Go green and save some serious green! Try one or a whole bunch of these savvy ecofriendly suggestions and save hundreds — even thousands — of dollars this year.
In addition to dramatically shrinking your ecological footprint, eco-savvy living tactics often end up costing far less than wasteful, polluting alternatives. Check out these painless ways to go green and enjoy some extra cash in your bank account this year!
Go Green Move #1: Green Your Ride
The number one thing you can do to reduce carbon emissions is make sure you’re driving the most fuel efficient cars possible. If you’re in the market for a new car, fuel efficiency should be a top priority. A plug-in hybrid car may save you big while also dramatically reducing your carbon footprint.
The all-electric Nissan Leaf gets over 100mpg (!) and doesn’t cost much more than comparable gas-powered cars. Plug in to your home solar power system and you have a zero-emissions ride!
Even if you don’t need a new car right now, you can go green with smart driving habits that can significantly increase your fuel efficiency. Here are the top tips from efficiency experts:
- Reduce the number of stops and starts to improve fuel economy by up to 30 percent. Are you one of those people who keeps accelerating right up to the red light? It doesn’t get you where you’re going faster and wastes gas. Learn to take your foot off the gas when you see a red or yellow light up ahead.
- Drive 60 mph instead of 75 and get 20 percent better mileage per gallon.
- Keep your car tuned for up to a 4% increase in efficiency.
- Make sure tires are properly inflated and save another 3%.
- Take off the roof rack when you’re not using it – it reduces efficiency by another 5 percent.
- Don’t keep junk in the trunk. Every 100 pounds is another 1-2% reduction in efficiency.
Driving less overall, walking or biking when you can, carpooling and combining car trips will also help you save money and pollute less. Skip a car trip or two a week all year and you might end up a couple hundred dollars richer.
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Go Green Move #2: Conserve Energy
No surprise here: when you’re more careful about not wasting energy, all the money you don’t pay to the utility company stays in your pocket. You know you should turn off lights, but do you do it consistently? Or does that porch light sometimes stay on all day?
Did you know leaving your printer on all the time could be costing you $120 per year? Here are a bunch more ways to go green by stopping wasting energy and money in your house:
1) Seal up leaks. Start with a home energy audit to find places heat is escaping your home, and seal them all up. Energy audits are incredibly educational, and even if they’re not heavily subsidized by your utility, they pay for themselves very quickly. A blower door test and infrared pictures of air leaks can pinpoint where your home needs help.
2) Add insulation if yours is insufficient. Sealing up your outlets takes no time at all and will prevent up to 20% of your heat loss.
3) Tend to your thermostat. Heating and cooling and the biggest source of emissions from our homes, and they are costing you more than they need to. Number 1 tip from experts: Get a programmable thermostat and learn how to set it. Try keeping your house a little cooler in winter and a little warmer in summer and dress appropriately. Here’s more about how to save on winter heating.
4) Get a smart strip. Your electronics are drawing power even when you’re not using them, so plug them into a power strip and turn everything off when they’re not in use. These smart strips are a good investment, since they cut the power to anything not in active use automatically.
5) Change out those bulbs. LEDs have come way down in price and use only a fraction of the energy incandescents used to. Using just 1/6th of the energy of incandescents (and 20% less than CFLs), these awesome bulbs last nearly 50 times as long as incandescents and 5 times as long as CFLs.
They still cost a bit more than CFLs, but if you do the math, you’ll see they’ll easily save you in the long run (very long run, really — they last 50,000 hours!). Here’s more about why to make the switch to LED bulbs.
6) Go green when you renovate: Be sure to get an energy audit, add insulation wherever possible, choose more efficient appliances. Get the most efficient heating and cooling equipment you can. More info about green remodeling here.
Go Green Move #3: Shrink Your Foodprint
Our diets can contribute significantly to environmental degradation. Choosing to go green with your eating habits will not only help the planet, but will also save you money and will likely make you healthier also.
