6 Super Simple Tips for Conservation

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Benjamin Franklin said it, and I believe it.  I don’t recommend being miserly–I have tried it in the past.  Michael McKelvy, do you remember when you advised me to take a crowbar to my wallet and take a cab for once, instead of the bus?  Being smart with your money is not about pinching every penny, it’s about pinching the right ones.  It is about knowing your priorities and spending accordingly.  It is about using money to nourish, enrich, and simplify your life; rather than bogging it down in superfluous excesses and thoughtless clutter.

accounting for the environment

The same is true of environmental conservation.  Our world is like a generative savings account of wonderfully sustaining, creative, and self-balancing eco-systems.  If we don’t dip too far into the principal of the account we can all live on the interest indefinitely.  As world population expands it becomes ever more important to conserve our shared resources.  Sometimes I coax myself to give up a wasteful habit by reasoning that I’ll use my environmental credit elsewhere, somewhere that will have more significance to me.  And so, by changing one behavior at a time, I am creating a less wasteful and more enjoyable life.

Why more enjoyable?  Because cultivating a deep sense appreciation for our world and the people in it makes me happier.  And I don’t believe you can deeply appreciate our world without being inspired to sustain and protect it.

1.  Have an Ice Cream Cone

Granted, it’s not exactly ice cream season in Minnesota, but I wanted to make good on my promise of simple!  Next time you go to Izzy’s or Sebastian Joe’s for a gourmet scoop, or Dairy Queen for an ice milk delight, you can eliminate trash (spoons, cups, lids, straws) by ordering a cone instead of a cup or shake.  Your container is now a crispy, cookie-like contraption that perfectly compliments that creamy icey deliciousness; rather than a sad piece of polystyrene destined for a million years in the landfill.  It’s like a dream come true!

2.  Air Dry Your Laundry

It takes between 5-10 minutes per load to hang out your clothes, and I cannot emphasize enough how extraordinarily well-spent this time is.  Air drying clothing is truly an upward spiral of efficiency, with cascading positive effects you may have never considered.

may the force be with you

By harnessing the natural force of evaporation to dry your clothes, you can cut your household energy use by about 6%, which saves you money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, smog, acid rain, mercury pollution, and nuclear waste.  You are saving an average of 36 cents per load, or in my case $1.25 because my apartment has a coin operated dryer.  By eliminating the wear and tear on the dryer itself you save another 17 cents per load.  I’m already sold and we haven’t even gotten to the real savings.

the real savings

The greatest savings is likely earned, both economically and environmentally, by extending the lifetime of your clothing and linens.  High temperatures destroy elastic, and tumbling breaks down fabrics.  Dryers fade your clothes, making them look old faster. Clothing can be expensive to buy and takes huge environmental resources to create.

et tu, cotton?

Cotton is one of the most polluting crops imaginable.  Worldwide, cotton uses only 3% of the farmland but consumes a whopping 25% percent of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers.  Many of the pesticides regularly used in conventional cotton growing are known carcinogens like cyanide.

water footprint

National Geographic headline reports 8 Mighty Rivers Run Dry from Overuse.  Could you have guessed it takes 1800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make one pair of blue jeans?  Therefore every bit you can extend the life of your cotton clothing is a boon to humanity, and air drying will help you do just that.

Additonal water savings: Waterfootprint.org estimates that making industrial products consumes an average of 20 gallons of water per dollar of retail value, which means 8320 gallons of water to make a $400 clothes dryer.  Extend the life of that dryer by using it less–or eliminate it altogether!

scared stiff?

There’s no denying that air dried clothing will feel stiffer–at first.  There are lots of tips online to counteract this effect, but I haven’t tried any.  Why, you ask?  Because wearing  the clothing for like 2 minutes softens it right up.  Seriously folks, give it a try–it is SO not a problem.  My friend Sharne Winter even said she prefers an air dried towel because it’s exfoliating!

are you in or are you out?

I dry my clothes indoors on clothes lines and a drying rack located in the basement laundry room of my apartment building.  Many clothes will dry overnight, and most within 24 hours.

If you have access to an outdoor line, your clothes will dry faster and smell like a fresh breeze.  Sunlight brightens whites and lightens stains.  It also fades colors, so turn colored clothing inside out before drying outdoors.  I’ve read that the perfect clothes line is half in the shade (colors) and half in the sun (whites).  And don’t let a little cold weather stop you–laundry dries outdoors even in the winter.  First it freezes, but then the water evaporates.

3.  Eat More of Your Vegetables

I haven’t nailed down a way to compost since moving into our new apartment, but I’ve been striving to eat more of the produce I buy.  For instance, I used to discard the central rib of romaine leaves, until my mother-in-law Patsy pointed out it’s crispy and kind of good in salads.  Makes sense to me!  I get more salads out of a head of romaine and generate less garbage.

Broccolli stalks  are food too.   Use them by removing the tough peel and cutting up the interior.  The stalk has as many nutrients as the florets, and can also be grated and used for cole slaw.

Carrot peelings are safe to eat, and it is erroneous that pesticides are concentrated in the peeling.  Sorry folks, but pesticides can move from the ground through the whole vegetable; so it makes sense to buy organic if this concerns you.  I can see peeling carrots for a veggie tray, but for use in soup or a stir fry, save yourself the trouble.

Leaving the peelings on potatoes protects vitamins within from being destroyed during boiling or baking.

Parsley and cilantro have lots of flavor in the stems.  Mince or grind them up and throw them in!

And of course, only buy what you can use before it spoils.  As well as getting more food for your buck, you’re sending less to the landfill.

4. Hope Butter

Isn’t it great when “local” and “the best” converge?  I gravitated toward Hope butter when I saw it at the Wedge because of it’s minimal packaging and because it is made locally in Hope, MN.  Imagine my surprise when my guest Vanessa Messersmith recognized this butter by taste.  Hope is a rare, independently owned creamery which still churns butter the old fashioned, small-batch way; and their product is coveted by some of the finest restaurants in town.  If you live in Minnesota, I highly recommend it.  I go through butter very slowly, but it works to freeze it and hack off a chunk when needed.  I hate to waste a bit of it!

5.  Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Homemade dressing is cheap and SO easy to make!  I am always looking for a way to eliminate another packaged item from my grocery list; and it has been over a year since I bought my last bottle of prepared salad dressing. It’s great to make just what I need as I need it, and not have to toss out expired dressings.

To further decrease the waste, I bring my own bottles to the Wedge to buy olive oil, vinegars, tahini, and maple syrup in bulk.  This way I can make dressing nearly package-free.  Here’s a recipe I made up a couple weeks ago.  You can also make a thicker version with more tahini for a veggie dip.

Dressing à la Allison


1/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 tsp tahini

2 tsp real maple syrup

1/2 tsp prepared brown or dijon mustard

1 small clove crushed garlic (about a 1/2 tsp –or more, if you dare!)

salt to taste (start with 1/8 tsp)


Shake ingredients vigorously in a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Makes about six servings.

6.  Put a lid on it

metal mixing bowl + wok lid

Another item that has been off my grocery list for years is plastic wrap.  Various pot lids you already have can provide adequate covering for transporting foods in mixing and serving bowls.

Thanks for reading the Wednesday Post!

Sources for this article are personal experience and:






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