Everyone is talking about the environment. Many people want to make changes in their everyday lives to support the health of our planet, but they don’t know where to start. Others worry that going green is going to cost a lot of green: In fact, one study showed that 4 in 5 consumers think going green will cost them money. However, there are small changes you can make to your everyday life to support the environment that save you money instead of requiring you to spend more money.
Cut Back on Energy Use
The best way to help the planet and your checking account is to reduce the amount of energy you use on a day-to-day basis. Start with the thermostat: For every degree you set your thermostat cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer, you’ll save 1% on your energy bill. In the winter, opt for cozy socks and sweaters to stay warm. In the summer, try depending on fans for rooms currently in use. It’s also a good idea to change the filters on your HVAC system regularly, which gives you cleaner air in your home and lets the system work more efficiently (using less energy).
Another simple green hack is to unplug electronic items when they aren’t in use. Don’t leave fully charged items on their chargers, either. And remember how your parents were always telling you to turn off the lights in unused rooms? It was great advice that saves energy. You might also want to consider another trick your parents used: hanging wet clothes on a clothesline. Opting to hang your laundry instead of always using your dryer can shrink your home’s annual carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds and save you $200.
Landscape with a Purpose
According to the Department of Energy, well-planned landscaping around your house can result in 15-50% savings off of your air conditioning bill. And that’s not all. Neighborhoods with healthy trees are often six degrees cooler than nearby areas without natural shade. And it’s not just energy (and money) you can save with careful, area-appropriate landscaping. You can also cut your water use (and your water bill) by making careful choices. Simply grouping plants by their water needs, using mulch in your flower beds, watering in the morning, choosing turf grasses with low water needs, and cutting your grass higher in the summer can slash your water use. This careful approach to landscaping can also improve your home’s curb appeal. Check with your local utility companies to see if they offer any discounts or consulting services for landscaping your home with an eye toward eco-efficiency.
Another great way to keep your outdoor areas well-watered without wasting water is to reuse water. The easiest way to start doing this is with a rain barrel. Most hardware stores now sell ready-made rain barrels. You can also check with local environmental groups and even the water department to see if they offer rain barrel kits. Rain barrels work by collecting the water from your gutters. You’ll aim the downspout into your water barrel. A hose on the outside of the barrel allows you to use the collected water to water your lawn and plants.
Explore Alternative Means of Transportation
Lessening your dependence on your car will save you money in reduced gas bills and wear and tear on the vehicle. It will also cut your overall energy use. If you have public transportation in your area, use it! If that’s not a feasible option, try setting up a carpool among your classmates or coworkers, so fewer cars overall need to make the trip daily. If you live close enough to work, school, or nearby shops, try walking! If it’s a little too far to walk, try biking. Even taking public transportation, carpooling, biking, or walking just a few times when you would have typically jumped in your car will cut your carbon footprint and save you money on gas.
Your car is also an asset that can be leveraged in times of financial stress. Whether it’s necessary to sell off your car and rely solely on public transportation or to use your vehicle title to secure a loan in times of financial crisis, it’s important to remember that your car is much more than a car and can be used in different ways to make ends meet.
Choose Food Carefully
The easiest way to cut your carbon footprint and save money on food is to stop throwing it away. Carefully plan your menus so you are only buying what you need. Think about what to do with leftovers: Eitherthem quickly into new meals or freeze them to enjoy later.
You might also want to choose more eco-friendly foods. But eating organic isn’t always a budget-friendly choice: After all, Consumer Reports states that organic foods cost about 47% more than their conventionally grown counterparts. You do still have options, though. Start by staying out of expensive grocery stores. Instead, seek out local farmers’ markets and farms. Buying directly from the source means your food will rack up fewer miles in its farm-to-table journey, which is excellent for the environment. This means you’ll also be shopping seasonally, which is also good for the environment and for your wallet. You can also sign up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, which lets you support a local farm and get a box of farm-fresh food each week. And if you have space, plant a garden of your own.
Replace Your Appliances
There’s a balance to be struck between keeping appliances until they are unable to be repaired and replacing working appliances with more energy-efficient options. Keeping an older appliance in working order keeps it out of the landfill, and it keeps you from buying a new appliance. However, older appliances use more energy, which means you are paying more for utilities. Energy Star-rated appliances come with a label that shows the estimated annual cost to run them. Use that number to see if replacing a working appliance makes sense. And don’t just focus on large appliances: Small appliances have also become more energy-efficient!
Just Say No to Single-Use Products
Every time you buy and use a single-use product, you are harming the environment and throwing away money. Consider bottled water: That bottle of water costs up to 2,000 times what filling a bottle from your tap would cost. The environmental cost is also high. A lot of resources went into making that plastic bottle, and energy was expended in moving the bottle of water from the bottling source to your home. And after you drink the water, either that bottle will sit in a landfill or more energy will be used to recycle it. Bottled water is an obvious thing to cut out of your daily routine, but you might also want to consider swapping out other single-use products, like trading paper towels and napkins (which you have to buy over and over again) for cloth ones that you can wash and reuse. Bring your own canvas shopping bags when purchasing food and other goods. And keep a reusable coffee mug in your car so you can fill it up and skip the single-use paper cup.