in your own yard in small quantities irresponsible?