Psssst! Pssst! Hey, wealthy people who want to live green! I have a solution for you that might not be as sleek as Graham Hill's tricked-out, "sustainable" apartment in New York City, but will save you a lot more money. I had blogged about his Life Edited project before.
I do not begrudge this man his flash, tricked out apartment. I do sincerely wish him well. I am glad he can live in 420 square feet of space with the help of convertible, fold-away things and moveable walls. That's great. It's a cute place. But I am going to snicker at wealthy people who confuse consumption with sustainability, who go on about how much money they're saving when they're spending more than the average person who doesn't live in a compact apartment that manages to have dinner party seating for 10 and other things thanks to a sponsored design competition. The rest of us have to make choices and live with their consequences.
So, wealthy people, if you want to be green and save a lot of money, here are my tips. Shorter me: live like the rest of us. We're not all Hummer-driving, McMansion-dwelling hogs.
Don't buy a tiny place and trick it out this way. Accept the fact that you will have to make some choices and that you can't have it all. Live like the rest of us. If you want to live in New York City, accept the fact that you will live in a much smaller place with fewer things if minimalism is how you roll. If you decide you do need a little more space for your things, then accept the fact that you'll need a car since you'll probably need to live outside of the city to find an affordable bigger place. It doesn't have to be a new car. You can get a fuel-efficient, used car. You can carpool if there are people in your town who work where you work. And if you work in the city and live in a suburb, you can probably take some form of public transportation.
Buy used or take stuff off of your friends' hands. You need a coffee table? Check out Goodwill, if you live near one (obviously, this doesn't apply to people who don't have access to places like thrift stores--there are regions where big box stores are the only game in town). Does the coffee table look ratty? Sand it and paint it. Or, just, you know, learn to like what you already have. Unless it's falling apart, you don't need new furniture, do you? Keep it clean, paint it if it needs it, but otherwise keep it.
If you are tired of the way something looks, keep it anyway. I know, that's mean. It's also what a lot of us do. It saves things from a landfill and it saves money. Revolutionary, I know. You can ask someone for advice on ways to change it or make it more attractive (depending on the item, paint it, dye it, change the accessories, cover it with a cloth, etc.)
If you have the money to use the cloud for your information, music and downloads, that's great. Please keep in mind that many people would rather not pay--or cannot afford to pay--a monthly fee for that sort of thing. If you really want to save money and space, you can use the library. You can borrow books, CD's, and movies. All gratis. Shocking I know!
Creatively reuse things you already have. No, you don't have to hoard (I certainly don't) but I will keep pasta or dried beans in unused canning jars or a large empty plastic container that used to hold a lot of dried parsley for example. It's not as pretty as the perfectly designed green home, but it's more affordable and I'm keeping these things out of the landfill.
Accept the fact that you won't have dinner seating for 10. You can rent a folding table and chairs and move the furniture in your living room to make room for the seating for such an occasion, or better yet, think of other ways to entertain. (People have been known to balance plates on their laps and sit on couches and chairs at my place when I've had a lot of folks over.) You may need to accept the fact that you won't have a lot of dinner parties for ten in general. Remember: live like the rest of us.
You have a T-shirt that's ripped? Well, cut it up and use it for rags for when you clean. I know, you're keeping clutter, rags are useful cleaning tools, and these are free, so they will save you money (and keep this cloth out of the landfill). After the first or second T-shirt, you can donate the rest to those clothing dumpsters you may see along the road--they will take those rags and make them into rags that painters will buy.
You have jeans that are torn and that you won't wear anymore? You can either re-purpose them into gardening aprons, a tote bag, or potholders (if you can sew), or you can cut them into strips and braid a rug out of them (if you are crafty). If you don't have these skills, be neighborly and scout out someone who does these things and ask them if they'd like your old jeans for this purpose.
I dunno, readers? Your suggestions?