Black Friday and sustainable spending

Happy Thanksgiving to all! It’s been an unusual year. We are grateful to count many blessings that may not have been obvious beforehand. Before I go any further, please visit Feeding America, or your local food bank, to consider donating money or time. Our local food bank is closed today, and the family plans to make a $250 donation once they are open. I’ll explain the reason behind the request further down.

I’m sorry, for the delay in writing posts. I have been consumed with the USA Presidential election for the last four weeks. The outcome of the Presidential election will have lasting impacts on food insecurity, poverty, homelessness, diversity, immigration, physical and mental well being, income inequality, economic opportunities, voting access, civics and morality, the future of sustainability, personal finance and investments, diplomacy, national security and the trust Americans have in their government institutions. For our family, it may influence if we live abroad in ten years time. The results may shift our former plan to pay off all of our debt in the next 10 years. These are big decisions, worthy of careful considerations.

For the moment, given our lack of savings, our ability to continue earning in US dollars, and how much we would lose if we sold our house, we are stuck. If we are stuck, we are going to make the most of living where we are.

In that spirit, we decided to spend on six items during the run up to Black Friday. Our main focus was on reducing cost, maximizing enjoyment, and increasing sustainability. By increasing sustainability, I mean reducing plastic use, reducing electricity and heating costs, and buying durable items.

  • An LG 75″ LED television at Best Buy for $650
Our monstrously heavy LED TV

After reading Cleantechnica, I realized that electronics not only consume large amounts of electricity, they add to cooling costs. Before our first daughter was born, we bought a Panasonic 40″ Plasma TV for $1100. Anyone knows how old a plasma tv is knows how old I am. Picture quality and reliability have been great, until we had one yellow vertical strip show up. The problem is the TV consumes about 350 watts per hour. Assuming the TV is used for two hours a day for our Nintendo Switch, that gives us 700 watts per hour per day. If we multiply by 365 days, that comes out to 255.5 kWh. At a price of 10 cents per kWh, the cost is $25.55 per year. At that rate, our TV purchase would take us 25 year to pay us back, for a paltry return of about 4% a year. The low return is one reason I was reluctant to get a new TV.

Two hours per day may be conservative. Costs can increase if you pay higher electricity costs. If we use the plasma TV for four hours per day, our return is about 8% a year and we get paid back in 12.5 years. I don’t know how much heat the TV produces, but it is a lot. That adds to our cooling costs. Until the grid is 100% electric, that means burning more coal and natural gas, which means more CO2 emissions, leading to a warmer planet and more AC usage. One person may not make much difference, but over billions of people the lower cooling requirements add up.

LED’s take up very minimal energy usage. It’s one reason why we have LED’s in most of our major light fixtures in our house. The plan here is to swap out our existing living room LED TV for the game room plasma, and use the new LED TV in the living room. The plasma will be sold to someone else, instead of adding electronic waste to a landfill. In many places, there are special requirements to follow if you are getting rid of a TV. This is due to some of the toxic chemicals used. Large electronic items need to be designed to recover the valuable materials used. This is an area where we can make improvements as a civilization.

  • Vitamix Explorian E320 + PCA Package at Costco for $299
Our kitchen appliance for Indian food and smoothies

We talked to numerous friends about a good blender and wanted one for years. Friends have given good reviews and mentioned how long the Vitamix lasts. Warranty is great at 7 years. When we prepare traditional Indian items like dosas or vadas, the time to process the batter is supposed to be greatly reduced from hours to minutes. The Vitamix gives us the option to make healthier smoothies. Indians are hard on blenders and grinders. They are used often. This will save our family a lot of time from grinding and cleaning.

Excited to use these skillets

We have an existing d5 All-Clad sauce pan. It was super expensive when we got it last year. We got it because it cooks fast, it’s recommended by a chef friend, and it is durable. An added bonus is it was made in the USA, which minimizes transportation related supply chain pollution.

