Change a Light Bulb
Installing a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is the quickest, easiest way to save energy — and money. Unlike incandescents, CFLs convert most of the energy they use into light rather than heat.
Good for You: They consume about 75 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer (10,000 hours as opposed to 1,500). Replace one 75-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL and save up to $83 over the life of the bulb.
Unplug Things That Glow
Anything that has an LED (light emitting diode) that glows even after you turn it off continues to draw power (that you pay for). Your TV, cell phone charger, and printer are likely culprits. Unplug the offenders from wall sockets and plug them into power strips instead. When you leave a room, flip the strip switch to cut the flow of electricity.
Recycle Your Electronics
Americans tossed out a whopping 5.5 billion pounds of electronics — TVs, stereos, cell phones, and computers — in 2005, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The result? Millions of pounds of chemicals and heavy metals ended up in the ground even though it’s easier than ever to recycle electronics. The Consumer Electronics Association created mygreenelectronics.org to help people find a recycling resource in their area. The site also provides a list of electronics, from laptops to baby monitors, that are easier on the environment and your energy bill.
Good for You: The average American household has three cell phones stashed in a drawer. Sell unused cell phones to greenphone.com. You’ll receive about $35, and the phones will be refurbished and resold. If 1 million people recycled one cathode-ray tubeTV this year, we’d keep 4 million pounds of lead out of the ground.
Audit Your Energy
It’s easier to save energy when you know exactly how much and where you’re using it. Investing in a home audit takes a couple of hours and pays off with a list of things you can do to curb consumption. Find an auditor through your utility company (at low or no cost), or hire one ($450-$650). A list of auditors certified by the nonprofit Residential Energy Services Network, is at resnet.us (click on Consumer Information).
Good for You: On average, an energy audit shows how to save up to 30 percent on utility bills.
Support Local Farmers
If your food could talk, it would tell quite a tale. Typical grocery store produce travels nearly 1,500 miles before it ends up on your plate. All this traveling burns fossil fuels and results in carbon emissions — a fancy term for pollution. Buying from local farmers means you’re not only getting the freshest food possible, you’re saving energy.
Good for You: To find farmers nationwide, visit localharvest.org, sustainabletable.org, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture at http://www.ams.usda.govfarmersmarkets/map.htm.
Fix That Drip
When you next fill your water glass, think about this: We each use about 100 gallons a day, enough to fill 1,600 glasses. Household water consumption has increased by 200 percent since 1950, even though the population has grown by only 90 percent. As a result, more than 36 states are expected to face water shortages in the next six years. Stemming the flow is as easy as fixing a leakyfaucet or toilet; a dripping faucet can waste up to 74 gallons a day, a leaking toilet up to 200 gallons a day.
Good for You: Repair a leaky toilet and you can save $30 a year, which may not sound like much until you realize it means 73,000 gallons.
Let Your Grass Grow
Spending less time tending to your lawn actually makes it greener — in every sense of the word. Most grass species fare best when they’re kept at least 2 1/2 inches tall. The length creates more surface area to absorb sunlight, which creates thicker turf and deeper roots, which means you won’t need to water as often.
Good for You: Save money by letting grass clippings remain on your lawn; it adds nitrogen to the soil and discourages weed seeds from germinating. You’ll need less fertilizer and herbicide. Plus, leaving clippings on lawns means less in landfills; in 2005 Americans disposed of more than 12 million tons of yard waste.
Look for the Label
When it’s time to replace a household appliance, choose a product with an Energy Star label. Sponsored by the EPA and the Department of Energy, the Energy Star program rates products from light bulbs tokitchen appliances. Energy Star labels guarantee that products are energy-efficient. For example, a battery charger labeled with the Energy Star logo will use 35 percent less energy than a standard one. You may even be eligible for a tax credit when you purchase an Energy Star product. Information at energystar.gov.
Good for You: A household with Energy Star products uses about 30 percent less energy than the average household — an annual savings of about $570.
Do Full Loads
Whenever you wash just a few clothes or dishes at a time rather than waiting for a full load to accumulate, you’re wasting water, power, and money. The average American family of four washes about 540 loads oflaundry a year, which consumes up to 21,000 gallons of water, and more than 150 loads of dishes, which uses about 1,500 gallons. Most of the energy consumed by washers goes toward heating the water — about 90 percent in the clothes washer and 80 percent in thedishwasher. Combining half-loads, choosing short cycles, and using cold or warm rather than hot water in the clothes washer racks up savings.
Good for You: Wash two fewer loads of clothes and one fewer load of dishes a week and save up to 4,500 gallons of water a year.
Switch to cold water
Almost 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes is used to heat the water, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Save money and energy. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water, instead of hot, using a detergent formulated for cold-water use.
Good for You: Turning the dial from hot to warm will cut your energy use by 50 percent per load, and save you up to $63 a year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
Work the Critters
Your backyard ecosystem is as intricate as any wild patch of land, and it pays in many ways to enlist its creatures on your side. Birds eat many insects; they just need a water source and trees and shrubs for cover and nesting. Many insects are beautiful — and beneficial. Ladybugs aren’t just cute; they are voracious eaters of aphids.
Good for You: To understand which backyard insects are garden friends, visit garden.org and click on Pest Control Library for photos.
If you eat meat, add one meatless meal a week. Meat costs a lot at the store-and it’s even more expensive when you consider the related environmental and health costs.
Skip the bottled water.
Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books.
Make it a habit to print on both sides or use the back side of old documents for faxes, scrap paper, or drafts. Avoid color printing and print in draft mode whenever feasible.
Make it a policy to buy chlorine-free paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Also consider switching to a lighter stock of paper or alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, or kenaf. Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy remanufactured ones. According to Office Depot, each remanufactured toner cartridge “keeps approximately 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic out of landfills…and conserves about a half gallon of oil.”
Go paperless when possible
Make it a habit to think before you print: could this be read or stored online instead? When you receive unwanted catalogs, newsletters, magazines, or junk mail, request to be removed from the mailing list before you recycle the item.
Make it a policy to post employee manuals and similar materials online, rather than distribute print copies. They’re easier to update that way too.
Line dry — like grandma used to do.
Dry your clothes on a laundry line rather than throwing them in the dryer. Clothes dyers are the third-largest energy users in the home, behind the refrigerator and washing machine, costing more than $100 a year to operate, according to Project Laundry List.
Good for You: Drying your clothes on the line can save you as much as $10 a month, said Brad Stroh, co-founder of Bills.com. Laundry lines vary in cost, from about $5 for a simple rope line to $500 or more for deluxe models.