Tag Archives: Q&A

The Green Team

26 Jan

Here in rural Texas, the phrase “reduce, re-use, recycle” doesn’t always make a lot of sense.  There are few, if any, waste regulations on separating glass, metal and plastics for re-cycling.  Re-using cloth grocery bags, to-go cups and basic every-day use items are offered for sale but not commonly encouraged or rewarded for use.  And folks in these parts aren’t about to give up their farm trucks for plug-in vehicles just yet.  Long-distance driving is a necessity, as are work/utility vehicles and tractors.

So when I heard about a small group of friends in Grapeland, Texas who are actively looking for ways to economize and do their part to save the environment, I knew I had to find out more.

I dubbed them “The Green Team” but they are much more than that.  They’re work-mates at Nucor Vulcraft who have made it fun to go “green.”  Turning their money-saving tricks into a little contest amongst themselves to see who can come up with the best ideas and make better economical choices both in terms of time and money.

Allow me to introduce you to Jim Thorpe, Wendy Castillo and Jennifer Rowland.

So, what exactly started your interest in economizing and protecting the environment?

Jim: ”We are all working parents, two of us single parents with active children, so efficiency is a requirement in our lives.  Between work and outside activities, our schedules are hectic so we have to find ways to get meals prepared, clothes washed, houses clean, in the least amount of time possible.  Of course, we are always discussing our ideas across each other’s offices throughout the day.

Jennifer and Wendy are the true champions here.  They plan their meals out a month at a time and also the associated grocery list by week and we’re not talking frozen foods here.”

Jen: ”We were sitting around talking at work one day, and I was complaining about the price of laundry detergent.  Jim mentioned that what bothered him was all those plastic jugs going into the landfill.  I mentioned that I had heard of folks making their own laundry detergent, so we all decided to try it. “

Jim: ”As far as the environmental side of things, my background and degree is Environmental Resource Management, which lends me to think of things in terms of minimizing waste, whether it be wasted time or wasted materials.  These plastic jugs end up in a landfill and take up space on the earth although, for some people, it’s out of sight, out of mind… when in actuality, the plastics we dispose of take many, many years to breakdown.  This led to finding a way to re-use those containers.

Our first thought was to start a detergent co-op, where we would purchase a large quantity of detergent in bulk (55 gal drum) and distribute among ourselves into our re-used containers.  This quickly led to an investigation of making our own laundry soap which we have found actually works better than the products you can purchase at your local retailer.”

What have you done to put your “green” ideas into action?

Jen: ”We found a recipe that we liked, purchased all the ingredients the same weekend, and made our own detergent the following week.  We reported back to each other the results and swapped tips.  So far, we are loving it.”

Jim: ”Utilizing inexpensive, products that can be obtained locally, and a little work, we each made a powdered detergent mixture that is not only efficient and inexpensive, it cleans very well and does not contain all of the fillers of pre-made store brands.  We figured that it cost us approximately .28 cents per load which is a tremendous savings over the liquid detergent we were all purchasing.  One load of laundry uses one tablespoon of detergent which is significantly less than would be used of the typical store brand.”

Would you say your job inspires you?

Jim: ”Yes.  Vulcraft instills a lot of efficiency everyday, to cut waste and be more responsible for the environment.”

Between the 3 of you, who is “winning” at efficiency?

Jim: ”We’re all winning!”

Wendy: ”We share ideas!”

What next?  Any big goals or plans to make, save or recycle?

Jim: ”We have discussed natural home cleaning supplies, and after discussions with you, Lynn,we are investigating pure castile soap as a natural cleaning aid not only for the home, but as a body soap and shampoo.”

Jen: “Homemade dishwasher detergent is next on my list.  After that, I’m going to tackle homemade convenience-foods starting with granola and yogurt.”

Jim: ”Jennifer and Wendy do monthly meals plans. I am not up to the same speed as they are but I do try to cook efficiently.  For instance, I cook large amounts in bulk that I can freeze and have ready for nights that have busy schedules. That way, the oven/frying pan/stove is heated on a limited basis to cook.  In the summer time, this helps with the cooling of your home which aids efficiency and the monies spent on utilities.  I purchase things that do not create any more waste than necessary and compact my trash to minimize space.  This way, more waste can be placed in a trash bag which uses less trash bags thereby saving more money.”

What advice would you give to young folks about economizing and the importance of protecting the environment?

Jen: “There is a cost to convenience – financially and environmentally.  By taking just a little extra time to make your own convenience-items, your wallet and the environment benefit.”

Jim: ”If you think in terms of ‘waste minimization’ in all you do, it leads to efficiency and money savings.  We live in a fast paced world where time is of the essence in all we do.  Convenience is king but it typically comes at a price to the environment and our wallets.  Wasted time, movements and materials make life more hectic.  Begin with the ‘low hanging fruit’, the easy things that make the biggest difference and go from there.”

%d bloggers like this: