Newsletter shows how thrift reaps 'green' dividends

December 01, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

It's a safe bet that Michelle A. Potter rarely visits the supermarket aisle stocked with the Drano, Comet and Lysol.

Why use Drano to unclog pipes when a non-toxic and less expensive solution of baking powder and heated vinegar will do the trick? Why spray a room with a chemical deodorizer when soap shavings in a dish, perfume on a light bulb or odor-absorbing white vinegar will work?

Ms. Potter shares her home-concocted methods for reusing and recycling products for household and gardening tasks while minimizing the use of chemical agents, by publishing "The SAVing Source," a newsletter.

The part-time effort, says the resident of the Glenshire Towne subdivision near Guilford, is designed to offer advice on how to save money and preserve the environment at the same time.

"Nature and the environment are very important to me," says Ms. Potter, 33, who works full-time as a consultant with Career Map, a Columbia firm that helps prepare people for job searches. "Maybe people don't care about saving the earth, but if they knew they could save money, maybe they would get hooked on saving the earth, too. That's what I try to do with the newsletter."

Ms. Potter started the monthly newsletter out of her home in August 1991. She now has 86 subscribers in several states. Subscriptions are $10 a year. She says it costs her $8 to $9 annually per subscription to produce the newsletter and about 50 hours a month.

"I'm not in it to make money, just to share information," she says.

The newsletters include common-sense ideas to save money, low-budget recipes, recommendations on how to save energy and suggestions for reusing items, making products with ingredients instead of buying them complete and substituting non-toxic products for household cleaners.

Ms. Potter champions the use of baking soda and vinegar to replace cleaners and disinfectants, advocates homemade baby food and recommends buying clothes that need minimal care to reduce dry-cleaning bills.

The idea for the newsletter originated when Ms. Potter started a backyard garden and decided to grow plants organically rather than using chemical products. She discovered that placing lemons on the trail of ants drives them away, and that cotton balls dabbed with mint oil make mice run.

She estimates she saved $6,000 the first year she went organic, allowing her and her husband, Pradeep Gajria, to take trips to India and Germany. She believes people are interested now in learning about money-saving ideas because of the economy.

"People don't have a lot of money right now, they're out of jobs," she says. "If they knew they could stretch their money two or three times as much, it would really help."

Ms. Potter says she has participated in traditional recycling for years. The newsletter goes beyond that, she says. "It makes me feel like I'm doing something more than just recycling, like I'm contributing without joining Greenpeace."

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