MARQUETTE - Bart Carroll's and Kathy Erdmann's initial motivation to conserve energy and live in a more eco-friendly way was simple - money.
"We conserve energy, save the environment but first and foremost we save money," Erdmann said.
Rising energy bills and food prices encouraged the couple to find simple ways to save cash. At the same time they discovered that one of the benefits of using less energy, growing their own food and exchanging the car for their bicycles or their feet, minimized their impact on the environment.
Marquette resident Bart Carroll tows his kayak with his bicycle to Sunset Beach near Presque Isle recently. This is one of many things that Carroll does to save gasoline and minimize his impact on the environment.
For example, the couple makes a point to save gasoline by walking to work every day, riding their bikes to the grocery store, doctor's appointments and other places in town.
"We take the bike path down to Econo," Erdmann said, who lives together with Carroll in East Marquette. "It really doesn't take us any longer. It's just something that you make up your mind to do."
Erdmann's bike has baskets to carry groceries and Carroll's bike pulls a children's trailer that he uses to transport things.
"Could we afford to drive to the store? Sure, but it doesn't really make sense," said Carroll, who owns South Shore Barber on Third Street.
Carroll not only tows groceries on his bicycle, he even constructed a bicycle trailer to haul his kayak to Sunset Beach near Presque Isle. As a result of all his walking and biking around town, Carroll has lost 30 pounds in the last four years, he said. And more recently, he has gone more than 10 weeks on half a tank of gas in his truck.
"It's cost efficient, more fun and you get exercise," Carroll said.
Erdmann and Carroll also save the shower water to use for their herbs and vegetable gardens.
"We take a bucket and put it under the shower," Carroll said. "We catch that first gallon of cold water before it turns warm."
This clever habit saves them $6 a month on their water bill, saving an average of three gallons of water a week.
"If you count 15 different ways to save $6, it adds up," Carroll said.
Changing light bulbs to more energy efficient ones, strictly turning lights off when they are not needed, and using the clothes dryer less, also reduced their electricity bill by $10 per month. In the winter, the couple layers on the clothing and keeps the heat at 58 degrees in their house, which has evened out rising fuel costs for them.
"As a result there is less coal that has to be burned to heat our home," Carroll said.
Using a non-motorized push lawn mower, shopping at thrift stores and garage sales, trading goods and services, recycling, composting, cooking with local foods and replacing old appliances and parts of the house - such as windows and doors - with more energy efficient ones are all ways the couple has embraced their eco-friendly life.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the couple said they also feel healthier and happier.
"It's just a better quality of life and you're more in tune with your community," Erdmann said, adding that her and Carroll observe a lot more details of city life when biking around town.
"The things that we do are old school," Carroll said. "It's mostly simple things."