As noble as saving the planet might sound, most folks are just trying to save enough in their pocketbooks to get by.
Economic and environmental interests don't have to be at odds, however, as the two often come as a package deal.
Environmentally friendly practices like increased recycling and energy efficiency save money for individual households, businesses and public districts.
The Del Norte County Unified School District has realized at least $347,000 in energy savings from August 2011 to July 2012 through a recently implemented energy savings program, according to the district's energy manager, Christie Lynn Rust.
"I like trying to help our environment,"said Rust, a retired high school music teacher, when asked why she pursued the part-time position. "My job is to monitor the district's overall energy use."
The energy savings achieved by the district in the last year is equivalent to taking 71 cars off the road for a full year, avoidingthe emission of 374 metric tons of carbon dioxide, Rust said.
"It's the same effect as growing 10,148 trees for 10 years," Rust said.
The district's program, completed with help from energy consultant Cenergestic (formerly Energy Education) achieves significant savings by addressing all district utilities: electricity, heating oil, water, sewer, propane, and irrigation.
Simple things like installing more efficient lighting (most of which was funded by Pacific Power), turning off anything that draws electricity at the day's end, like lights and computers, and dialing down the heat to 55 degrees when schools are not in use adds up to big savings.
"The main thing we are trying to do is avoid utilities that we don't need," Rust said.
After realizing an average of 29.5 percent savings district-wide, the district is now a certified partner of Energy Star, "a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices," according to the program's website.
The Del Norte County Sheriff's office and County Jail have also recently become more energy efficient through an upgrade to the 46-year old building's antiquated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and a central water boiler.
The project was funded with a$122,157 block grant and $216,462 low-interest loan under President Obama's federal stimulus package. Through the improvements, Del Norte County is expected to save $20,721 in energy costs per year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a projected 96 tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to a press release from the California Energy Commission.
Recycling is another way that Del Norters have gone green and saved green in the process.
In the past 11 years, the amount of recycling taken by Julindra Recycling has doubled in Del Norte from 2,409,000 pounds in 2001 to 5,196,000 pounds in 2011.
Julindra Recycling owner Jordan Kekry is building a new 7,800-square-foot building to protect his workforce from the winter elements. His crew has recently expanded from nine to 15 employees to handle the increased loads.
Lorie Poole, recycling coordinator with Recology Del Norte,does consulting for businesses and schools that are interested in trying to save money on their trash bill.
Last year, Poole helped Del Norte County Unified School District save almost $4,600 a month by working with five schools, demonstrating ways that schools could recycle more and throw away less. That does not include a $1,000 a month savings the district received when Recology offered free recycling.
The district is expected to realize even more savings as Poolehas expanded the program to 10 district schools.Although Crescent Elk Middle School has yet to downsize their trash bins (the source of savings), the school is already producing less trash daily during lunch (three bags instead of five), Poole said.
Poole has also recently helped local businesses save money by showing them how to increase their recycling.
"For most of them I've been able to help lower their trash bill by changing out things to make it work for them," Poole said in an interview with the Triplicate.
Englund Marine Supply and Wayside Liquor Market switched from trash bins to trash carts, started recycling more and watched their Recology bills drop, Poole said.
Previously Wayside self-hauled its cardboard, but after switching to cart service for trash, it was able to receive free recycling (Recology offers free recycling for all commercial and residential cart service customers), Poole said.
"Now they're paying a little less money and getting more service," Poole said."If commercial accounts get on board sooner, they are going to save money."
Del Norte has the opportunity to recycle much more products than most areas.
"A lot of people don't realize how good we have it here," said Poole, who is taking a master recycling course in Jackson County, where she first realized that that county does not have plastic bag recycling like we have.
"What Julindra is doing here is a great benefit for our comity," Poole said. "If julindra didn't take this plastic it would go to the landfill. That's something more for the community than it is for him to make money."
Julindra owner Jordan Kekry admits that there are some items, like plastic bags, styrofoam and milk cartons, that he takes even though it's sometimes hard to sell the material for a profit.
"I started taking milk cartons because Recology is working with the school. I told them go ahead and take them and I'll worry about getting rid of them later," Kekry said.
Kekry has 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of bailed milk cartons stocked up, and he's confident he'll eventually find a market.
Kekry purchased a machine that condenses styrofoam and the machine's maker buys back the styrofoam blocks, because the public was looking for a place to recycle it.
"The machine was purchased from China and the styrofoam blocks will go back to China," he said.
"I took on the plastic bags for the same reason as the styrofoam because the public was screaming about them," said Kekry, who ships a bail of 90,000 bags, weighing 1,500 pounds for 1.5 cents per pound. The price he gets back is 3 cents per pound, but he estimates that he's barely making a profit when he accounts for his labor costs.
"On the one hand it's stupid for me to be doing it but it's making the public happy," he said.
Recology's Poole is happy with the direction of the company's recycling program and would like to make more businesses in the community happy by finding ways to save them money.
"I'm available for any commercial accounts that want my help, whether they have service with us or not," Poole said.
Reach Adam Spencer at email@example.com .