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10 Quick Ecofriendly Things You Can Do Right Now

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Beautiful Green ParkAbout a year and a half ago, did you know how much a barrel of oil cost? I bet you did a year and a half ago… that’s because it was big news. Around June 2008, it was over $125 a barrel. Today, a barrel is in the high seventies. With the recession, unemployment and lower oil prices (though recently they’ve been gaining compared to months ago), the idea of being “green” and ecofriendly has fallen by the wayside. The latest climategate scandal certainly didn’t help but the most recent resurgence can be attributed to the talks in Copenhagen.

In the end, it comes down to simple dollars and cents. There are several ecofriendly things you can do right now that are both simple and money saving. Let’s take a looka t some of them:

  1. Compost: Composting is a great way to reduce how much trash you produce and get yourself some free fertilizer. Visit How To Compost.org for some good tutorials and instructions on how composting can help you.
  2. Recycle: We were given bins from our county but you can simply use cardboard boxes and bags to collect your recycling. Recycling should cost you nothing but a little extra time and every bit helps. Recycle paper reduces the number of trees that are cut down, recycling aluminum and other metals reduce how much must be mined and extracted from the earth, and all of it reduces how much waste gets thrown into our landfills.
  3. Drop your thermostat temperature: Despite working from home all day, I don’t turn on the heat in the entire house until my wife gets home. I just confine myself to the office, turn on an area space heater, and reduce my energy use by sticking to this one room. There’s no sense heating up the whole house when I’m only able to use one room at a time!
  4. Become a hypermiler: Realistic hypermiling is easy, just drive the speed limit and don’t slam on either the brakes or the gas. Simple right? Gas might be cheaper than it was a couple years ago but using less is still cheaper than using more. Also stop hauling around so much junk in your trunk. :)
  5. Carpool once a week: It’s hard to carpool, I know because I used to do it. As the rider, you have to adjust your schedule to the driver. As the driver, you try to be as accommodating as you can to the riders. However, carpooling just once a week is the easiest way to shave 15% off your gas bill. :)
  6. Stop drinking bottled water: Unless you really enjoy swapping your five dollar bills with one dollar bills, bottled water is really bad on almost every factor except for convenience. It’s more expensive than drinking water from the tap, it doesn’t necessarily taste any better and isn’t any healthier for you, plus think of all the plastic used to make the bottles and the fuel consumed transporting it all around.
  7. Cook more food at home: We’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home and not only has it saved us money, but it’s better for the environment because we don’t consume a lot of resources by going out. Afterwards, we stick our dishes in the dishwasher for some ecofriendly cleaning.
  8. Use the dishwasher: When we were younger, we would do the dishes by hand because we thought it was cheaper that way. As it turns out, today’s dishwashers are so efficient it is actually better, financially and ecologically, to use a dishwasher over your hands. Today’s dishwashers use considerably less water than you would.
  9. Seal up your windows and doors: With winter upon us, one quick way to save on your energy bills is to get plastic sheets to seal your windows and doors. Visit your local home improvement store and you’ll be able to find boxes of this stuff for only a few dollars. By sealing up your windows and doors, you keep cold air out and warm air in.
  10. Replace regular faucets with low-flow faucets: A great way to reduce water use is to reduce the amount of water coming out of your faucets. I can understand when people don’t want to use low flow shower heads, since you do lose water pressure, but using a low flow faucet is a no brainer. Even if there is a drop in pressure, you probably won’t care.

Ten quick things you can do right now that will help you, the environment, and your wallet. Some of them are so easy, there’s almost no reason not to do it.

What’s your best quick “green” idea?

(Photo: Vali…)

{ 39 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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39 Responses to “10 Quick Ecofriendly Things You Can Do Right Now”

  1. The interior garage door opens into a small entryway at the base of the stairs in our home. Adjacent to this is the lower level.

    The lower level always got very cold at night (dipping into the 50s), even when we shut all the upstairs vents and opened all the downstairs ones. The lower level would lose heat to the upstairs (heat rises) and even worse, to the garage. If I needed to work from home, I would often need to run TWO space heaters to stay comfortable.

    Finally, I decided to install a door to close off the downstairs. The difference has been dramatic – many times the temperature downstairs will be several degrees warmer than upstairs.

  2. lostAnnfound says:

    Replace all the light bulbs with CFLs (except for fixtures that are on a dimmer). I went to Home Depot some time ago when the were running a sale on a pack of six, picked up two & changed over. The bulbs cost about a dollar more per than incandescent, but it will pay off over the long term many times over (we’ve already noticed a savings on our electric bills from this and in conjunction with using power strips for TV & DVD player, computer & printer, etc).

