While saving the environment may seem like a monumental task, Better Homes & Gardens says it’s the little things that can make a big impact not only on the planet but on the pocketbook. It recommends these no- or low-cost and simple ways to “go green”:
• Change a light bulb – Replacing incandescent – which are no longer being manufactured – with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) is the quickest, easiest way to save energy as well money. Unlike incandescent bulbs, CFLs convert most of the energy they use into light rather than heat. CFLs also consume about 75 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer (10,000 hours as opposed to 1,500): save up to $83 over the lifetime of the bulb by replacing one 75-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL.
• Unplug things that glow – Anything that has an LED (light emitting diode) that glows even after turned off continues to use power. TVs, cell phone chargers and printers are the biggest culprits. By unplugging the offenders from wall sockets and plugging them into power strips instead, home owners can just flip a switch to cut the flow of electricity. Unplugging appliances as well as electronics can reduce electric bills by as much as $200 a year.
• Recycle electronics – Americans threw out 5.5 billion pounds of electronics – TVs, stereos, cell phones and computers – in 2005, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The result was millions of pounds of chemicals and heavy metals buried underground despite the fact that recycling electronics has never been easier. The Consumer Electronics Association created mygreenelectronics.org to help people find a recycling resource in their area as well as a list of electronics, from laptops to baby monitors, that are easier on the environment and energy bills.
The average American household has three unused cell phones for which they could sell to greenphone.com for about $35. Greenphone.com will refurbish and resell the phones. If 1 million people recycled one cathode-ray tube TV this year, America would keep 4 million pounds of lead out of the ground.
• Audit home energy – It’s easier to save energy if exactly how much and where it’s used is known. A home audit, which takes just a couple of hours, will provide a list of things to do to reduce energy consumption. Find an auditor through the local 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 available at resnet.us (click on Consumer Information). On average, an energy audit shows how to save as much as 30 percent on utility bills.
• Support local farmers - Typical grocery store produce travels nearly 1,500 miles before it ends up on someone’s plate, resulting in the unnecessary burning of fossil fuels and carbon emission – or, simply put, pollution. Buying from local farmers means getting the freshest food possible while saving energy.
To find farmers nationwide, visit localharvest.org, sustainabletable.org and the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.ams.usda.govfarmersmarkets/map.htm.
• Fix that drip – Every American uses about 100 gallons of water a day, enough to fill 1,600 glasses – an increase of about 200 percent since 1950, even though the population has grown by only 90 percent. More than 36 states are expected to face water shortages in the next six years. Reducing unnecessary water consumption is as simple as fixing a leaky faucet – a waste of as much as 74 gallons a day - or toilet – a waste of as much as 200 gallons a day.
Repairing a leaky toilet can also save home owners $30 a year – equal to 73,000 gallons of water.
• Look for the label - When replacing a household appliance, choose one with an Energy Star label. Sponsored by the EPA and the Department of Energy, the Energy Star program rates products from light bulbs to kitchen 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. A household with Energy Star products uses about 30 percent less energy than the average household – an annual savings of about $570. Home owners may also be eligible for a tax credit when they purchase an Energy Star product. Find more information at energystar.gov.
• Do full loads – Washing just a small load of clothes or a few dishes at a time rather than waiting for a full load to accumulate wastes water, power and money. The average American family of four washes about 540 loads of laundry 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 the dishwasher. Combining half-loads, choosing short cycles, and using cold or warm rather than hot water in the clothes washer racks up savings. Washing two fewer loads of clothes and one fewer load of dishes a week saves up to 4,500 gallons of water a year.
For a full list of easy money- and environment-saving tips, visit http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/remodeling/eco-friendly/easy-ways-to-go-green/.
Owner and Founder
RE/MAX of Boulder