Use energy more efficiently
Cut your energy consumption (and your fuel bills) by using less electricity, gas and oil.
Close your curtains. In the winter, shut them when the sun goes down to prevent the heat from escaping. In the summer, keep them closed during the day to avoid overheating the house.
Shut all windows and doors. When the air conditioner is running or the heat is on, make sure all your windows and doors are closed, including doors to closets and unused rooms so you don’t spend money to cool or heat them.
Put in compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They use less energy and last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs. You can find CFLs in hardware stores (look for the Energy Star seal of approval) for around $8 each.
Try rechargeable batteries. They cost more―about $4 a battery and $20 for a charger―but they also last up to five years longer than disposable batteries, which contaminate the soil and groundwater around the landfills where they end up. Rechargeable batteries are available in hardware or office supply stores.
Turn down your thermostat. During the winter, turn it down a few degrees. If you have central air conditioning, turn the thermostat up a few degrees in the summer.
Unplug your electronics. If they’re plugged in, computers and entertainment equipment draw electricity even when they’re turned off. In fact, about 75 percent of the electricity home electronics use is consumed while they’re not even on. If they are plugged into one power strip, you can “unplug” with just one flick.
Don’t waste water
The earth’s water supply is rapidly dwindling thanks to pollution, climate change and overuse, so use water sparingly around the house.
Clean efficiently. Wait until you have a full load to run your dishwasher and washing machine. You’ll use less water and electricity.
Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. You’ll save three to seven gallons a minute.
Install a low-flow showerhead. You’ll save about $50 a year on water and more than $20 a year on energy. It’s easy to install and is available at most hardware stores for $10 to $20.
Use rainwater to water plants. Collect it in a large garbage can. Or buy a modern rain barrel that has a spout for a hose connection and a top screen to keep out animals, bugs and leaves.
Recycle the easy way
Make a point to do it and it’ll become second nature.
Return soda cans and bottles to the store or recycling center. Check to see if you can get money back for the can or bottle; save the extra money in a jar for a family treat. If not, recycle them.
Donate plastic shopping bags. They make handy poop-and-scoop bags at veterinary clinics, animal rescue organizations and dog parks. If you can’t find someone who wants a donation, bring your bags back to the grocery store for recycling. Better yet―buy reusable cloth shopping bags.
Dispose of batteries properly. Batteries that are tossed in the trash end up in landfills, where they spill lead and acid into the ground or pollute the air with noxious chemicals if they are burned. Call 800-822-8837 to find a drop-off center in your area.
“I compost all my ‘green’ food waste in my backyard. It gives me nutrient-rich soil for my potted plants and garden.”―Amber Novak, Austin, Texas