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The environment is in danger of imminent collapse. The handwriting is on the wall. Scientists everywhere agree we’ve got to take drastic action to save the planet.
We all need to do our part to make this happen. And it doesn’t mean we can’t be frugal. Saving money and saving the earth doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
The following are 11 ways you can save money by also helping to save the earth:
1. Unplug Appliances
If you keep your gadgets always plugged in, they’re still using electricity even if you’re not using them.
For example, phone chargers that are plugged in use power even when you detach your phone. You probably have dozens of small devices in your home left plugged in all the time. All this energy usage adds up.
Unplugging them when you’re not using them can make a huge difference in your energy bill.
Buy an electricity monitor if you want to know how much money these energy vampires are costing you. You’ll immediately see how much you can save if you keep a particular device unplugged when you’re not using it.
You can save $200 a year or more by remembering to unplug your devices.
Power strips are an excellent way to lower energy costs. Sometimes it’s too inconvenient to unplug every device in your home.
Many power strips have a timer function that automatically turns off your devices. They also allow you to keep some devices in standby mode while the rest of them remain off. The most advanced power strips have smart technology so that you can control them with a smartphone app.
Power strips also help you save money in another way: by protecting you against power surges.
A lightning strike or transformer blowing up could wreak havoc with your devices. Even an air conditioner powering up could cause a power surge. Over time, this could prematurely wear out your device and cost you money.
There’s also the risk of an electrical fire. This risk is small if your device is in good working condition. One way to minimize this risk and damage from power surges is to use a power strip. The other way is to keep your devices unplugged when you’re not using them.
When you leave them unplugged, you stop phantom energy use and save money.
The decision of when to turn off lights depends on the type of bulb you’re using. All lightbulbs have a rated lifespan, which may or may not be affected by how many times you turn it off.
You might have heard that it’s best to always keep fluorescent light on. Conventional wisdom says this is cheaper than continually turning them on and off.
While this might be true for older bulbs, newer bulbs function more efficiently. One of the newer types is Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs). Plus, any ENERGY STAR© rated bulbs need to withstand five-minute rapid cycling. This ensures that they can be frequently switched on and off without too much wear and tear.
A good rule of thumb with fluorescent bulbs is to turn the light off if you’re going to be out of a room for more than 15 minutes.
There’re also LEDs. This type of bulb produces light through electro-luminescence. Frequently switching it on and off has zero effect on the life of the bulb. They only use a fraction of the energy of a traditional bulb. But you’re still saving energy by turning them off when you’re not using them.
Incandescent and Halogen
Incandescent bulbs are the least efficient form of bulb. You definitely should turn them off whenever you’re not using them. 90% of their energy is heat. Only 10% is light. Turning off incandescent lights will also keep a room cooler.
With incandescent bulbs, their lifespan isn’t affected by rapid switching. So, there is no compelling reason to leave this kind of light on when you’re not in a room. Halogen bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
But they use the same technology as incandescent bulbs and are less efficient than CFLs and LEDs.
3. Reusable Water Bottles
The average American goes through 167 water bottles a year. And, more than 60 million water bottles are thrown out every single day. It’s true that some of the plastic single-use water bottles get recycled. In America, that number is a measly 38 a year per person.
Much of it ends up in landfills or polluting our highways and waterways. And most troubling, it’s estimated that 10-20 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans.
Dasani water uses filtered tap water. It takes 1.63 liters of water to make one liter of Dasani. The company bottles their water in California, plagued by a never-ending drought.
But despite that alarming news, shrewd marketing on the part of Dasani has sent sales soaring.
Besides causing environmental devastation, most plastic bottles contain BPA. This chemical the body by seeping into your foods and liquids. In the end, it does damage to your immune, digestive, and nervous systems.
Instead of buying bottled water, buy a reusable stainless-steel water bottle. Some plastic reusable water bottles contain a BPA alternative. But they haven’t been tested long enough to determine the long-term effects.
Fill up a reusable steel bottle with tap water and pocket the difference. Tap water is not only free. It’s also held to a higher standard than bottled water.
If you still have misgivings about the quality of tap water, buy a water bottle with a built-in filter. Or, get a Brita water filter to put on your faucet. There’s a pitcher version to keep in your fridge.
Keeping your fridge full keeps energy costs down because there’s less air to cool when more space is taken up.
