Little by little, over the last decade it's grown into a lifestyle.
When I was working I'd try to commute more miles by bicycle than by car, which became a struggle over a 25-mile round trip through 450 feet of altitude. I haven't had my bike on the road in months but our kid bicycles almost daily (weather permitting) to school.
Oahu is piloting a dedicated curbside recycling/green waste program and taking it island-wide. We recycle about 30 gallons biweekly of cardboard/glass/plastic. We put out nearly 200 gallons of green waste biweekly in three cans, which we eventually pick up as free mulch and spread everywhere to cut down on watering/weeding.
Our trash for a family of three is down to less than a 13-gallon bag a week, which could probably be better if we shredded/composted our paper waste. Our trash is mostly burned by HPOWER to generate about 10% of Oahu's electricity.
Every plastic bag in the house gets re-used at least once for food storage. We don't bother rinsing/drying them, just once or twice and then in the trash (which is then burned for electricity). If we need more bags (usually not a problem) then we pick them up from Wal-Mart's recycling bag drop.
We use paper grocery bags for months (the grocery store will bag our groceries in them). Some are several years old. The really gnarly ones are carried around for weeding and end up in the green waste for mulching. We'll eventually be out of the paper-bag business because just about every trade show hands out a plastic/canvas sack for your free stuff. Over the years we've built up a supply that will replace our paper bags.
Vermiposting, including Sheryl's book recommendation:
Amazon.com: Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up & Maintain a Worm Composting System: Mary Appelhof: Books
Over the last 15 months we've stepped up to the big can:
Waikiki Worm Co.: Can-O-Worms
Composting everything that the worms don't care for, like citrus rinds and papaya seeds.
We grow a surprising amount of our own fruit-- lemons, tangerines, mango, banana, and lychee. What we can't use we donate.
We use solar water heating and a 3300-watt grid-tied photovoltaic array. We're producing about 275 KWHr/month. Our electric bills have consistently been under $40/month for the last year and last month's was under $20. Among tax credits, used/blemished panels from eBay/Craigslist, and doing most of our own work we'll pay back the investment in 2010 and pay back the opportunity cost in 2020.
We've overhauled the house's electrical appliances. We're almost 100% CFLs and any lagging incandescents will go CFL when they burn out. (We're keeping an eye on LEDs for the next lighting renovation in 5-10 years.) Our fridge, dishwasher, and washing machine are EnergyStar rated. We rarely use the oven in favor of a convection microwave.
We have six ceiling fans (no A/C) and 19-year-old windows. We've replaced the living room ceiling fan with an expensive EnergyStar model that's already paid for itself and we'll probably do the master bedroom fans next. As we renovate we'll replace the sliding/casement windows with jalousie models that let more air through, and we'll tint the south/east ones to cut down the heat load.
We've added radiant foil insulation to our attics, some walls, and the back of our west-facing garage door-- huge improvement. Next we have to figure a way to insulate the house's south wall. When we replace the roof (renovations) we're going to add more radiant foil & foam insulation.
A student at last year's high-school science fair put wind-monitoring equipment up on the high school's roof (it's at the highest elevation in the neighborhood). She was able to analyze the data to show that we're not a good wind-power neighborhood.
We use Oxygenics shower heads-- best ones I've ever had and hypthetically non-clogging. Oxygenics®- Super Charge Your Shower
It's expensive but I'm hoping its design will outlast two or three cheaper shower heads.
Boiling water is easier/faster with a solar water heater. We run a gallon of water in the kitchen sink (which is saved to water the plants) and then the 140-degree water goes on the stove for the final 72 degrees. If there was an easier way to cook pasta in the convection microwave then we'd do that too.
Spouse refuses to use a clothesline but our front-loading washer spins the clothes almost dry. We get away with a drying rack for a lot of the rest and only run the (electric) dryer 3-4 times a week. When our teen leaves the house that'll drop to 1-2 times/week.
We've been gradually cutting down on watering the yard. We've planted yellow oleanders on the back slope, which are crowding out the ugly haole koa
trees and gradually crowding out the grass. The oleanders don't need any irrigation and they seem to control erosion just as well as the grass. As the oleanders work their way uphill I've been shutting off sprinklers and we'll eventually xeriscape the nooks & crannies with a native drought-tolerant plant like `akulikuli (~pickleweed/iceplant). This should also cut down on a lot of pruning (especially bougainvillea & mango). I think it'll be fully established in about five years.
The upper part of the yard is getting a lot less grass, a lot more mulch, and a lot more ground cover. Spouse is getting tired of having to mow/weedwhack the grass two or three times a year...
Spouse refuses to buy a new LCD/plasma TV ("pearls before swine"). She gets at least five years out of a CRT model and replaces them from Craigslist.
We no longer buy a daily newspaper (although we get 3x/week free newspapers in the mail). We've hit the do not mail list pretty hard and only get a dozen pieces of mail a week.
Re-using the other side of printer paper. Most of the mail becomes scrap printer paper.
We've cut way down on snail mail with e-mail and electronic bill-paying. I re-use what envelopes we get in the mail and I haven't bought business-size envelopes since the 1980s.
Hawaii has a recycling law for aluminum/glass containers. We pay six cents extra at the store and can get a nickel for returning them, which pays our kid about $75/year. Most of that comes from picking up containers during walks or at social events.
We've enjoyed watching Ed Begley's show. His testosterone-poisoned competitive feud with Bill Nye (The Science Guy) is like watching two geeks in a face-slapping contest but the results are saving a lot of money.
In June we're going to buy a 2004-2007 Prius (off Craigslist). If it works out then I'm eventually going to try to boost the battery pack, hack the software to reduce the engine use, and convert it to a plug-in model. (The 100-mile range is perfect for island driving.) Of course any serious use would probably need another photovoltaic array and a second grid-tied inverter. Someday I'm hoping to erect a cheap house-shading PV pergola from these guys: Solar Suspension Systems
Originally Posted by HFWR
What I wouldn't give for a summer temperature anywhere near 60. Here in
hell Texas it's usually around 85-90 in the morning, headed for 100+.
Dude, we just survived the winter without freezing to death. I don't need to see the 60s again for at least eight months!