I'm continually amazed with the insights and advice in the comments around here! We had some great discussion about reducing our dependence on natural gas and on choosing an eco friendly dish soap that was too useful not to highlight!
Commenter Jake had a lot to say about conserving natural gas. He suggests:
Insulate & seal leaks in ductwork that goes through garages / attics.
Let the sun in during the day. Close your window treatments at night.
Plant shrubs in the yard in the right spots to serve as wind-breaks.
Turn down your hot water setting in the summer. I dropped summer gas usage by about 25% by setting this down, and we didn’t miss the hotter water at all in the summer.
Other ideas he recommends are checking out solar hot water heaters or even geothermal heating options along with monitoring your gas use weekly in summer and daily in winter, rather than having a surprise when your bill comes.
He also had some additional ideas for maximizing your thermostat to use less gas:
1) Play around with your overnight temperature until you find the lowest temperature that suits everyone in the household. Don’t be afraid to go too far for one night. You can always adjust mid-night, or the next day. Every degree is about a 3% savings. If you find out you can be happy in 5 degrees cooler than you thought you could – you’ll lower use by 15% without a big inconvenience to yourself. That translates to big savings over the season to find the good setting. We kept ours at 60 degrees, with a 65 warm-up for when we had to get ready for work. 60 was plenty last year… but with a new kid this year, we’ll be going with a higher setting.
2) Hold your thermostat at a low setting if you’re going away for the weekend. This is especially effective if you travel a lot and live alone. Most furnaces can make a house comfortable within a half hour or hour. Its a big waste to keep the house warm when you’re not there. (Last year, I found that keeping the house at 60 one weekend while I was away used about 1/2 as much as when I run my normal program during similar weather).
Eco Friendly Dish Soap
A few commenters said that they use Dr. Bronner's for hand washing dishes, which is such a great idea! Suzanne Meyer Pistorious said she uses it "for almost everything, dishes, laundry, hair, body to me its the best and it works."
I really liked Milton Dixon's question: "Why do we need a separate soap for each individual task?" I'd never thought of it that way, but he's definitely on to something! How many of those specialized soaps we buy are really necessary?
Dr. Bronner's is pretty concentrated, so, as Kip suggested, you might dilute it with one part soap to three or four parts water for washing dishes.
Commenter Debbi is a big fan of Method, and I have to admit that I am too. She says that their cucumber dish soap is one of the few out there that doesn't irritate her eczema or allergies.
Charlie shared his recipe for home made dish soap:
1 bar IVORY or DOVE or your choice 3.5 oz. bar soap
3 cups boiling water
SHRED bar of hand soap with hand-held shredder. Place in large bowl. Pour boiling water over soap and stir with wooden spoon until soap is dissolved. Let stand until cool. Will thicken as it cools so I add more water when I use it in a dispenser for hand soap. I add one to two tablespoons of ammonia for dish soap, for grease cutting.
We got more tips from commenter Lori: "I’d recommend Planet or Earth Friendly Products. (Avoid Ecover.) Good luck!"
Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful, helpful comments. It's great to hear your take!