how to reduce your electric bill to practically nothing

My last electric bill, for a period of 2 months, was 95 shekels. That's right, 95 shekels. For those of you not familiar with this wonderful Israeli currency, that's about 27 US dollars. Or, 13 dollars a month. To be fair, I do live in a small apartment and we are only a 2 person household, but it was still the lowest electric bill we've ever had and it gave me a great sense of accomplishment (plus some extra money in my pocket).

If you want to save electricity too, here are some of my electricity saving tips:

Change your incandescent lightbulbs to CFLs. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (which now come in a soft yellow color that's very similar to incandescents) generally use about 20% of the electricity used to power a regular incandescent lightbulb. Even if you only change the lightbulbs that you use most often, you'll still save electricity.

your electronic appliances and devices when not in use. I didn't know this until fairly recently, but electronic plugs (such as cell phone chargers, laptop chargers, etc.) still use a significant amount of electricity when they're just plugged into the wall. As soon as you're done charging something, unplug it from the outlet - you'll see the difference in your electric bill. Devices that are kept on standby or devices that have a built-in clock that's on all the time are also sucking up electricity all the time. I no longer keep my cable box plugged in or my TV on standby for that reason.

Take shorter showers. Not only does this save water, but shorter showers = less time and energy needed to heat the water. It takes a lot of energy to heat up water.

Turn off the stove burner a minute or two before you think the dish is done. The residual heat will finish cooking the dish and you'll save electricity.

Find other ways to heat/cool yourself, other than the air conditioner. Israeli winters are pretty mild, so I was able to save a lot of electricity by bundling up in my apartment rather than turn the air conditioner on. Now that it's warming up, I'm going to use fans (and popsicles) to cool myself down as much as possible.


a little more crunch

How about a little more crunch? If you enjoy what you read here at Crunchy Greenola, you might also enjoy what I write over at Green Prophet. Green Prophet is written by a group of writers in Israel who are interested in promoting an environmentally sustainable future for Israel and its neighbors.

To check out my first article at Green Prophet about organic farm volunteer opportunities, click here.


greening your printer cartridge

Printing is nasty business. There's the toxic chemicals that go into ink, virgin paper, and the plastic that cartridges are made of. Not good. But there are ways to make your printing a little greener:

Only print something if it is really necessary. Do you really need print outs of those documents? Maybe emailing something to yourself or carrying something on a disk-on-key would work just as well.

Print double sided copies. Cut your paper consumption in half by getting full use of that paper.

Refill your ink cartridge. Some cartridges may be refilled with an ink needle, eliminating the need for a whole new plastic cartridge.

Recycle your used printer cartridges. If you live in Israel, then Office Depot stores will accept your used printer cartridges, recycle them, and even offer you credit towards your purchase of another cartridge. Office Depot also sells recycled printer cartridges (but not for every printer cartridge model).


le plastique, ce n'est pas chic

Translation: plastic is out. Reusable is in. Reusable cotton bags, to be exact, courtesy of Eco-Chic. Eco-Chic, an Israeli company, recently began marketing it's reusable, compact, strong, natural cotton string bags through stores (mainly health food stores) and it's website with the purpose of reducing plastic bag consumption in Israel. According to Eco-Chic's website, the cotton bags are strong enough to hold 2-3 plastic bags' worth of items but are compact enough to fit in your purse without taking up too much space.

According to the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, 430 million plastic bags are distributed in Israel every month. These bags, which far outlive their users by hundreds of years, end up polluting rivers, waterways, landfills.... It's an ugly situation. A law has been proposed to the Israeli Knesset to levy a fee on plastic bags that would have to be paid by consumers, but who knows if that'll go through. Either way, it's obvious that the reduction of individual plastic consumption is up to individuals.

Eco-Chic bags are available in stores all over the country - their website lists where their bags can be found in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Petach Tikva, Gadera, Zichron Ya'acov... and the list goes on. But if these bags aren't for you and you're feeling creative, you could make your own bag from cloth scraps or follow No Impact Man's advice and make shopping bags out of old tank tops.

crunchy granola, crunchy greenola style

A few months ago I decided to stop eating cold cereal. Cold turkey. Don't get me wrong, I love cereal - especially a combo of multi-grain Cheerios, Special K with dried fruit, and maybe some BranFlakes for good measure. But I couldn't justify all the garbage and energy associated with this small morning meal. Even though you can recycle the paper cardboard box that the cereal comes in, there's still that nasty plastic sleeve that holds the cereal. Not to mention, most cereal is produced far, far away meaning it has to travel a long way to make it to my bowl. I decided I could do without it.

Which lead to a search for the alternative, and tracking down my boyfriend's mother's amazing granola recipe which she's been making for years. Whenever my boyfriend visits her in the US she always sends a big bag of her homemade granola over. It's easy to make, most of the ingredients can be bought in bulk (for a list of places to buy bulk dry foods in Tel Aviv, click here), and most importantly - it's delicious. And nutritious. Added bonus: your kitchen/apartment/home will smell amazing when you bake the granola.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (she uses spelt flour)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/3 cup maple syrup (you could also use honey)
1/3 cup oil (preferably sunflower oil)
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnammon

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well-coated. Spread on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit) for 35 minutes (depending on oven).



don't leave a paper trail...

... or a paper footprint. Everyone knows the basic paper things that you can recycle - newspapers, old school papers, magazines... But what about all of the other paper products that we don't usually think of recycling? How about recycling your cardboard cereal box, your empty toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, gum wrappers, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes? All of these can be recycled as well.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, paper waste constitutes 25% of the volume of all waste in Israel, and annual paper consumption is 700,000 tons. Only about 30% of all consumed paper is currently recycled. Recycled paper is used in order to produce products such as new paper, toilet paper, cardboard, and egg cartons.

The paper recycling companies in Israel include Amnir, KMM, Tal-El, S.G. Grisa, and Amek (08-5793489). If you don't know where to recycle paper in your area, or if you own a business and would like to arrange to have your paper waste picked up and recycled, contact one of these companies. Many of them offer pick-ups from businesses.


know thine enemy: plastic

In order to conquer the enemy you have to know the enemy. And enemy, your name is plastic. We may live in a small country, but there is nothing small about our consumption of plastic here in Israel - especially in recent years. Approximately 600 million large beverage bottles and 300 million small beverage bottles are consumed in Israel each year, with a 10% - 15% annual growth rate. Plastic constitutes 28% of the volume and 11% of the weight of Israeli waste.

In 2005, the average Israeli citizen produced 1.8 kg of garbage every day - a total national waste of 4.2 million tons during that year. This amount increases by 4% - 5% each year and by 2010 the space used to bury waste will be all used up.

Pretty scary stuff, right?

There's an upside, though. Separating and recycling your waste at the source (meaning, in your house before you take out the trash) could lead to a 60% reduction in the amount of waste transferred to waste burial. Only 20% of the plastic bottles produced in Israel are currently recycled, but if more of them were recycled it would make a big difference in the amount of space required to dump our garbage. (Or, alternatively, you could stop drinking bottled water altogether and get a Brita, whose filter can also be recycled.)

But first you have to know what you can recycle. Most people already know that you can recycle empty bottles from water, soda, etc. But did you know that you can also recycle the empty bottles from your shampoo, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and cooking supplies? In fact, you can recycle any plastic container marked with one of the triangular recycling symbols above except for the yellow symbol with the number 3 inside. The stamps are usually imprinted on the bottom of the bottles.

For more information about plastic recycling in Israel, see the Aviv Recycling website.