Be careful not to overfill though. Overfilling can hinder air circulation. Also, keep liquids covered and make sure to wrap stored foods. Uncovered foods release moisture that causes the fridge’s compressor to work harder.
Setting the temperature of your fridge too high wastes a lot of electricity. Plus, it’s a double whammy because it makes your food spoil sooner. 37-40 degrees is the ideal range. Freezers should be at 5 degrees.
Properly maintaining your fridge will not only help it to last longer. It’ll also save on energy costs.
Clean the coils behind the fridge on a regular basis. Make sure they’re free of dust. Keeping the coils clean helps the compressor do its job without working too hard.
Another thing that you need to do is to defrost the freezer on a regular basis. Frost build-up should never exceed ¼ of an inch as this impedes freezing efficiency. Make sure also that air isn’t leaking out from the refrigerator or freezer compartments.
When cold air escapes, the compressor has to work hard to replace it. To test for this, perform the dollar bill test. Place a dollar bill between the unit and the door.
If the bill slips out easily, air is escaping, and the door needs to be adjusted. If it’s hard to pull out the bill, then no air is escaping and everything’s fine.
Also, make sure the compressor is running efficiently. If it’s struggling to keep everything cold, it’s using more energy than it should and you’re wasting money.
5. Try Not to Buy New Things
If possible, try to avoid buying anything new. When you buy new, you’re buying something that’ll eventually end up in a landfill. While this is sometimes unavoidable, you’ll want to reduce your carbon footprint.
And, at the same time, save money. When you buy used, you’re helping to keep things out of the landfill.
Help save the environment by checking out the thrift shops on a regular basis. By doing this, you’ll see all the wonderful things that come into these places and won’t be so tempted to buy new stuff.
Avoid buying new things whenever possible. If you have old clothes or furniture lying around, think of ways to upcycle it instead of tossing it out.
6. Use Your Car Less
Automobiles are brutal on both your finances and the environment. That’s why you should consider biking, walking or taking a bus to get to work or to run personal errands.
Using your car for errands not only saves you money and helps you live a more sustainable lifestyle. It also decreases the congestion on the highway. This makes everyone’s life less stressful. And, it takes out some of the pollution from the environment.
Or, give up your car altogether by buying a cargo bicycle, which is a car-replacement vehicle.
Only use the car as a last resort. The financial benefits of driving less are tremendous. Doing more biking and less driving means you’ll have a lot more money to do the things you love.
Besides, if you bike enough, you won’t need to spend all that money on a gym membership. To get used to the idea of being a bicycle commuter, map out bicycle-friendly routes on Google maps. They have a handy bike route overlay to help you do this.
This’ll make the transition to a more car-free lifestyle less intimidating.
7. Weather-stripping and Caulking
Many houses exchange their nice, warm air with the cold, harsh air of the outdoors. This happens even without their owners knowing about it. This can even happen if a house doesn’t seem to be drafty. Leaks could be near electrical outlets, baseboards, and floorboards.
On average, you can save 5-10 % on your heating bill by caulking and/or weather-stripping. Caulking is messier but more effective. Caulking is a gel-like material. When it dries, turns into a flexible material that holds its shape.
Caulking should not be done on movable surfaces.
Weather-stripping is another method for filling in the gaps. Weather-stripping is meant to fill in the gaps where things do move. You only attach it to one of the two surfaces that come into contact.
Buy the right kind of caulking for the job you’re doing. You might be considering applying it to the outside of your house. If you do, make sure it can withstand the weather conditions of the location you’re in.
The same goes for weather-stripping. Different types of weather-stripping are used in each area of your home. The total cost for weather-stripping won’t be much. Especially, when you compare it to how much money you’re going to save!
8. Use Less Water
We all use too much water. This wastes money and a precious resource that is becoming increasingly scarce. We need to become smarter about our water use.
We can do that by using water-saving technologies. Also, by finding ways to get our household tasks done with less water.
By using water more efficiently, we ensure future generations have a reliable source. And if your water is metered, you save lots of money too.
Excessive water use can also jack up your electric or gas bill.
Check for Leaks
A good place to start your conservation efforts is to check your faucets for leaks. All faucets have the potential to leak. You should check each one for worn washers and fix if needed. If left untreated, leaky faucets can waste up to 20 gallons of water a day.
Here’re a few tips to save water in the kitchen:
- Plug up the sink or use a wash basin if you’re doing dishes by hand. If you’re using a dishwasher, wait until you have a full load before revving it up.
