Wednesday, February 23, 2011

15 Simple Ways to Go Green and Save Green


[Editor's Note: This is a companion piece to this week's
Simple Green Living column in East Bay Life. Simple Green Living is my new bi-weekly column dedicated to sharing all things related to simple and sustainable living.]

What’s better than embracing a more eco-friendly lifestyle to ensure our planet’s resources are around for countless generations to come? Keeping a few more of our hard-earned dollars in our pocket in the process.

That’s the beauty of simple, green living. It’s a win-win for all: Ourselves, our communities and the planet we all call Home. And if you’re like our family, finding ways to sock away a few more dollars each month opens up all kinds of opportunities – from paying off debt to supporting to a local charity to saving for that not-so-far-off college tuition bill.

Sure, whether because of simple supply and demand or (unfortunately) the result of over-zealous and misleading marketing, going with the green option can be more expensive in some cases. But many times, you have to separate need from want, fact from fiction and look at the practical long-term return on your ‘investment’.

What follows are fifteen simple ways you can go green and save money.

Getting an energy audit for your home is one of the best ways to identify opportunities for savings. If National Grid is your energy provider you can get a free home energy audit through RISE Engineering.

While you’re waiting for that, here are a few more practical steps you can take:
  • Replace as many traditional incandescent light bulbs as you can with compact fluorescent (CFL) ones. They use about a quarter of the energy and last around six times as long. Just remember: CFLs contain small amounts of mercury so you have to dispose of them correctly. Rhode Island residents can drop off used CFLs at any Eco-Depot event. Massachusetts residents can search here for drop off locations near them.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead to conserve water and the energy to heat and pump it. Don't forget: Taking shorter showers helps too!
  • Wash your clothes in cold water for all cycles
  • Why pay to keep your water super hot all day long? Turn down the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees.
  • Did you know that clothes dryers account for about six percent of your home’s energy usage? Put up a clothesline and line-dry your clothes instead. For more green laundry tips, check out Project Laundry List, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of greener laundry practices all around. 
  • Install a programmable thermostat to better control fluctuations in temperature and avoid over-heating (or cooling) when you’re asleep or not home.
  • What’s your favorite vegetable? Try growing your own this summer. For less than $2.00 you can get enough seeds to grow more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at.
  • Simplify your arsenal of cleaners and eliminate lots of toxic chemicals in the process. With simple, natural ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar you can clean almost anything. Find recipes here. 
  • Replace old, inefficient appliances with new, EnergyStar-rated versions. You may even be able to take advantage of a tax credit too. Learn more at the EnergyStar website.
  • Do we all need a shed full of yard tools? Save on big ticket items by setting up a tool share or swap program with your family or neighbors. You might be able to throw in a bit of bartering for good measure too.
  • Everything from appliances to DVD players to cell phone chargers use small amounts of energy even when not in use. Avoid these ‘phantom energy’ situations by unplugging them when they are not being used.
  • Try your hand at making your own laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent
With gas prices on the rise again, there is no better time to green your transportation.
  • Keeping your car in shape can help it run more efficiently and save on gas. Simple steps like keeping your tires properly inflated and your air filter clean can help. For more tips check out this wikiHow article.
  • If your commute is on the longer side, find someone to carpool with. Switch off cars and driving every other week and you’ve instantly cut your monthly gas consumption in half – and kept a bunch of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere too. Live or work in RI? Check out this RIPTA program for carpooling opportunities. Live or work in MA? Check out massRIDES.
  • Avoid lots of little trips by batching your errands by general location
  • Take public transportation if and when you can

This Week’s Micro-Action: Take one tip from the above list and do it. From there, commit to adding one more per week. If you like the results, share them with a few of your friends.

What are some of the things you’re doing to go green and save money in the process? Feel free to leave a comment below and share.

Be well,

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