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10 Simple Green Alternatives

By Joe Laur |
With increasing concerns over things like exposure to electromagnetic radiation from our beloved gadgets, the toxics contained within them, their energy consumption and ultimate disposal, can we find simpler alternatives?
alternatives green living

With increasing concerns over things like exposure to electromagnetic radiation from our beloved gadgets, the toxics contained within them, their energy consumption and ultimate disposal, can we find simpler alternatives? What did we do before we had computers, post-its, calculators, flush toilets and electric everything? Are there places we can go back to simpler greener times? It’ll be a different set for everyone for everyone, depending on what makes you happy and floats your boat. Here’s my top 10 list of simple old fashioned things that I’m bringing back into fashion.

1. Pencil and mechanical sharpener vs. Computer and electric sharpener.
I’m not dumping my trusty HP Tablet for work and writing these blogs, but I’m carrying a pencil in my pocket these days to jot notes, do calculations and write letters. I love getting hand written letters, and I’m going to start sending some. It’s the original word processor- rarely crashes, and has a handy pink ‘delete’ button on the end! Plus I’m retiring my electric pencil sharpener and buying an X-Acto Ranger 55 Heavy Duty mechanical sharpener- I can still turn the crank, baby!

2. Flyswatter vs. Bug Zapper or Poison.
We have flies at my cabin in Minnesota sometimes, and they bite- hard. I get great pleasure in sending them back to God with my trusty rusty old flyswatter, and it keep the kids busy, too. No juice, no toxins, just a satisfying smack and then…silence. Even better, rollup a newspaper- a fine reuse for it.

3. Chalkboard vs. Sticky notes.
Well, ok, we use a whiteboard, but it gets used again and again for household messages, shopping lists etc. The advantage to a chalkboard is you can get the whole family’s attention by dragging your nails across it.

4. Walk vs. Drive.
We’ve been over this territory before, and we’ll go over it again- Hang a sign on your rear view mirror that asks, “Can I walk or bike this trip? Save money, fuel, carbon, emissions; gain aerobics, strength, stamina and a tan. Leave footsteps, not smog.

5. Clothesline vs. Dryer.
Save money and energy and get fresh smelling clothes by hanging them outdoors- at least in nice weather.

6. Long division/ multiplication vs. Calculator.
One of my favorites! I love doing calculations on the back of an envelope, a scrap of wood, or in the dirt. It keeps math skills that the nuns drilled into me sharp, and activates my brain in a way that calculators can’t. Compromise- get a slide rule. Pocket protector is optional.

7. Outhouse/ composting toilet vs. Water toilet and sewage systems.
You’d better check your zoning, but I love my outhouse at my cabin, and sometimes use the neighbor’s here in rural Massachusetts. Wonderful place to sit and think, no plumbing to fix, no odor or flies if constructed right, and everything goes back to the earth. Composting toilets are a safer bet for suburbs and city. Use the manure for flowers, not veggies.

8. Weed whip vs. Power trimmer.
Blogger Bob Ferris wrote about this recently. I want every chance to get exercise I can since I sit at a computer so much. The weed whip keeps my upper body in shape and both me and the weeds trim. Get a good quality one, and keep it sharp. The annoying buzz from gas powered weed eaters is legal grounds for homicide. No jury will convict you.

9. Hand can opener Vs. Electric.
I can honestly say I’ve never owned an electric can opener. It’s one area I’ve been a purist- I love the big counter mounted kinds you see in restaurants and institutional kitchens, but my little hand crank one works just fine, and I’ve never had a can fall off, as I’ve seen happen with electric.

10. Wood heater Vs. Furnace.
This one is my passion and fitness regimen. I realize it’s not for every person or house, but I love to drop my own trees, buck , split and stack my own wood, and heat my home and sauna all season long with wonderful dry oak, maple, birch and ash. I get the occasional cherry or apple branch in there, too. I use a Russian stove, which runs the flames and gasses through very long flues, burning it completely and sucking out all the heat into the surrounding fieldstone facing. Emits only 3 grams of CO2 per hour, according to the EPA rating. It heats our whole house, and we use a biodiesel boiler for back up and winter trips away.

That’s my top 10. Others you might consider are using a dandelion digger vs. herbicides; a wind up alarm clock vs. electric; a whisk or hand beater vs. an electric mixer. You can add more of your own in the comments below. Give you a satisfying sense that if the power goes out- as it always does- you won’t be up a creek without an extension cord.

What do your favorite old-fashioned alternatives?
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  • Meg P. 4 years ago
    I love our woodburning stoves built in to the fireplaces when the house was built. However, being the only one tending them, I now have mild COPD. So, that is not something I can any longer do. Sad, because we have our own wood lot and it has been good to be able to help two guys who need the work. Health has to be my priority now.
  • Terri P. 4 years ago
    Unless it's a solar calculator you already have or need for difficult calculations, likely not done on the back of an envelope. I love wood burning fire, but wood is also a resource and emits pollution, so the trade-off between wood burning and other types of furnace may not be so clear. Natural gas burns cleaner than wood for instance.
  • lisa m. 4 years ago
    old school stuff beats everything. Sorry i am a sucker for old school ways, even technology!!!!
  • Debra B. 4 years ago
    Yes, we do many of the above. hang laundry out although i have to admit, the scratchy towels are not always a favorite...Still use an old fashioned pencil sharpener with the many adjustable holes and hand crank. Bought when my kids were little and used all these years..they are now 23 and 27! In fact my mom still has hers in the garage and was used by 5 of us kids...still works and I am 55! Lol! I also use a hand can opener and a fly swatter. Old but tried and true!
  • Meg P. 4 years ago
    Just dug out my antique HAND coffee grinder. Now I need to do research about cold water coffee. I hope that is not a joke.
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