- Avoid using water to defrost foods. Leave them in the fridge overnight instead. This not only saves energy and water; it’s also doesn’t extend an invitation to food-borne pathogens.
- Choose your pot sizes carefully. A size bigger than you need uses unnecessary water.
- Steam your veggies rather than boil them. This’ll save lots of water over time.
- Reuse your cooking water to water your plants.
- Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the fridge instead of running the water and waiting until it’s cool.
On average, nearly 20 gallons of water are flushed down the toilet every day. A constantly running toilet can cost you over $70 a month. That’s why it pays to run out and get a new flapper the minute you hear this happening.
Turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving.
Showers use less water than baths. But only if you’re tracking how long you’re letting that hot sudsy water flow over your body. Taking showers that are too long wastes water.
Consider turning the water off while soaping up and back on when rinsing.
40 gallons of water are used for each load in a top-loading washing machine. Reduce the environmental impact of your washer by buying a front-loading model. This type only uses about 20 gallons per load. Or, get a more energy-efficient top-loading model.
Only run your washing machine if you have a full load and use cold water when you can. Not every wash needs hot water.
Many municipalities impose mandatory water restrictions during the warmer months. There are also other ways you can reduce the amount of water you use. For example, there are plants that are drought-resistant and don’t need much watering.
An easy rule of thumb is to buy only plants native to your area.
Group similar plants together. This way, you can make sure they all are getting the proper amount of moisture. When it’s time to water your lawn, try to do it in the morning when there’s very little sunshine. If you do this, the water doesn’t evaporate right away.
This also helps to give the root system a deep soaking, which means they won’t need as much watering. We can also save rainwater for our gardening needs.
9. Growing Your Own Vegetables
Speaking of gardening, grow your own herbs year-round and you can save a bundle. You won’t have to buy them dried from the grocery store anymore. If you don’t have a lot of room to grow things, a container garden is perfect.
There’s nothing like a ripe tomato fresh from the garden. The taste makes all the effort it takes to maintain a garden so worth it. But there’s something you must know before you rush out and start your garden.
Which is, some vegetables are cheaper to buy at the store than to grow yourself. To get the most bang for your buck, stick with the crops that’ll perform the best.
For starters, plant some lettuce and spinach. These two veggies give you a quick growing crop that’s very prolific. Stick to the leafy varietals though, as head lettuce takes longer to mature.
Tomatoes are another good choice for the beginning gardener. And if you can them, you’ll have an abundant supply of tomatoes for spaghetti sauce and salsa.
Squash is easy to grow too. No other vegetable comes in as many varieties as squash. From zucchini to butternut and acorn, there are varieties to suit every taste bud. It’s is a warm-season annual. This means you have to wait until the temperatures hit 70 degrees before planting them.
Green beans are incredibly easy to grow. You can grow lots of them in a limited space, and there are many varieties to choose from.
10. Passive Solar Tips
This means letting in the sun when it’s cold and keeping it out when it’s warm. For unknown reasons, home designers in the United States act as if the sun and the wind were nonexistent.
This causes homeowners to use significantly more energy than they should.
Open the curtains on the south side of the house in the winter time to keep the house warm. And open the drapes on the east-facing windows in the morning.
In the summer, reverse this. Close the drapes on the sunny side of the house to keep out the harsh sunlight.
11. Get an Energy Audit
A home energy audit can help you save energy by pointing out wasteful habits. It also shows you ways you inefficiently use energy in your home.
When you hire an energy auditor, he’ll suggest upgrades that can save you LOTS of money. He’ll examine each room in your home thoroughly looking for inefficiencies. He’ll also look at previous years’ energy bills to get a sense on things you can do better. Many of them will do a blower door test.
A blower door test is a measure of how airtight your house is. If it’s not as airtight as it could be, you’ll be wasting too much energy. It provides an objective measurement that can then be used to compare your home to others.
He’ll do other tests as well, including a thermographic scan. Before the auditor gets to your house, make a list of any preexisting problems. These could be such things as condensation, or drafty rooms. Have copies of previous years’ energy bills, too.
If you can’t afford one, there are videos online showing how you can do your own energy audit.
Reducing your carbon footprint isn’t just about saving a few bucks. We must do it if we’re going to survive as a species.
You can save money while also saving the environment. It’s a win-win that everybody should be on board with. What are your own frugal tips that are also environmentally-friendly?
Let me know by leaving a comment.