1) Grow Your Own. Even a little pot of herbs will save you money at the grocery store. Never grown your own before? Check out my free guide for total newbie gardeners. Growing some of your own food can save you some serious cash, and you get the freshest, chemical-free produce that you can enjoy picking from your very own yard
2) Buy from the bulk bins. If you’re paying $4 for a jar of spices, you’re throwing away your money. Bring your own jar to the bulk section of your natural foods store and pay up to 80% less. Plus, you can buy just as much as you need, and you’ll always have the freshest spices and no waste. Yeast is another amazing bargain in bulk. Most organic grains and legumes also cost less than pre-packaged.
3) Eat less meat and cheese. These are likely the priciest items in your grocery cart, and they also have the biggest environmental impact. If you’re eating a half-pound of beef a few times a week, you’re contributing as much greenhouse emissions as driving a car 45 miles.
A few ounces of cheese with every lunch, and you’ve done about the same. And while grass-fed is certainly better for a variety of reasons, the methane those grass-fed cows produce and the land required to graze them is still a significant climate factor. (You can check out the emissions equivalencies in a variety of foods here.)
Here are some of the best vegan protein sources for your meatless meals as you trim back on meat.
4) Commit to wasting less food. An estimated 40% of food in this country goes to waste. How much money do you wind up throwing in the trash because you bought something on impulse and never got around to eating it, or because it gets forgotten in the back of the fridge? Cut your waste even further with these root to stem recipes.
6) Just say no to bottled drinks. Besides being a colossal waste of money (nearly 700 times more than tap water!), bottled water not only isn’t better for you, it’s often just bottled municipal tap water, marked up astronomically and turned into an environmental nightmare.
Fifty million barrels of oil are used just to make water bottles each year, which generate still more emissions as they are shipped around the country. Plus bottled H2O is actually less safe than tap, as tap water has much stricter government regulations. Add filtered water to your stylish reusable water bottle instead, and enjoy having hundreds of extra dollars in your pocket by year’s end.
If you’re a soda lover, consider one of these nifty home soda makers and make your own, healthier, more environmentally friendly fizz. And skip the pricey Keurig, the latest waste-maker on the market, and opt for a durable stovetop espresso maker, french press, or drip machine.
Up there with K-cups, those squeeze pouches everyone gives their babies and toddlers now are adding seriously to our packaging waste problem. These awesome reusable squeezers not only hold more and let you control what’s in them, they’re also made of a safer material than plastic (silicone). You generally want to avoid eating anything that’s been sitting in plastic for months.
Go green by making your own cleaners from inexpensive vinegar and baking soda can also save you money while reducing your exposure to the toxic chemicals in many household cleaners.
Go Green Move #4: Switch to Reusable Everything
Limiting disposable goods (or bads, as the case may be) can save you a lot, while also preventing totally unnecessary emissions, pollution, and landfill waste.
1) Avoid paper towels and napkins and use cloth instead. Depending how much you use, you might save over $100 per year!
2) Bring your own bags. Most stores give you 5-10 cents for every bag they don’t have to buy for you (in Canada they even charge for the bags you do use). 5 bags times 52 weeks, and you’ve got an extra $10-20 for some really nice organic fruit.
3) Bring your own containers/coffee cups when you go out. Some places will give you a discount when you bring your travel mug. My favorite Thai place always throws in a complimentary order of spring rolls when I show up with my own containers (that’s a savings of $4 every time we go just for skipping the disposable stuff I don’t want anyway — awesome!).
(Here are plenty more ways to save by going zero waste wherever possible.)
4) Other ways to go green and save: Buy everything you can second hand, from clothes and toys to household goods. Better still: borrow or share. Set up a tool lending program in your neighborhood or organize a toy swap. The possibilities are endless. Use your imagination and enjoy saving money while doing your bit for the planet this year.
How many of these green moves do you already do? What other go green strategies have saved you money? What’s had the biggest payoff, financially or otherwise?
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Resources and Further Reading:
Union of Concerned Scientists, Cooler, Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living
Berkeley Climate Calculator
The One-Ton Challenge
Trying to Shrink Your Footprint? The Most Effective Ways to Cut Carbon
Photo credits: Pictures of Money, wetwebwork, nils vik, Bitten Word, Mr.TinDC, monicore, Skeeze