[Don't Use So Much! That's the Green Cheapskate's mantra. In an ongoing series of articles on The Daily Green, Jeff Yeager will show you easy ways to save money -- and the Earth's resources -- by cutting back on things you use every day.]
I was never a big believer in feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of design and aesthetics intended to improve life by receiving more positive energy. Although, I was reading a book about feng shui the other day and the author was talking about how the water drains in your house, if not properly positioned, can "drain wealth" out of your life.
"Aha!" I said to myself. "Maybe there's something to this feng shui stuff after all!" You see, I know for a fact that most people waste a lot of money in their bathrooms every day, and there are usually more drains in the bathroom than any other room in the house. Here's how to save in the bathroom:
Most people think nothing of lathering up with a handful of shampoo. But according to the website hairfinder.com, you should think in terms of pocket change when washing your hair: "Most package directions for shampoo call for a 'quarter-sized' (2.5 cm circle) amount. These instructions are intended for hair of average length -- somewhere between chin and shoulder length. If you have really short hair (shorter than chin length) you should use a little less (a 'nickel-sized' [1.5 cm circle] amount). If you have longer hair (length that is past the shoulders) use more (a 'half-dollar-sized' [4 cm circle] amount)." Of course, with my balding dome, I use just a dime-sized dollop, and I feel like I should even get change back from that.
I grit my teeth whenever I see a toothpaste commercial showing a toothbrush loaded up with what looks like a small Vienna sausage of paste. The American Dental Association says a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is all you really need. In fact it's the brushing action much more than the toothpaste that cleans your teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside and between your teeth, and even a small amount of paste will foam enough to cover all of your teeth. Some dentists even believe that using too much paste can damage the teeth because of the abrasives and chemicals they often contain.
According to the market research firm Euromonitor International, in 2006 Americans spent more than $2.3 billion on deodorant and antiperspirant. Apparently everyone bought a shopping cart full, except the guy on the bus sitting next to me. Dr. Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in Montclair, N.J., was quoted in an article in the New York Times saying, "Most people who are not in constant high-stress situations could get away with wearing a lot less (deodorant/antiperspirant) than they do. They'd probably be fine just using a little powder." Overuse can also damage clothing, trigger allergic reactions, and create other possible health problems. Fitness magazine beauty director Gwen Flamberg said, "Your best bet is to apply just one swipe back and forth." (Ed. Note: Unless you're that guy sitting next to me on the bus, that is.)
* Toilet Paper
Every celebrity should champion a worthy cause, and singer Sheryl Crow has apparently taken on toilet paper abuse as her cause célèbre. Crow -- in what I'm hoping isn't "My Favorite Mistake" -- once suggested on her website using "only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required." Apparently Crow was making a bit of a joke, but my father always talked about (usually over dinner) toilet paper rationing during WWII, when using no more than a few sheets per restroom visit was considered one's civic duty. The Natural Resources Defense Council says we could save 423,900 trees annually if each of us cut back by about 500 sheets per year, which is only about 4% of what most of us use.
One thing is for certain: Those feng shui masters know what they're talking about when it comes to flushing our wealth down our bathroom drains. Even a short four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water; you can cut that to just 10 gallons by installing inexpensive low-flow showerheads. The typical toilet uses four to seven gallons per flush; put a water-filled plastic soda bottle in the tank to reduce the amount of water used, and check for water-wasting leaks by putting a little food coloring in the toilet tank (if the coloring appears in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak that needs fixing). Even simple things -- like turning off the water while you're brushing your teeth, and filling the basin to rinse your razor when you shave -- will save the typical household more than ten gallons of water per day. (Try this online water use calculator.)
While I still have my doubts about feng shui, feng cheap is a different matter entirely.
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