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Going green: fun hobby or weird disorder?

My own effort to "go green" slid a little farther from "healthy hobby" to "unhealthy obsession" this week when I purchased a solar power panel that powers up the battery on my iPhone.

My wife looked at me like, "you need this, uh, why?" I knew I had perhaps gone a little over the top this time.

I am a little hooked on finding ways to reduce my energy consumption. I did all of the usual home winterization things years ago, and now find myself lingering in hardware stores or big box stores looking for one more way to reduce my demand for fossil fuels.

The conservative side of me has always grabbed on to the "conserve" root of that word. Having run a couple of businesses on a shoestring, I'm always looking for ways to get the same result with fewer resources. Maybe that makes me cheap -- or perhaps shrewd! But probably cheap.

To me, using less electricity or gas isn't just about having a smaller bill at the end of the month, though. If I can cause a little less coal to be burned or oil to be drilled, I can conserve it for future generations, and perhaps make a better world today by polluting less or reducing demand for foreign sources of oil. See? It's not all about being cheap.

There's something invigorating about finding a better, cheaper, cleaner way to do something. OK, I'm slipping back into that "unhealthy obsession" mode again, but those of you who enjoy these tips know what I'm talking about.

This is why I'm excited to put out our second effort at the Pioneer Journal's Community Builder Series, which is a joint effort our paper makes with several surrounding papers. It comes out quarterly, and the first one focused on volunteerism's effect on a community. July's topic is going green -- everything from green energy initiatives to how local businesses are reducing their waste stream or how to take little, painless steps around the home to save money.

We'll use our newsroom to write some of those stories, but I'd like to ask you -- yes, I'm talking to you -- to drop us a note with your best going green tip. It could be how your business cut expenses by installing programmable thermostats or how your household uses a mixture of common household items to clean the bathrooms instead of harsh detergents.

Drop me an e-mail or a note with your best going green tip that you're doing right now. Include your name and city, but other than that, there are no guidelines. You can write a detailed description, or just jot down one sentence of what's working for you. It doesn't have to be anything fancy -- just a cool tip you don't mind sharing. It doesn't even have to be your idea. Go ahead and "recycle" the best idea someone else has told you.

It also doesn't matter if your tip is aimed at saving the planet, saving a few pennies or just saving some time. Good tips are good tips, and I'd love to have them.

You can e-mail me at or send it to me at Going Green, Wadena Pioneer Journal, P.O. Box 31, Wadena, MN 56482.