Beaufort News

The Local Life: Living green protects planet, bank account

Somehow -- and I'm not really sure how -- at some point in contemporary American history environmentalists gained the unfortunate stamp of being elitists.

I say I don't understand how because being an environmentalist was first popularized in the media by homeless hippies (that's a joke; hold off on the angry letters). The reality is, at least for me, environmentalism has provided a convenient cover for my extremely empty bank account and a tendency to avoid chores.

It's probably a safe assumption to say we all cranked up our air conditioners this week. How nervous are most of us about our summer cooling bills? I always am, but I funnel that economic anxiety into the notion that "I'm doing my part for the Earth." I am not a cheapskate who forces my guests to suffer through the glow of perspiration. I am a motivated conservationist who is dedicated to energy independence for this state and my country.

There are a few easy steps you can take to save money, time and, lo and behold, our limited natural resources.

TRIM YOUR WATER BILL

Year after year we face drought declarations. This year is no different. Stand up for our precious water resources. Refuse to wash your car. It will save on the water bill and the car wash expense.

When you rip out your lawn and plant drought-tolerant plants it is an initial investment of labor and money, but if you're smart about it, not much. The payoff is pretty significant. There is no lawnmower to purchase and maintain, you will never be forced to mow a lawn on a hot August day and your water bill stays as low as during winter.

EASE SUMMER COOLING BILLS

If you have seen your electric bill skyrocket in recent years, there is a good chance your air conditioner (and heater) might be in need of repair or replacement. While not the laziest of these options, you can get a free inspection, contractor referral and rebates from SCE&G right now. This freebie comes to you not from recession-era incentives, but from energy conservation initiatives -- but it all reads the same to your wallet.

SAVE MONEY ON GAS

Lots of us are cutting down on car trips these days and even setting strict monthly mileage budgets. Carpooling might seem inconvenient, but nothing's more convenient than money in the bank. Reducing car trips is admittedly the trickiest part of this plan -- some of our communities don't lend themselves to walking, biking or public transportation. Do all you can to support Beaufort's efforts to become more alternative-transit oriented. Give our new Office of Civic Investment your support.

Make a point to buy no-ethanol gas. It gives better gas mileage and thus saves you about $30 to $40 a month on gas bills. In one fell swoop, by purchasing no-ethanol gas you are saving money and taking a stand against cultivation of ethanol, which has pushed up food prices around the world. (Look for local providers at www.pure-gas.org.)

You should try some of these tips -- as a conservationist or even just an American citizen dedicated to a greater level of self-sufficiency for our country. No one ever has to know you are cheap or lazy. It's worked for me so far.

Set that thermostat to 78 degrees. Let the rain wash your car. Let the plants that can't take the heat die and replace them with the ones that can. Turn off your computer at night. Put surge protectors on all your outlets and switch them off when you can. Relieve the loneliness of those long drives with a carpool. Scratch off a few planned trips and laze around the house on a hot summer day instead.

Do it because you're cheap and tired (I know I am). But wrap yourself in the cool reassurance that you are doing a good deed for the Earth. It will save you money on your electric, water and gas bills -- but you can chalk it all up to saving the planet.

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