Thermostats -- Part 2
Use your programmable thermostat -- even if you have a leaky old home and are worried that your furnace is working too hard to bring the house back up to your comfort zone two times a day. Without getting into the issue of proper insulation, it saves more energy to let the house cool down when you're not home during the day and while you sleep at night than to keep it at the comfort zone continuously. But, if you're setting it back to, say, 60 degrees, that may be too far for a Chicago winter, especially if your home isn't well-insulated. At 60 degrees, countertops and dishes will seem cold. Try setting the thermostat back to 63 to 65 degrees in the winter. That way the recovery is not so steep, but you still get some benefit from the set back.
Consider alternative litter. There are more earthy-friendly, organic options than the standard clay litters, which pile up in landfills. Among them: Feline Pine (made of pine), Sweat Scoop (wheat) and World's Best Cat Litter (corn). When it's time to change the litter, you can let organic litters biodegrade naturally by dumping them in your yard -- far, far away from where kids may roam and from the veggie garden and compost. If you would rather not engage your yard, you still can go green with a biodegradable liner for the cat pan. (Biobags makes one; order at dirtworks.net).