Going Green for Special Needs

A few years ago I lived my life in 20 minute increments. Then I had to rest. Fibromyalgia and Asthma ruled my life. With 3 children, a husband and all the normal mess that life assures, my brain constantly told me that I wasn’t doing enough. But I simply did NOT have the energy to spare; it needed to go to things that HAD to be done, not things that I wanted to do like living a greener lifestyle.

I’ve since been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and eating a gluten-free diet has improved my quality of life massively. But I still remember the dreams I had, the ones that seemed so far away from my reality. The guilt I carried with me (I’m sort of a Jiminy Cricket that way) by not doing my part to be greener.

Percolating in my brain lately has been the thought that maybe I should share some of my ideas. Some of what I did when I was barely able to walk because of pain. How did I appease my Jiminy Cricket but still have energy to walk to the mailbox later? I think there are probably a lot of people that could use the tips. And please if you have more, do comment!

  • Have you considered low-tech gadgets that may be able to help you? For instance, you could buy a circular knitting loom: these are fairly easy to use with one good hand, plus it has the added bonus of  being something that is easily put down and taken back up without much difficulty. An older friend of mine takes plastic bags and cuts them down to strips and then knits them into market bags with this handy little gadget.
  • Container gardens can be easier to maintain than a traditional garden. If you have issues with lifting, ask a friend to help with that part. There is an illustration in “Square Foot Gardening” book which shows a person in a wheelchair who had set up a square foot garden bed on a piece of plywood balanced on two sawhorses. This picture is very typical of why this particular style of gardening is so well suited to those in wheelchairs. 5-gallon buckets, often obtainable for free from your local bakery, are also wonderful for container gardening.
  • Rechargeable batteries pay for themselves fairly quickly! GreenBatteries is a site online that has a lot of articles, discussions, and places to buy reusable batteries, so you can rest assured you aren’t purchasing a cheap cruddy product, but instead are getting value for your money.
  • Solar chargers are amazingly small nowadays. You can even get them the size of cell phones to power your cell phone, mp3 players, laptops etc. You can also get some the size of a radio to use just on your hot water heater. The prices have come way down since the early ’90’s as well, when they cost an arm and a leg. This government site has a lot of information, links, and research done for you, so you can decide what would best work for your needs as far as solar water heaters go.
  • Buy a timer for your electric gadgets. For instance, an electronic blanket or mattress warmer is a NEED for some of us, and it would be very cool if it just turned on at your regular bedtime and turned off about an hour before your regular wake up time. I’ll admit that sometimes I’d end up leaving a lamp on, because I just physically could NOT reach as far as I needed to to turn it off. If I had programed that lamp to turn off at my normal bedtime I would have saved so much electrical and physical energy, plus money!
  • Get a good, sturdy, reusable water bottle made of green material instead of buying water constantly and throwing away plastic bottles or re-using plastic bottles that leach harmful chemicals into the water. Read an article here at Ideal Bite on why a sturdy reusable bottle is a better idea along with links to good eco-friendly bottles.
  • Using a worm bin is a really easy way to compost that takes practically no effort and is do-able for apartment dwellers and those with very limited physical energy. It might take a friend for initial set-up, but after that it’s pretty friendly to those with disabilities. Here’s a pretty good article with a tutorial, pictures, and other helpful information.
  • Use less water when you brush teeth. Turn the tap on just enough to wet and/or rinse your brush, and even then just a trickle saves money and energy versus turning the faucet on all the way.
  • For around fifteen dollars, you can buy a filtered water pitcher. It pays for itself very quickly and it’ll add tasty water to your fancy new water bottle. There are lots of different types, but you should probably consider what filters are going to be easiest to find locally unless you can shop online.
  • Also in water advice, using hot water uses electricity, so the hotter your water heater is set, the more electricity it’s using to keep the water heated. So two suggestions: if you can handle water a little cooler (I know that for me, HOT water is a need) set your water heater to a lower temp; also, don’t use hot water unless you really need to.
  • Do you turn on your shower and let the water run until it’s hot? Do you maybe wander off and do other things, or get lost in a book while the water is getting warm? Ever think about all that water that runs down the drain during this waiting time? Someone did and they created a really neat product that shuts off automatically when it reaches 95 degrees.
  • Put everything that plugs into the wall on an electrical strip with an on/off switch. When you are done watching t.v., or the microwave isn’t in use (etc.), you just flick the switch off. It’s amazing how much energy leaks out through just the clock light on the t.v., vcr or microwave. Switching stuff off saves electricity (and money). However, when you’ve got an expensive piece of electronics (computers and some televisions come to mind) investing in a more expensive device is recommended.
  • Use green energy-saving light bulbs in every possible light fixture.
  • What about dishes? It’s recommended to not start a load unless the dishwasher is completely full. If you hand wash them, use dish pans and then use the water to water your plants/garden (for those plants that can stand the soap), or to flush the toilet.
  • “If it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down” (In other words, don’t flush until it stinks). This saves gallons of water a day.
  • Open windows instead of a/c units until you absolutely can’t stand the temperature anymore
  • Fans are wonderful things to keep air circulating; they also help keep the air in your home safer, plus they use a lot less electricity than a/c units.
  • Reusable grocery bags are everywhere. You can buy them on esty, in the grocery store, or you can easily make your own if you are handy that way.
  • Along the same lines, don’t use the clear plastic bags to put your fruits and veggies in. There are reusable bags you can buy that work just as well as the ones the store provides, only without the throwing away part afterward. Find what you’d like here and here.
  • Recycle everything that the city will pick up.
  • Get bills, newspapers, magazines, music and television online instead of the paper/plastic versions, if you have a computer. You can usually find the link to change your bill preference located somewhere on your bill. For t.v. replacement, some of the sites we use are here and here; these shows are uploaded by their owners, so no worries about copyright infringement.
  • Ask for an Energy Star rated appliance when buying, or ask your landlord to buy one if they are replacing the old unit.
  • Join a farmer’s cooperative for delivery to your doorstep, of locally farm grown vegetables (eggs, meat, whatever is available in that area). (This may not be available in your area; it isn’t in mine). If it is too expensive for you, try getting a small group of friends together to get a share and split it.
  • If you buy meat, try buying a partial share in a calf (or other animal someone is raising locally) or in deer/elk, etc. in an area where game is responsibly managed.
  • Recycle #2 and #4 marked plastic bags. Website with locations is here.
  • Get books from the library, freecycle, paperbackswap, or bookmooch instead of buying them.
  • Donate unwanted stuff in good shape to thrift shops or freecycle it instead of throwing it away.
  • Use adaptive tools to save your own energy for things that you enjoy (ie: grabbers, readers, openers etc).
  • Recycle and/or shred your old bills, junk mail, etc. and use them for packing material or your worm bin. Also, in many areas, those styrofoam peanuts can be given to UPS to reuse, if you have any sitting around.
2 Responses to Going Green for Special Needs
  1. Mimi
    January 28, 2009 | 6:55 am

    This is a great post!

  2. Kerri Anne (kerrianne.org)
    January 28, 2009 | 11:48 am

    This post is laden with awesome ideas, Meredith. Very great.