Reduce your carbon footprint. Go green. Recycle, reduce, reuse. Save the planet.
These are just some of the popular sayings we’ve heard over the years about protecting our environment and they’ve seemed to make a difference as the “green movement” grows bigger and bigger year after year.
The most significant impact may be the awareness raised about protecting the Earth, but the money-saving side effect has been a plus too.
That’s why we wanted to share 10 of the best ways to go green and save some green. We went to some experts in fields of energy efficiency and sustainable living — Mary Morse, the Communications Director at the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) in the Twin Cities, and the folks over at ENERGY STAR as well as the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C. — to help us bring you some easy ways to go green and save you money.
In no particular order …
No. 1: Save Water
This tip shows that a little investment can go a long way. If you buy a low-flow shower head or a faucet aerator you can save water and conserve heat, which in turn, will lower your utility bills. A faucet aerator costs between $1 to $25 typically, but can save much more than that within just a few months of use. The same deal applies to water-recycling bathtub/toilet systems.
Save Money Now: Start taking shorter showers, turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth and flush only when needed.
No. 2: Control The Temperature
Purchasing a programmable thermostat is a wonderful way to save energy and money. You can get one from $25-$100+. According to ENERGY STAR, a program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their thermostats. In the winter, set it for lower temps while you are away at work or sleeping; turn up for the hours you are at home. Here is a guide for the most efficient way to set your thermostat. In the summer, experts recommend doing the same if you have central air.
Save Money Now: Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to run a washing machine goes to heating the water.
No. 3: Recycle And Compost
You may be a master at sorting cans, paper and plastic, but how about all those old batteries, cell phones and computers? With the need to always get the latest gadget, many forget how important it is to dispose of those old electronics responsibly and Mother Earth is the one paying for it. Mercury and other chemicals can seep into the ground, and get into our lakes, rivers and streams. Check ahead and see if your old devices can be donated to someone else who may need it or click here for places in Minnesota that recycle them.
Composting your yard waste is another way to save you money on your garbage bill, plus your garden will love you for it. Click here for ways to start composting.
Save Money Now: Save your coffee grounds and put them in your garden for greener, bigger blooms. Plants love them because they are rich in nitrogen and other chemicals.
No. 4: Think Before You Eat
The three things to think of in this category are: buy local, buy in bulk and grow your own. First, by buying locally grown and raised goods you are keeping your money in your local economy and helping the environment by cutting food shipping costs. Second, buying food in bulk helps cut down on the unnecessary packaging and plastics which will save you money in the long run. If you don’t have a big family, go shopping with a friend and split your bulk-store finds. Finally, growing your own fruits and veggies will cut costs at the grocery store, do wonders for you health and stress levels, cut down on pesticides and preservatives in your diet and put some of that precious oxygen back in the air.
Save Money Now: Have one meatless meal a week. The Worldwatch Institute says it can save you money by substituting protein with lower cost proteins like beans, nuts and seeds and help lower greenhouse gas emissions.
No. 5: Ditch The Bottled Water
Four words: Money down the drain. It’s not just the added expense associated with buying something you can get much cheaper from your tap, but also all the waste that comes with those plastic containers. According to the Worldwatch Institute, although most of those bottles are recyclable, in 2002, about 90 percent of them ended up in the trash. Their suggestion: invest in an inexpensive filter for your tap or a water purifier so you can keep cold water in your fridge.
Save Money Now: Buy a reusable aluminum water bottle that you can keep in your car and at work. They sell some with built in filters and you’ll be less likely to run for the bottle if you have a container available.
No. 6: Change Your Mode Of Transportation
Walking, biking and taking public transportation to get where you need to go not only saves money on gas and parking costs, but you could see your health care costs drop too. A good cardiovascular workout is the key to staying healthy, but finding active ways of getting around have the added benefit of keeping our world healthy too. Live too far away from work? Ask your boss if telecommuting is an option a few days a week. Or join a program like HOURCAR, a car-sharing program in Minnesota, and only pay for the use of a car when you absolutely need it.
Save Money Now: Check Metro Transit’s or your work’s carpooling boards. You can also save on fuel by following posted speed limits when you are driving.
No. 7: Get An Energy Audit
Making sure your appliances are running efficiently can save you money too. One way to do that is to set up an appointment with a home energy auditor, like at NEC, where they will check your furnace or boiler, air conditioner, insulation, air leaks, water heater and other major appliances for a fee. In addition to all the energy deficiencies they may find, Morse said the auditor will show you also how to get tax credits, utility rebates, grants, financing and other incentives that will make the energy improvements affordable.
Other simple energy saving tips include sealing up your drafty windows and doors with caulk or weather-stripping. This will prevent cold air loss in the summer and heat in the winter. And remember to put up your storm windows when colder weather rolls around.
It is a smart idea to get your heating system checked yearly to make sure everything is running correctly and to remember to replace filters if needed.
Save Money Now: The NEC says to replace your five most-frequently-used light fixtures with compact fluorescent ones to save more than $60 each year in energy costs. It may cost more for the bulb, but they use two-thirds less energy and can last up to 10 times longer.
No. 8: Shop Smart And Share
Before you buy, ask yourself: Is it something that you absolutely need new? If the answer is no, then check out second-hand stores, garage sales or online auctions for furniture, appliances and clothes and see how much you can save. Check places like Craigslist or free-sharing sites, like the Twin Cities Free Market, to get what you need. If you do need to buy new, invest in high quality items, they will last longer and that means less waste going into landfills.
Save Money Now: Skip buying movies and books and instead go to your local library to check them out. The Worldwatch Institute said there’s nothing is wrong with sharing with your family, friends and neighbors, especially when it comes to power tools or things you don’t use every day.
No. 9: Go Paperless
If you haven’t started paying bills online and keeping your records digitally, now is the perfect time to start. Many companies offer discounts for paperless billing or paying directly online. It saves you time, mounds of clutter and the environment.
According to an article by The Street, the typical U.S. household sent or received an average of 26 bills, statements and checks each month in 2006. Now, if they switched to doing that business online they would save 16.5 million trees and lower greenhouse gas emissions by 3.9 billion pounds — or about the same as taking 355,000 cars off the road.
Save Money Now: By going paperless it may also save you money because you can track you expenses by importing them into financial based websites like Quicken or Mint.com. That will save paper and may save yourself from over drafting and late fees when you see your budget in front of you.
No. 10: Greenscaping
Did you know your already green yard can go greener? There are many ways to keep the outdoor spaces around your home looking great while saving you money. You can start by planting plants that need minimal watering. That way a good rain soaking is all it will need once established in the ground.
Speaking of rain, one of the best ways to water your yard is by using the free stuff that falls from the sky. A rain barrel is the perfect way to direct the downpours right into a container instead of rolling off your roof and ruining siding or compacting your soil. You can buy one at the Reuse Center between $50-$200, but the amount of rain it collects will save you from using the hose hooked up to your house.
Mulch also helps with soil erosion and water loss. And a few well-placed trees can provide shade and cut down on your energy bills in your house too.
Save Money Now: Water plants early in the morning, when it is still dark out, to prevent water waste. This way it won’t evaporate in the hot mid-day sun. Watering in the evening should be avoided because it could cause mold or other plant diseases.
-Alison Lorge is a Web Producer and Blogger at WCCO.com.