Going green can seem totally overwhelming — not to mention expensive. But if you break things down a little, converting to an environmentally friendly household isn't actually as tough as you think. Earth Day 2017 is just a little over a month away — and if you start now, you and your family can be well on your way to feeling good about your small carbon footprint before the day arrives.
All it takes is a lot of minor changes to make a really big difference. Start with one of our 52 tips each week, and by next year, you'll be blown away at how much you've accomplished.
52 Inexpensive ways to go green
1. Don't heat an empty house! During the winter, turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees F when you're home and 55 degrees F at night and while you're away. Upgrade to a programmable thermostat if you can.
2. Your computer may go to sleep, but it's still sucking up energy. Turn your computer and monitor off at the end of the day. In addition, take steps to create an eco-friendly workplace.
3. Clean your refrigerator coils — vacuum out the dust and wipe with a damp cloth. You'll be surprised at how much nasty stuff accumulates down there!
4. Look into carpooling. Need convincing? Read why your green commute will save you money.
5. Taking a road trip? Rent a hybrid car. Here are a few more eco-friendly travel tips.
6. Start a compost pile in your backyard. Here is your guide to compost gardening. Did you know you can even add your fireplace ashes to your compost pile?
7. Support green businesses.
8. Cancel your newspaper subscription and read the news online instead. (We'll bet you're already doing this one!)
9. Buy rechargeable batteries. Learn to dispose of old batteries properly.
10. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins at dinner.
11. Recycle — all the cool kids are doing it these days! Not sure what is recyclable? Check out this recycle chart.
12. Buy your dog a hemp or canvas leash instead of nylon.
13. Stop using your toxin-loaded dryer sheets and try these alternatives instead.
14. Share your magazines — read them then pass them on. Goodwill, the Kidney Foundation and other used goods collection agencies will usually accept them. You can also pass them along to a doctor's office for the waiting room.
15. Take a break from screen time and take a hike.
16. File your taxes electronically to cut back on paper usage. Look into having your tax forms emailed to you instead of mailed as well.
17. Donate old newspapers to animal shelters and take your plastic shopping bags back to participating grocery stores. Better yet, purchase cloth or canvas grocery bags and skip that part altogether.
19. Take your own mug to the coffee shop — some shops will even give you a discount for bringing your own cup. Find out if your coffee is triple certified.
21. Buy a new houseplant. For a greener home, read 10 Eco-friendly ways to green your home and family.
22. Schedule your errands back-to-back to consolidate your trip and save gas or ride your bike or walk when possible.
23. Repair your leaky faucet (especially if you live in a drought-prone area), install water-saving toilets and shower heads, and only run the clothes washer or dishwasher with full loads.
24. Pack your lunch in an insulated lunch bag instead of paper or plastic bags. While you're at it, choose organic food when you can — it's more affordable than you think.
25. Put a cover on your pool when you're not using it. Not only will it keep the water cleaner, but it will keep it from evaporating, saving you refills.
26. Ask your power company about purchasing green power like solar, geothermal, biomass and wind turbine.
Originally published December 2015. Updated March 2017.
27. Follow these five ways to redecorate your home green, like repainting with low or VOC-free paint. Not only will the earth thank you, but so will your wallet!
28. Get the junk out of your trunk (literally!) — extra weight in your car decreases fuel efficiency.
29. Have a yard sale — or visit one before you head out to buy something new. Join Freecycle to find items you need or get rid of items you don't.
30. Switch to chemical-free cleaning products or make your own eco-friendly cleaning products.
31. Make it easy for your family to recycle by keeping bins in convenient places.
32. Take the stairs instead of the elevator (great for the environment and your health).
33. If you have a baby, use cloth diapers instead of disposables.
34. Buy used or e-books instead of new.
35. Reuse old items before you throw them out. Here are few things you can do with your old clothing and linens.
36. Buy a bigger jug of milk. If you only use half a gallon at a time, you can pour half the milk into a carafe and freeze the rest.
37. Use compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs, which last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, or light-emitting diodes (LED), which last even longer. Be sure to dispose of your used bulbs safely by finding a recycling center.
38. For your kids, buy crayons made of beeswax, not paraffin. For your babies, try eco-baby shops.
39. Wear an extra sweater or use a blanket before you resort to turning on (or up) the heat.
40. Buy eco-friendly pet toys (Fido and Fifi will never know the difference). Be sure you also raise an environmentally-friendly pet.
41. Call a mechanic to get a tune-up for your car to avoid excess wear and tear on your automobile, saving money on gas and ensuring your vehicle runs cleaner.
42. Pay your bills online (and opt for paperless billing) to reduce paper usage and postage costs.
43. Switch to a manual can opener. Use a sharp carving knife instead of an electric knife.
44. Make it a habit to carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water. Buy one with a built-in filter to avoid tap water if that's important to you.
45. Get out your rake and leave your leaf blower in the garage to cut down on emissions (not to mention get a good workout).
46. Switch to Energy Star-qualified appliances when you upgrade. Even if they cost a little more, they'll actually save you on your electricity bill in the long run.
47. Keep your freezer full — it runs more efficiently than an empty one. For more money-saving tips, read 10 Frugal tips for cooking family-friendly meals.
48. Use chlorine-free feminine hygiene products, or try products like the menstrual cup.
49. Keep inexpensive reusable to-go containers or washed food containers on hand so you can send dinner guests home with packed goodies. (Think about cooking a couple of vegetarian holiday dishes, too.)
50. Invest in a roasting pan instead of using disposable ones (you'll save money in the long run and it's a lot easier to pull a full ham or turkey out of the oven in a sturdy pan than an aluminum one).
51. Planning a party or wedding? Hire green vendors and go with natural decorations when possible. If you'd like to make a statement with your nuptials, plan a green and organic wedding.
52. Make a resolution to be even more eco-friendly next year.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.