  3. Foo Finance says:

    Don’t forget low flow Toilets!

    My county has a rebate program where if you buy a toilet rated at or below a certain amount of water you get a $100 check from them. My new toilets cost $112 so in essence they really cost me $12.

    I got nearly free replacements, lower water bill, and eco-friendly all in one shot.

    My county got this money from the US Government so I am sure more out there are doing it. Anyone else seen anything like this?

    Other tips:

    - Use CFL (Compact Fluorescent)light bulbs. They last for years, burn less than 10 watts, and can be recycled at any Home Depot or Lowes. I have these everywhere in my house and save a ton on power!

    - Low flow shower heads save water too and are inexpensive and easy to install

    - I got a new front loading washing machine and dryer set as they save a LOT of water over the long term. They eventually pay for themselves!

    - Change your A/C Filters as directed. Dirty filters make the machines run longer and hard to compensate not to mention cleaner air!

    - Unplug non-vital appliances and lamps, cords, anything while you are away from home for more than a couple days. Just having them plugged in draws power.

    - Foo

  4. Thanks for the info about dishwashers. My wife washes way too many things by hand, thinking it saves money.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  5. ziglet19 says:

    I have to wash everything by hand, because the old house we bought this year doesn’t have a dishwasher! I’ll add another reason to the list of why we need to install a dishwasher!

    I also work from home and instead of heating the whole house all day, I squirrel away in my office with a space heater. I agree, no need to heat the whole house when I am only in one room!

    Great list!

  6. ziglet19 says:

    I also forgot to mention, whenever we have to do improvements around our house, we always check with our utilities provider – last year we got $350 in rebates back from them for installing items we needed anyways, since they were energy efficient.

  7. cubiclegeoff says:

    I generally abide by most of these and more. However, we recently bought a townhouse and the trash pick-up doesn’t do recycling, and the town won’t pick up recycling for condo developments. I’ve looked everywhere and I can find places for some paper and cardboard recycling, but I care more about recycling plastic and I can’t find any place to bring it. Quite frustrating in this day and age, especially considering the state has ambitious recycling plans and goals.

    • Martha says:

      Find a friend who is willing to take your recycling. Or even better just ask them when their recycling is picked up and drop it off that day of the week. I used to bring home the cans and bottles from my work since we didn’t recycle and I thought it was so wasteful! I can understand your concern.

      You could also call/email your local representative…

  8. Great tips, Jim! These are good even if you just want to save money. I’ve found that a lot of “frugal” activities can be “green” just because you’re wasting less.

    I would say don’t throw out the idea of a low-flow shower head. We got one and it actually feels better than our old shower head. Plus, there’s a button you can click over to slow the water down to 0.5 gal/hr while you’re soaping up. Keeps the house from running out of hot water!

    • lostAnnfound says:

      We have have that switch to turn off the shower water when shampooing, soaping up, etc. I use it (and have used one since I was a kid because my dad installed one on their shower years and years ago) and my husband too (or he does the 1 to 2 minute Army type shower), but getting the teens to use is another story. They have been given several warnings (including shutting off the hot water at a bypass in the basement while they’re in the shower…BRRR) and I think they are starting to catch on! :)

      • ziglet19 says:

        We have a low-flow showerhead which our utility company provided for free. I was reluctant to use it because I have very think hair and have had trouble with low-flow showerheads in the past, but the one we got works great! I think they have improved low-flow showerheads quite a bit from how they used to be, I don’t notice too much of a difference anymore.

  9. DJ says:

    A few more quick fixes:

    A toilet tank bank is a also a good idea. Its a small bag you place in your tank that displaces water so less gets put into your toilet bowl. Costs a couple dollars to buy or to make yourself.

    Run the dishwasher/washing machine with cold water if possible.

    A water heater blanket is also very cheap / quick and easy to make yourself and could make a big difference!

  10. Martha says:

    This isn’t so obvious as an “ecofriendly tip” but take the time to purchase less packaged foods and use them completely. For example, purchase a lower priced whole chicken, remove the breasts, thighs and wings and make the rest of it into chicken stock. Then you can make dinner with the removed chicken parts and freeze the stock to use for future dinners! This will reduces the packaging that one may use when buying each of the thighs or breasts individually. Granted this works best for a smaller family where you can feed everyone with the meat from one chicken! :)

  11. LL says:

    I turn the shower water off while I’m soaping up, shaving, or washing my hair. It felt odd at first, but now I’m used to it. It saves on the water bill AND the gas used to heat the hot water.

