Does it cost money to "go green"? It shouldn't. Saving the planet and saving money are not incompatible ideas – in fact, they frequently go together.
For Earth Day, here are a few ideas to help you to be simultaneously kind to Mother Earth and to your wallet.
- Drive Less – This can be difficult, especially if you have to juggle job and child-raising activities without mass transit. Carpooling to work or to mutual destinations like your children's soccer games can save you and your fellow carpoolers significant gas money while reducing pollution. Check your workplace, school, or sites online for carpooling opportunities in your area.
Try walking or riding a bicycle to your destination whenever it is practical, and look for carpooling or mass transit opportunities when it is not.
- Adjust Your Thermostat –The new generation of programmable thermostats are inexpensive and easy to install and program. When set properly, they can significantly reduce your energy usage when you are not home. Of course, you may also want to consider adjusting it a few degrees when you are home. Donning a sweater is greener than burning fuel to stay warm.
- Save Water – Low-flow showerheads and efficient toilets are well-established money savers. Washing clothes in cold water can save lots of money, and will do just as good a job with most stains. Rain barrels can be used to collect water for irrigation and outdoor watering needs. Dripping faucets or outdoor hose leaks should be fixed as quickly as possible. In warm weather, water your lawn early or late in the day to minimize evaporation. Also, keep your water heater at an efficient temperature, and if your house can be retrofitted, consider inline water heaters to avoid the cost of keeping water hot when you aren't using it.
- Stop Home Energy Losses –Your local utility may offer home energy audits to identify energy losses such as poor or missing Insulation, drafty doors/windows, "vampire" currents from items that are plugged in but not in use, and similar waste.
You can do much of this yourself by checking your own insulation, installing caulk and weather-stripping, and investing in newer "smart" power strips that limit power draw to unused items. Or, you could go old-school and just unplug them!
Replace older appliances with newer energy-efficient models when the time comes, and don't forget to keep your furnace and air-conditioner running efficiently by changing filters regularly.
- Use Reusable Containers – Using your own coffee cup can save on Styrofoam containers. Bringing your own cloth bags to the supermarket may net you a small discount (or conversely, save you a bag charge).
- Energy-Efficient Lighting – Inefficient incandescent bulbs are being phased out. CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lighting) bulbs are cheaper replacements than LED (Light-Emitting Diode) bulbs, but contain mercury and have a delay time. LED's are expensive, but have superior efficiency, are instant-on and will last for many years. As your incandescent bulbs go out, install LED bulbs in the places you use the most.
- Use Fewer Prepackaged Items – Packaging takes up massive amounts of landfill space. Buying in bulk reduces packaging waste and saves money. Consider replacing bottled water with tap water – invest in a water purification filter if necessary.
Another example is brown-bagging your lunches and having more home-cooked family dinners. You will save money, and reduce your trash from over-packaged fast food and convenience meals. You don't have to stop eating out entirely – just make it a treat instead of a daily ritual.
While many of us make resolutions on New Year’s Day, what better time to start following these simple tips than Earth Day? You will be helping Mother Earth as well as your wallet.