By Carmen Dexter
Making positive changes to the planet while saving money is a win-win. It’s easier than you might think, too! We’ve rounded up a few simple (and inexpensive) steps to help you lower your energy usage and reduce your carbon footprint.
1. Switch It Off
Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Just how much energy you’ll save depends on the type of bulb you use. Incandescent bulbs give off more heat than light, making them inefficient. Changing over to Light Emitting Diodes, LED bulbs, is best. They use 75% less energy and last much longer. Flipping the switch can save up to $100 per year on your electric bill.
Did you know that small appliances continue to use electricity even if turned off? Unplugging the gadgets when you’re not using them saves money –– an estimated 10% of your yearly energy costs. It also extends the life of the appliance because a device that’s always plugged in slowly wears out the wiring and components.
3. Ditch the Plastic
Plastic waste is polluting our oceans, killing sea life, and releasing toxins into the water. It’s estimated that 80% of marine pollution comes from plastic. While the problem seems insurmountable, we can all help the cause by purchasing fewer single-use plastic items.
Say bye-bye to single-use plastic water bottles, straws, cutlery, and grocery bags. These all have sustainable, reusable alternatives. Stainless steel water bottles, bamboo cutlery, and metal or paper straws, and cloth shopping bags are all easy changes you can make to be more eco-friendly. You’ll also put extra cash in your pocket by going with reusable.
4. Cold Washes
When it comes to laundry, cold is best. Heating water and running the machines takes a huge amount of energy, in turn releasing carbon dioxide. Washing with cold water cuts down those emissions and has another benefit, as well. Your clothes look better, longer. They’re less likely to shrink, fade, or bleed color.
Instead of turning to the dryer after a wash, consider line drying or air drying on a rack. You’ll save energy and money by putting in just a little extra work and hanging laundry to dry.
5. Hit the Recycle Bin
Some cities make it easier than ever to recycle by providing bins to set on the curb. A few, like San Diego, Pittsburgh, and Seattle even made it mandatory! Even if you don’t fall under those guidelines, you can start recycling immediately.
Set up both trash and recycling bins in the kitchen and bathroom. As long as you keep the trash separate, you can easily break down glass, paper, and cans later into even smaller recycling bins.
Recycling cuts down on waste that’s sent to landfills or that ends up in our water sources. It also lowers greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need to manufacture new products.
6. Go Smart
This is one step toward going green that may cost a bit more than our other tips but it’s worth it! Invest in a smart thermostat for your home. You can save up to 8% on your electric bill each month because this smart device turns off the heat and A/C more often than regular thermostats. When it senses no one is home, it goes into energy-saving mode. And when the HVAC isn’t running, it isn’t emitting dangerous gasses.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the cost of a smart thermostat at $420. Don’t forget to factor in installation, which adds another $200 to $500. If your electric bill is around $200 each month, by saving 8% annually, you’ll recoup your investment in about four years.
Whether you spend a little or spend a lot, the impact you’re making on the environment by making a few changes is great. Not only are you doing your part, but you’re setting an example for your family, friends, and neighbors. If we can all make a difference, no matter how small, it will add up to big changes.
Carmen Dexter is a journalist and teacher living in Texas. Her favorite activities include concerts, football games, and, of course, writing! On any given evening, you’ll find Carmen playing with her dogs, Rizzo and Rocky.