(First appeared in the Orlando Sentinel February 10, 2008)
Have you paid your "daily dues" today?
That's a question I asked readers just before the start of 2008.
In that column I wrote, "Each of us has the power to make the world a better place. We can do it in tiny ways -- one kind word or good deed at a time -- or by methods that are more magnanimous. It doesn't matter how we go about contributing to world betterment; the important thing is to do something. That's where daily dues come in.
"Imagine if, in exchange for our existence, we had to pay a daily fee. But the payment couldn't be made with money -- it had to be paid with actions. We had to do something every day to make the world a better place. Daily dues -- daily do's."
I asked readers for suggestions -- what things have you done to make the world a better place? The response was enthusiastic.
Joanne Wolverton wrote:
"I use my own canvas bags at the grocery store instead of all the plastic bags they normally use to pack your groceries. I wish other people would do this. Even if they took their own plastic bags to the store for loading the groceries, it would save on using the new ones.
"I also save all the larger bags I get shopping elsewhere to line wastebaskets. And of course, I return all other plastic bags to the store for recycling. Also, of course, all newspapers and cans and bottles are recycled."
Barbara Hansen offered several suggestions, but her hottest tips concerned the thermostat:
"Turn your thermostat up or down at night, or better yet, install a programmable one. No need to keep the living area and kitchen cool at night when no one is using them. Probably the biggest change to our finances was seen with the turn down of the thermostat -- also the biggest adjustment as our kids like it cold. Also, we hope to install at least 2 water barrels this year to capture our seemingly scant rain."
Many readers shared a suggestion made by Robert H. Moody of Fruitland Park:
"One way my wife and I have paid our daily dues is in the laundry. We have been married for nearly 44 years and always hang our laundry on our clothesline to dry in the sun. We have an electric dryer but only use it in inclement weather. The sun-dried clothes always have such a fresh, clean smell. I wonder how much money we have saved in 44 years of hanging our clothes in the sun to dry?"
Robert, I did some calculating using today's rates. Assuming you used a 5-kilowatt electric clothes dryer three hours each week at 10 cents per kilowatt hour, you would have spent around $1.50 per week, $78 per year or approximately $3,432 over the course of the past 44 years. Not only has your willingness to use the sun's power to dry your clothes conserved energy, but it also saved you a pretty penny in the process.
Joe and Kathy Lepley of Mount Dora tapped another source of energy savings by focusing their efforts on conserving water:
"We decided to see if we couldn't save some of the water we had been letting go down the drain and get double duty from it. Examples of water we now recover and reuse:
"We catch the water we run into the shower waiting for the hot water to arrive from the hot water tank using a small plastic waste can that holds 2-3 gallons of water. We then use this water to flush the toilet or I use it to hand-water plants.
"We catch the rinse water in a plastic dishpan when we hand-wash dishes, pour it into a five-gallon bucket we keep outside the back door and use it to hand-water plants.
"We also catch the water we use in the bathroom sink to wash/rinse our hands using a shallow plastic basin that fits in the sink. We then add it to the water saved from the tub or put in the bucket for hand-watering.
"The cost to do this was minimal -- two plastic wastebaskets (one for each tub), two plastic basins that fit the bathroom sinks, a plastic dishwashing pan. We have been surprised at the amount of water we save for reuse each day! I would estimate that it is easily five gallons per day. That may not sound like much, but that's just for the two of us. A family of 3-4 would obviously save much more."