Saving Your 'Green' By Going Green

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WILMORE, Ky. -- For some reason, many conservative Christians have not embraced the idea of going green.

But imagine if by throwing yourself into environmentalism, you could save tens of thousands of dollars a year and get a better relationship with God.

The Sleeth family from in Wilmore, Ky., are proof it can be done. They are Toyota Prius-driving, bike-riding, veggie-growing environmentalists. They are also evangelical Christians.

Matthew Sleeth used to be a doctor in charge of an entire emergency room department in Massachusetts. But he gave it up when he felt the Lord was leading him to make the cause of "creation care" his life's mission.

Sleeth lays out why every Christian should embrace creation care in his book Serve God, $ave the Planet.

"I believe the Bible and the Bible tells me to take care of Creation," he told CBN News.

"At the root of the word 'conservative' -- and I'm a conservative -- is 'conserve,'" he said. "The definition of the word 'conserve' in the Oxford English Dictionary is 'to take care of something with regard to passing it on to the next generation.'

Saving More Than $37,000

Sleeth's wife Nancy shows step-by-step how the creation care cause could also save you more than $37,000 this year if you implemented all the hundreds of green tips in her book, Go Green, $ave Green.

The Sleeth's have offered tons of tips on how you can save money while going green. Click here for more on how you can specifically save.

"If you drew a Venn diagram of frugality and creation care.taking care of the environment.they overlap about 90 percent of the time," she explained.

The Sleeths showed CBN News some of their favorite savings that you can also manage inside your home - like turning your water heater down to 120 degrees.

"You don't need water any hotter than what you need for a shower," Sleeth explained.

Insulate hot water pipes with simple wrap-around sleeves you can cut to length and slip on the pipes. Sleeth said it's quick and inexpensive.

"I think it was like $20, $30 to do all the pipes in the basement," he said.

Sleeth also stuffed his attic with insulation a foot-and-a-half thick. He changes the filters for his home's heating and cooling system once a month, and gets the system itself tuned up yearly.

"It's maintenance that people forget about, but you'll actually save money and it'll be safer," he said.

The Sleeths recommend you turn the thermostat down by three degrees less in the winter and cool three degrees less in the summer. Put up lined curtains and install double or triple-paned windows that can keep in the heat during the cold months and keep it out during the hotter months. Most of the time, the Sleeths want it cooler, so they use ceiling fans instead of the air conditioning.

Keep The Heat Out By Cooking Outside 

They have set up a summer kitchen outside in their car port, so they don't need to heat up their kitchen oven during hot days.

"Why should I be turning up the heat in my house by turning it up to 350 degrees and then fighting that with an air conditioning unit?" Mrs. Sleeth asked.

The Sleeths buy only Energy Star appliances, meaning they are the most energy-efficient, and then use energy-saving principles, like with their refrigerator.

"You should keep your freezer and your refrigerator as full as possible," Mrs. Sleeth explained. "The more full it is, the less energy it will use."

They also use the "cold" rather than "colder" setting.

"The only problem you might have is slightly softer ice cream, but it's not a health hazard at all to keep it on the warmest setting possible," Mrs. Sleeth assured.

She also advises using ice cube trays and disconnecting your icemaker, because it uses heat to drop the ice cubes it makes into the accompanying ice bucket.

"So you're heating up your freezer, which makes no sense," Mrs. Sleeth explained. "It's like driving a car uphill with your emergency brake on."

When it comes to a washing machine, the Sleeths always use the cold setting and bought a front loader rather than top-loader, because it only uses a third of the water.

Sleeth bent down in front of his washer and pointed to a spot about a third of the way up the window into the washer.

"The water only has to come up to here and it throws the clothes through it," he said.

They only wash clothes in the washing machine when there's a full load. But when it came to the dishwasher that came with the house they bought in Wilmore, they found they saved so much energy hand-washing their dishes, so they turned that dishwasher into an easy-to-reach and massive spice rack.

'Hanging Out' With The Lord 

They admit hanging clothes and washing dishes by hand take extra time, but they use that time as a major source of fellowship, both with each other and with the Lord. Sleeth said he doesn't see it as a chore.

"I just kind of think 'oh I'm going to go hang the clothes and pray,'" he said.

Showing CBN News his clothesline in the backyard, Sleeth exclaimed, "It's a solar clothes dryer."

But one place you can save time -- as well as money and energy -- is in the bathroom, where Sleeth recommends shaving a couple of minutes off the length of your shower, or maybe even trying what the thriftiest showerers do.

"Get water on them, turn the water off, then shave, shampoo, all that sort of thing, then rinse off," he explained.

Showering instead of taking a bath saves many gallons of water.

"About a tenth of what a full-bath would use," Sleeth told CBN News.

The toilet is a major water-waster.

"The average flush of one toilet in America is the same as the average person in the Third World uses in water all day long," Sleeth said.

He suggests flushing less would help, but also recommends placing a brick and one-gallon jug in each toilet tank.

"So each time, it uses a gallon and a brick less to flush," he said,

You can reap big savings by replacing your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs.

If every household changed just five, Sleeth said, "It would be the same as taking eight million cars off the road, and we could shut down 21 coal-fired plants."

These bulbs are more expensive initially, but Sleeth explains they save so much power that, "they're going to pay for themselves in about nine to 11 months."

Imagine a $13 Electric Bill  

All of this work has brought the Sleeths power bill down to just $13 to $17 a month. They are also living healthier. They put in bamboo floors and got rid of carpets and fabricated flooring that released harmful chemicals. They are also making their own cleaning products out of non-toxic substances like vinegar and baking soda.

They are also eating healthier and cheaper by consuming more beans and grains -- which they buy in bulk -- and fruits and vegetables.

"Rather than focusing on meat and sweets and prepackaged foods," Mrs. Sleeth said.

They grow many of their own veggies they eat in their own organic garden.

All of this, from the bamboo floors to the simpler diet, isn't just about going green, but getting back to the simple basics.

"The closer you can be to God-made things, the healthier your family will be," Mrs. Sleeth said told CBN News.

The Sleeths believe that means spiritual health as well as financial and physical health.

*Originally published July 9, 2009.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.