Simple ways you can help save the planet (and save money, too)
We all have to do our part -- but helping to protect the future of generations to come does not have to mean an entire overhaul of your life. Here are a few simple suggestions on how to save the planet one step at a time!
You don't need to have electronic devices and machines on permanent standby if you only use them a couple times a week. Think about your printer, DVD player, stereo.Use power-hog electrical appliances — oven, stove, dryer, dishwasher — at off-peak times whenever possible. (Visit your local utility company's website to find out your region's off-peak times, and check out the possible savings!)
Don't leave the TV on if you are not watching it. In fact, even consider shutting down your computer if you won't be using it for awhile. (The US Department of Energy suggests turning off both the CPU and monitor if you're not going to use your PC for more than 2 hours.)Set your computer (and desktop monitor if you have one) to go into sleep or hibernate mode after a set amount of time, based upon your usage habits. Computers that are allowed to sleep consume about 70% less power during their downtime compared to systems without power management features. [HOW TO: In Windows Vista, go to Control Panel and type the word "power" in the search box. On a Mac (OS X), click the Apple menu, then select System Preferences. Click Show All, then select Energy Saver from the Hardware section.]Turn off the lights when you leave a room. If you find lights are always being left on, consider installing a light timer. If that's too much work or cost, simply replace the bulbs with a lower-wattage versions that use less electricity.Minimize bright overhead lighting and use lower-wattage task lighting that illuminates the area closer to where you are instead of flooding the whole room. Likewise, small nightlights can reduce the need to use regular lighting in hallways and bathrooms.Replace burned out bulbs with a compact fluorescent light (CFL). They're a little more expensive, but last about 8 times as long — or more — meaning great savings in the long run. If you don't like the unnatural light color of typical fluorescents, be sure to choose bulbs that are marked "warm white."
Get up to 15 percent better mileage by utilizing the cruise control button in your car. (Pick up some more great gas-saving tips here.)If you need to run errands, try cycling or walking there instead of hopping in the car. You'll save fuel and get in some great exercise as well!Bundle your weekly errands into one day and map out your course so you backtrack as little as possible. This also saves you time! Postpone non-essential activities and trips until you can complete them efficiently.Telecommute whenever possible. Not sure if you can? Actually talk to your boss instead of just assuming that's a no-go. (Even a couple days working from home are better than none.)Organize a work or school carpool. A simple carpool setup will mean fewer trips for all drivers involved, saves money, and allows you to use the commuter lanes on the freeway.
Use fewer bags at the store by not bagging larger items, such as milk or 12-packs of toilet paper, and also use any containers you're purchasing (buckets, bowls, trays, drawers, storage boxes) to hold your other purchased items in lieu of bagging.
Buy locally â€" this reduces pollution from the various modes of transportation that deliver goods and supports your local economy at the same time.Take a quick shower versus a bath. Every two minutes you shave off your shower routine can conserve more than 10 gallons of water!
Eco-wise food and drink
Eat less meat. Did you know that is requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and for each hamburger that comes from animals raised on rainforest land, nearly 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed?Plant a garden and grow your own organic produce.Stop or cut back on your Starbucks (or Peets, or Pinkberry, or...) addiction — or, at the very least, bring your own mug when you need a fix.
Switching from the hot-hot cycle to warm-cold (or, better yet, cold-cold) when doing laundry can save the energy equivalent to 100,000 barrels of oil a day. Detergents specially formulated to work in cold water are available, such as those from Tide and Biokleen.Stop using harsh chemical-laden cleansers. Make your own simple solutions with natural products you probably already have at home, including vinegar, baking soda and lemons.Use rechargeable batteries rather than the alkaline single-use variety (and be sure to dispose of used batteries safely - get tips on how to do that right here).Make sure the household paper products you use — such as toilet paper, paper towels and tissues — that have been made from recycled fibers. You can also skip using paper towels and paper napkins in lieu of their fabric counterparts.Use newspaper or old paper grocery bags to wrap gifts, and give gift bags and bows a second (and third, and fourth) life. For family, consider other wrapping alternatives: re-using decorative boxes throughout the year, using pillowcases or linens to wrap larger gifts, or by hiding gifts and providing clues to the location of each.Go paperless whenever you can. Pay bills and read the newspaper online. At the grocery or bank, ask yourself if you really need a receipt? See if your bank, mortgage company, etc. will issue your bills via email, and turn off the paper copies.
Old, new and new-to-you
When it's time to replace something in your home, look first at what's available secondhand, locally-produced items as well as conservation-conscious options (energy-efficient appliances, furniture made of reclaimed wood or sustainable-growth products).Giving a gift? Put together a potted plant instead of cut flowers, or give something else homemade instead of a pre-packaged processed food.Donate old clothing, furniture, baby gear and other household items to charity or sell them at a consignment store — anything is better than just tossing them in the dumpster.Recycle ink cartridges from your computer printer, and donate old computers and cell phones so their parts can be salvaged.Recycle plastics, glass, aluminum and paper, and compost your trash. (Did you know that more than 60 percent of household trash can be composted? The general rule: If it is plant-based -- which covers everything from newspaper to non-meat food scraps to rabbit and horse poop -- it should be compostable.)