WILMORE, Kentucky -- Nobody likes pollution or the idea of the Earth someday running out of clean water. But it has always seemed that cleaning it all up would bear a too-huge price tag, not only in money, but in sacrifice.
There is a family of four in this quiet Kentucky town trying to prove with their own lives that everyone can go green and in the process, save families many thousands of dollars.
Family is a Living Laboratory
The Sleeths have made themselves a living laboratory -- constantly experimenting with ways they can go green, save money, and serve God better -- all at once. They have taken what works and written about it on their Web site blessedearth.org, and in books like Matthew's Serve God, Save the Planet and Nancy's Go Green, $ave Green.
Want to go green, but don't know where to begin? Try the Blessed Earth.org resources & downloads page. There are hundreds of free resources available there to help you get started.
Even daughter Emma's getting into the act with "It's Easy Being Green," a book on how students can care for creation.
"We see how we can serve God by cleaning up the world that He created," the Asbury College senior told CBN News.
Kids Graduated High School, Parents Moved
Emma has been directly inspired by her parents dedication to creation care. She was awed when they sold their New England home and moved two blocks from Asbury just so they would save all the resources it would take doing visits back and forth between New England and Kentucky.
They also bought a house close to campus, so they could live with one less car and do most of their transportation on foot or on bicycle. They were also living what they preach -- that God wants families to spend more time together and live much more for each other.
The Sleeths point out the biggest savings for most families can come from altering what is probably our major point of pollution: transportation -- just getting from here to there. With Americans making 1.1 billion trips everyday, it's no wonder the biggest environmental decision you could make is your choice of transportation.
Guzzle No More
You could cut tons of pollution and save big bucks by dumping your second car.
"You're going to save about $6,000 to $8,000 just getting rid of the one car," Matthew said,
You could replace it with a gas-sipping scooter or do what the Sleeths did. They replaced two gas-guzzlers with one Prius and bicycles.
"In this country, we can all stand to use a little more exercise," said Matthew, who is a medical doctor by profession.
The savings might be even bigger than the Sleeths' estimate. A report from the American Public Transportation Association shows most families living around public transport could save on average $9,100 a year living with just one car and using public transportation.
You can save more than $600 a year just driving the speed limit and slowing down on your starts and stops. Another $800 to $1,400 could also be saved by car-pooling.
Work Here, Not There
Teleconference more, fly less for meetings. Telecommute more, drive less to work.
People are saving big bucks just staying home for work, according to Matthew.
"More and more people are telecommuting or they're going to four-day workweek schedules, that sort of thing," he explained.
One of the Sleeths' most radical ideas used to be almost commonplace. Do not go shopping or driving anywhere on the Sabbath. That could save you more than $3,400.
If you brought lunch from home to work instead of eating out, you would save around $400. If the family gave up one restaurant meal each week for a home-cooked meal, in a year you would save more than $1,000.
"Eating meals that you've made yourself are much healthier for your body," Nancy said. " more quiet family quality time together, and you're going to be helping the planet, too, because you're not driving to restaurants."
Going Green by Growing Green
Food is where the Sleeth family gets particularly green. They would like to see everyone planting gardens and trees, growing their own vegetables and fruit. You could save around $300 in the summer. Then if you would can and preserve, another $400 the rest of the year.
"The things that our grandmothers did like hang the clothes on the line, grow their own food in the vegetable garden, can their own food, walk instead of driving places: these things are ways of saving money, but they're also good for stewardship of God's earth," Nancy explained.
You can get rid of polluting chemicals like bug sprays by growing the kinds of plants that attract the right bugs and birds. Nancy pointed across their huge organic garden on the side of their property.
"This is a big patch of marigolds right here and this is going to keep a lot of pests out," she said.
What they've planted and grown has attracted many robins, and that's kept the bug population down.
"We have a lot of robins and robins are meat-eaters," Matthew said.
The same goes with using compost you collect yourself instead of fertilizer. It recycles. It saves you money. It frees your yard from inorganic chemicals, and it actually profits the ground.
"We compost everything that we can and keep using that as a soil-builder," Matthew said.
Drive Mosquitos Batty
The Sleeths have even attached a bat house to their house, and now the bats eat up all the mosquitoes, with no bug spray needed. That move has allowed them to hang out in God's great outdoors more.
They have also let their backyard "go native," so they can see the kinds of animals and plants it attracts naturally over the years. It is already alive with the songs of many birds.
"In the back, we don't actually mow the grass, and that's why I think we have so many birds around here," Matthew pointed out.
The family saves water and water costs by harvesting rainwater, though probably not everyone can lay their hands on a 1,000-gallon water tank like the Sleeths have attached to the back of their house. Matthew calls it "a rain barrel on steroids."
It came from a friend who use to balk at their "gone green" lifestyle, but one day he himself converted to the cause, and now he converts these huge tanks from industrial use to home use.
Entertain Big Changes
Just changing your entertainment habits could save you another $5,000 or so -- and give you much more time for fellowship with God, family, friends and even books.
Nancy bemoans the amount of time people spend in front of screens these days, especially children.
"The average school-age child spends six hours and 20 minutes in front of a screen everyday," she said.
The Sleeths recommend you take radical action to free up your time: cancel your cable service, one season's tickets to sporting events and a couple of magazine subscriptions. If your kids are big on sports, drop one sport per child. You can save some $400 a year.
"You'll find that you'll have a whole lot more family time, time to eat dinner together, not having practices on Sundays," Nancy said.
Instead of a theme park, do a picnic at a neighborhood or city park. Instead of a Disney-like super-park, go to a nearby state or national park -- cabins there can be cheaper, camping much cheaper.
"The more time we can spend gazing up at the heavens, gazing up at the stars, having block parties, going on hikes, going camping, having picnics, picking up trash in your neighborhood, these are things your children will remember," Nancy said. "They won't remember a television show."
If you find it is hard to completely go green immediately, the Sleeths say don't worry.
"If you can do 10 percent better each year, you're well on the way," Nancy explained.
*Originally published August 10, 2009