Easy Ways to Go Green
Small steps can create impressive change—especially when it comes to the environment. Here are our favorite no- or low-cost ways to lessen your impact on the planet, create a healthier house and garden and even fatten your wallet.
Unplug things that glow.
Anything with an LED (light-emitting diode) that glows after you turn it off continues to draw power (that you pay for). Your TV, cell phone charger and printer are likely culprits. Unplug the offenders from wall sockets and plug them into power strips, instead. When you leave a room, flip the strip switch to cut the flow of electricity. This could save $200 a year!
Recycle your electronics.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans toss out billions of pounds of electronics—cell phones, computers, TVs and stereos—each year. The result? Chemicals and heavy metals end up in the ground. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to recycle electronics: simply search online for a facility in your area. Another way to “recycle” items such as cell phones? Sell or donate them for refurbishment.
Audit your energy.
It’s easier to save energy when you know exactly how much and where you’re using it. Investing in a home audit takes a couple of hours and pays off with a list of things you can do to curb consumption. If you choose an auditor through your utility company, the visit may even be free. On average, an energy audit reveals how to save up to 30 percent on utility bills.
Support local farmers.
Typical grocery-store produce travels nearly 1,500 miles before it ends up on your plate. All this traveling burns fossil fuels and results in carbon emissions—aka pollution. Buying from local farmers means you’re not only getting the freshest food possible, you’re saving energy, too.
Fix that drip.
When you next fill your water glass, think about this: We each use about 100 gallons a day—enough to fill 1,600 glasses. No wonder many states expect water shortages in the next few years! Stemming the flow is as easy as fixing a leaky faucet or toilet: a dripping faucet can waste up to 74 gallons a day, a leaking toilet up to 200 gallons a day.
Let your grass grow.
Tending to your lawn less actually makes it greener—in every sense of the word. Most grass species fare best when they’re kept at least 2 1/2 inches tall. The length creates more surface area to absorb sunlight, which creates thicker turf and deeper roots (which means you won’t need to water as often). Save money by letting grass clippings remain on your lawn; this adds nitrogen to the soil and discourages weed seeds from germinating. You’ll need less fertilizer and herbicide too.
Look for the label.
When it’s time to replace a household appliance, choose a product with an Energy Star label. Sponsored by the Department of Energy and the EPA, the Energy Star program rates products from light bulbs to kitchen appliances for energy efficiency. For example, a battery charger labeled with the Energy Star logo will use 35 percent less energy than a standard one. You may even be eligible for a tax credit when you purchase an Energy Star product. Visit energystar.gov for more information.
Do full loads.
When you wash just a few clothes or dishes at a time rather than waiting for a full load to accumulate, you’re wasting water, power and money. The average American family of four washes about 540 loads of laundry a year (consuming up to 21,000 gallons of water) and runs more than 150 loads of dishes (using about 1,500 gallons). Combining half-loads, choosing short cycles and using cold or warm rather than hot water in the clothes washer racks up savings. Washing two fewer loads of clothes and one fewer load of dishes a week can save up to 4,500 gallons of water a year.
Work with the critters.
Your backyard ecosystem is as intricate as any wild patch of land, and it pays to enlist its creatures to help. Many insects are beautiful—and beneficial. Ladybugs aren’t just cute; they are voracious eaters of aphids. To find out which backyard insects are garden friends, visit garden.org. Birds can also help with pest control—they just need a water source and trees for cover and nesting.
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