Discussions about how to help the Earth and save money at the same time certainly aren’t just reserved for Earth Day. We often hear terms like “going green,” “sustainable living,” and “eco-friendly.” Many people are seeking ways to change their daily routines in order go green and save green at home and at work.
Here are some ways to begin making simple changes to help the Earth and save money.
It sounds simple but unplugging electrical appliances when they aren’t being used is a good place to start saving energy around the house and the office. If you’d rather, use a “smart” power strip that senses when an appliance is shut off and decreases its energy output.
Install compact fluorescent light bulbs when your older incandescent bulbs burn out. The compact fluorescent light bulbs can often be recycled for free at participating retail locations, utility offices, or household hazardous waste facilities.
Having your heating system inspected regularly by a professional in order to sure it is operating safely and efficiently is another way to save energy. A programmable thermostat can be helpful in keeping the temperature of your home to 68 degrees or lower when you’re awake and lower when you’re asleep. If you have baseboard heaters, turn the thermostat down or off in unoccupied rooms and close the door. Don’t do this if you have a furnace or heat pump. Instead, clean or replace your furnace or heat pump filters about every two months throughout the heating season.
Another way to understand how to save energy is to have an energy audit. On average, an energy audit can show people how to save up to 30 percent on their utility bills. You can find an auditor through your utility company or hire one. For a list of certified auditors, visit the nonprofit Residential Energy Services Network at www.resnet.us.
Using Less Water and Energy
Do you know that most of the energy used by clothes and dish washing machines goes toward heating the water? You can save energy just by washing clothes in cold water, doing full loads of laundry and filling up the dishwasher whenever possible.
A family of four consumes up to 21,000 gallons of water by washing about 540 loads of laundry a year. The same family averages more than 150 loads of dishes, using about 1,500 gallons of water. By washing just two fewer loads of laundry and one fewer load of dishes per week, a family could save up to 4,500 gallons of water a year!
Other ways to save water include taking shorter showers, drying clothes on a clothesline instead of a dryer, fixing leaks and installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators. These devices conserve heat and water but still keep water pressure high so they’re a smart choice.
Saving Energy by Changing Habits
There are also many other ways to save energy and be eco-friendly by changing daily habits.
One way is to walk or bike to and from work. This habit saves on gas and parking costs and is healthy, too. If you live too far from the office to walk or bike, consider telecommuting if it’s an option.
You can also decide to shop for new or gently used secondhand products and support local farmers by buying locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can. Or chose to skip the bottled water, use a water filter to purify tap water and fill a reusable water bottle.
When you’re ready to throw used cell phones, computers and other electronic devices away in favor of an upgrade, remember to recycle them responsibly. Americans threw away 5.5 billion pounds of electronics in 2005, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That e-waste harms the environment because of the mercury and other toxics it contains. 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 which are easier on the environment and your wallet.
Also, remember to look for products with the Energy Star label whenever you replace a household appliance. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy sponsor the Energy Star program and the labels guarantee that products are energy-efficient. For example, Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs and fixtures can use up to 75 percent less energy while lasting 10 times longer. A household that uses Energy Star products consumes about 30 percent less energy than the average household, resulting in an annual savings of about $570!