If you are like me, you worry about the environment but don’t quite know what you can do about it. Global warming, smog, the plight of the manatees—you want to help but feel powerless to do anything really meaningful. Well, don’t feel powerless anymore.
You can help the environment and your wallet with some minor adjustments to the way you live your daily life.
Many environmentally-friendly actions are also incredibly budget friendly. The good news is if you want to be rich and save the world, you can do both at the same time.
Here is a short list of things you can do to save money and help the earth. Some are easy. Others are drastic, but incorporating just a few of these into your everyday life is certainly better than doing nothing at all.
Around the House
The Department of Energy estimates that powering one single-family house for a year produces more pollution than driving a car. They also report that most of that energy is wasted due to leaky windows and poor insulation. Here are a few tips to bump your bill a bit lower and reduce your impact on the environment.
1. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. The next time a light bulb burns out, replace it with a compact fluorescent bulb. They use 66 percent less energy than regular bulbs and last about 10 times longer. They are more expensive upfront—a 4 pack costs about $10 or $12—but you won’t have to replace those bulbs for about seven years. Over the long haul, they are cheaper than regular bulbs. And, when properly utilized, they can lower your electric bill by up to $20 a month.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates if every household in America replaced just one regular lightbulb with a compact fluorescent, it would be the equivalent of removing the pollution of 1 million cars from the road.
Also, turn your lights off when you are not home or are not in the room. Your mom was right to bug you about that as a child.
2. Reuse food containers. No need to buy Tupperware or GladWare. Just reuse the plastic tubs and bottles the food you buy already comes in. They’re especially handy for storing bulk foods. For instance, use a clean cranberry juice bottle to store rice or barley you’ve bought in bulk. Use a sour cream container to tote leftovers to work for lunch. Reusing food containers saves you money and reduces your oil consumption. Yes, plastics are made from petrochemicals, which come from oil, so the fewer you throw away, the better.
3. Open the window. 44 percent of a home’s energy bill goes to heating and air conditioning. Save yourself some money and opt for fresh air instead of the thermostat when weather permits. You can shave serious dollars off of your electric bill and reduce your impact on the environment by turning the thermostat off and going au natural.
If you can’t stomach the heat, set you’re A/C thermostat a few degrees higher, to at least 78 degrees. In the winter, put on a sweater and turn the heat down a couple degrees. The EPA estimates you save 6 percent more energy for each degree you raise the temperature in the summer, and each degree you lower it during the winter.
4. Wash your clothes with cold water. Turning the washer setting to cold instead of hot can save you $160 a year in energy costs. Setting the water to warm instead of hot reduces your annual energy bill by $60.
5. Dry your clothes on the line. Clothes dryers are the largest home energy users behind refrigerators. Hang your clothes to dry on the line every once in a while, and you will save yourself money. You may also make your clothes last longer—over-drying shortens the lifespan of your favorite clothes.
At the office
1. Avoid being a scourge on the earth by investing in a sturdy coffee mug and using that instead of a Styrofoam cup every time you want to hit the coffeepot. If you are a big water drinker, buy an inexpensive plastic drinking glass and use that instead of disposable plastic cups.
2. Pack your lunch. Eating out—even if it’s a $5 a day fast-food sandwich—really adds up over time. The packaging also produces a lot of waste. Pack your lunch in a reusable container. It’ll save you money, it’s usually better for you and you won’t generate as much garbage.
1. Walk or ride your bike. Take the time to walk or ride your bike instead of driving. Start slowly by cutting out one car trip a week, whether it’s to work or to the corner store to pick up some eggs. All those little trips add up. Even an occasional bike ride or walk will get you into shape, cut your gasoline and parking bills, and reduce smog and exhaust fumes in your city.
If you are feeling adventurous and live within reasonable distance of your job, bike to work. If that doesn’t appeal to you, consider public transit.
2. Evaluate your car. If you already have a gas-sipping car or scooter, pat yourself on the back. No matter what you drive, even a modest increase in fuel efficiency helps the environment and will save you a lot of money over the car’s life. Keep your car tuned up and get regular oil changes; this will increase your fuel efficiency and save you maintenance money in the long run.
To save more gas, roll the window down instead of using the air conditioner; run all of your errands in one trip instead of on many short trips; avoid peak traffic times whenever possible; and clean the junk out of your car—the lighter the car, the less gas needed to run it.
When it comes to the environment, small changes can make a big difference.
Denise Trowbridge is an award-winning journalist residing in Ohio. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the United States, as well as on her site http://www.DeniseTrowbridge.com. Denise is also the editor of the women’s Web magazine, http://www.PussycatMagazine.com..