This year, we threw out some of our non-stick sauce pans. Non-stick pans leak their chemicals into the food once the coating wears off. In my experience, they don’t last more than three years. Many are not cheap either. With the All-Clad being easy to clean and maintain, it is my hope they last 6 to 10 years. With proper care, I think they can last much longer.

One thing on my mind was when we switch to an induction stove away from a natural gas stove. Induction stove are expensive, and only certain types of cookware will work on them. These All-Clad Skillets will work on induction stoves. With future houses becoming all-electric, it’s something to keep in mind when you buy cookware. By shifting our collective preferences, more manufacturers will move towards induction ready pots, pans, and stoves.

Looking forward to more sparkling water at home

Our family regularly drinks LaCroix Sparkling Water. Twenty four cans can cost $12 every two weeks. Aluminum cans are great, as they can be recycled. They take a lot of energy to smelt and manipulate. My goal with the sodaStream is to encourage the family to drink more water, save money, and buy less cans. There is the ongoing cost to change the C02 cylinders. I think this will pay for itself within a year.

If you regularly buy bottled water, consider the amount of plastic bottles saved and the lower costs. Plastic takes about 400 years to degrade. It’s convenience comes with a high environmental price. Plastic has been found all over the world, including pristine areas, rivers, and oceans. It’s a serious problem.

  • Cancelling Instacart and using Amazon Prime membership for Whole Foods
Amazon makes life more convenient. I’m coming around.

I have had a mixed experience with Instacart. Earlier in the year, it seemed liked one of the few services that allowed for groceries to be delivered directly to your house. An annual subscription is $79, and that reduces your services fees quite a bit. I found out that if you cancel the service is not prorated. It’s hard to reach customer service if you have issues with your order. We had one instance where the food was delivered at night and the doorbell was not rung. We had to throw out all the dairy and frozen items when we found the order in the morning. So much for cost savings.

We have heard good reviews from friends about Whole Food delivery through Amazon Prime. It was time to switch. If the service is available where you live, Amazon will deliver your groceries in paper bags, with no service fees above the minimum order amount. The plastic bags I got from Sprouts and Instacart were driving me crazy. Because of the virus, they could not be recycled and we had to throw them in the trash.

Considering we have Prime for Amazon shopping, this makes it an easy sell. Amazon is taking steps to switch their delivery vans to fully electric. The goal is to have 10,000 electric delivery vans by 2022, and 100,000 electric delivery vans by 2030. Last mile delivery vehicles are notoriously high on pollution. They frequently start and stop, tend to use diesel as their fuel source, are noisy, have high maintenance costs and their mileage is poor. My parents mentioned they have seen a few electric Amazon delivery vans in New York City. Electric delivery vans will have great benefits all around.

  • Donating to our local food bank for $250
We’ve been donating more often to food banks.

The family decided to donate $250 to our local food bank next week. From this Washington Post piece, approximately 26 million Americans don’t have enough food to eat during the week of Thanksgiving. That’s a national tragedy. Adults and children don’t have enough food to eat in the richest country in the history of the world. There are millions at threat of losing their homes. The very few at the top have done made tens of billions this year, and the bottom 50% of the population have made backward progress for decades.

Based on our other consumption this week, it’s a small thing we can do to help our fellow citizens have food for their families. I’ll talk it over with the family, and if they agree, we might make a recurring monthly contribution. Many times these contributions are double or triple matched by other donors, really going further to help families in need.

As we mentioned in the first piece of this series, we want to enjoy our lives in a more sustainable way. I call it life-money balance. As the election has shown us, we need to focus on overall societal life-money balance. That balance is out of whack.

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Thanks for reading!

Warmest regards,


Published by smilingdad

My story is one of tragedy and redemption. We've made many mistakes along the way regarding our money. Our goal here is to show you how to take care of your money life long, and as much as we can, help the Earth along the way. I call it sustainable personal finance and ethical capitalism. Currently, I am a part time writer for Cleantechnica and part-time licensed financial professional, along with being a full-time dad.

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