August 15, 2007 | By: Carol Lea Spence

Granted, it doesn't feel like much, but when you save a penny here or a penny there, they quickly add up to a significant amount. And though you may not think recycling that plastic milk jug or reusing bags will have any effect on the environment, just like with pennies, a little here and a little there adds up to a significant amount.

Healing the environment can begin at home with everyday choices. The plus side is, good choices for the environment are often good for our bottom line, says Amanda Abnee Gumbert, University of Kentucky agricultural programs water quality liaison. Being aware of what you’re buying, reusing materials, driving less, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs and saving water can all result in a reduction in personal expenses.

Gumbert recommends implementing changes slowly and thinking about how you consume materials. Everyone leaves an ecological footprint; waste is produced and fuel is burned to heat and cool our homes, operate our vehicles and transport our food. This time of year, as students return to school and summer clothes are replaced with cooler weather apparel, is a good time to try taking some simple steps toward living a greener life.

“As you shop, think about what goes in the shopping bag,” she said. “Ask yourself, how far did it travel to get to you? Can you get what you need by exchanging what you have with someone else? Can it be repaired rather than replaced? To save on excess packaging, can the items be bought in bulk, rather than individually wrapped? Can the item or its packaging be reused or refilled instead of disposed of? Is it recyclable?”

She offers a few simple ways to make a big impact in the environment.

Buy a larger bottle of shampoo or laundry detergent. That choice will drastically reduce the number of bottles that end up in a landfill or being recycled. Plus, the larger size can be more economical since it often costs less per ounce than the smaller package.

Don’t take a receipt if you don’t need one. And if you do take one, remember to recycle it when you no longer need it.

Take your own reusable bags when you shop. Some grocery stores will even give you a few cents off for supplying your own bags.

Use travel mugs instead of disposable coffee cups. Many coffee shops give a 5-10 cent discount if you bring in your own mug. 

When purchasing office or school supplies, look for items made of recycled materials, such as loose-leaf paper and notebooks. Reuse last year’s binders and backpacks. And for those “brown bag lunches,” use a washable lunch box with individually sized containers inside. This will reduce the number of plastic baggies that end up in the landfill.

Buy as many items as you can from local or regional sources. The farther an item has to travel to reach you, the more fuel that is expended. 

Noting that even small changes can make a huge difference, Gumbert emphasized, “Find what works for you.”

So the next time you go shopping, remember the three “R’s” that can lead to a healthier planet, not to mention a healthier wallet: reduce, reuse and recycle. 

For more information about how you can cut waste and make environmentally sound choices, contact a county office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.


Amanda Gumbert, 859-257-6094