    My city has to import most of its water, so every little conservation helps.

  12. Tyler says:

    Great stuff, and it’s all easy.

    Definitely make sure you’re checking with your local jurisdiction and utility companies before making any appliance upgrades as there are all kinds of incentives out there to do so that are not well advertised.

    Like DJ mentioned above about the water heater blanket, spending just a couple dollars to insulate the hot water pipe running from the tank into the wall can make a big difference as well.

  13. ebekele says:

    I always thought dishwasher uses more water and energy than hand washing. My dishwasher is brand new – lol… Thanks Jim!

  14. Amanda says:

    A good low energy way to make pasta is to boil the water, add the pasta, and then turn off the gas / stovetop, cover the pot and let it sit 10 minutes.

    I also always play by the turn-off-the-faucet while you brush your teeth rule!

  15. zapeta says:

    Thanks for all the great tips!

  16. Izalot says:

    How about getting energy saving strip cords to regulate electronic equipment?

    • javi says:

      Better to unplug stuff you are not using. Even though electronics are off they are still using power from the plug.

  17. BrianC says:

    Thanks for the info on dishwashers–new to me also!

  18. Shirley says:

    The city here has extremely hard water and coffeepots used once daily last about one year.
    And that’s with vinegaring them weekly.

    We were using 1 gallon bottled water just for the coffeepot. Now we save the bottles and refill them at the supermarket kiosk for .25 per gallon.

    Saves the plastic and the pocketbook!

  19. saladdin says:

    Don’t have kids.

    No diapers in the landfill!

    saladdin

  20. vtomar says:

    there is no need to keep the lights on once shops are closed ! Developing and under-developed countries suffer from electricity problems and in developed countries like USA, so much of electricity is being wasted

  21. eric says:

    Score…I checked off more than half the list, except I still don’t like using the dishwasher. They just don’t get things as clean as I do when I hand wash.

  22. Safeway_Sage says:

    I am the little voice in some people’s head when I say the following. I don’t really care about the environmental issues. I drive a large vehicle with a 8 cylinder engine, don’t recycle, and love the warm glow of incandescent bulbs.

    All of that notwithstanding, there are some pretty good ideas here for saving money, which I love to do. But, I doubt I will ever get rid of my beast of a car.

    S_S

    • Minniemousie says:

      Honey, change your name to Selfish Sage.

      We share this earth and can certainly be considerate enough to conserve fuel in every way possible.

      Oh, well, mother told me there were people like you.

    • lostAnnfound says:

      I have an F250 supercab pickup getting about 12 miles per gallon, less when we’re hauling. It’s the only vehicle we own and is used for work & home/recreation. I don’t care too much for the fact that it sucks gas, but it is a necessity for us. Otherwise I would be driving a VW. So I sympathize…I will not be getting rid of this vehicle unless it’s to trade in for another pickup truck. But, my family and I do what we can to conserve energy and resources elsewhere, so maybe there is some redemption for us.

  23. Going green is interesting, because it’s equally as good for the environment as it is for your wallet. I purchased a battery powered lawn mower, hedger, and electric blower/vacuum. Tools powered by electricity rather than gas are easier to operate, significantly better for the environment, and can even be charged from solar panels (my goal). I have also switched 90% of my household light bulbs to CFL. I had little success with hypermiling. For the amount of effort it takes, I only averaged 1 or 2mpg better. Not really worth the hassle unless maybe you have a hybrid. Finally, composting is great! I build a bin out of a cheap trash can this summer and should have some great compost for next spring. Not only do you cut down on your trash, but purchasing compost is very expensive. I’d rather make it for FREE

  24. echidnina says:

    Wow, I never knew that about the dishwasher! It’s good to hear and I guess it makes sense, since it cleans them all in once big batch.

  25. Renee says:

    Great tips. I hope to be able to afford one of those tankless water heaters in the near future. They do offer incentives for installing these in your home. The low flow shower was the first think I took out when we moved into our house 4 years ago. I thought it was a joke. I love the feel of a good shower BUT I am well informed now with the previous comments about the switch. What a great idea. Maybe the old one had one and I wasn’t aware. I can look into this at Lowe’s.(Sorry I’m a fan of them)
    One thing I do when driving to save gas is I make a list of all the places I need to go and take the shortest distances I can. I try to avoid roads with the most stop n go traffic because that really eats up your fuel. I also live close to my parents and take my father with me shopping so he can do his at the same time. Gas saved and great company!
    As for the 8-cylinder gas hog, I’m guilty but we too need it for everything. I tried to go back to an economy car but the kids complained of cramped knees and trust me I felt them in my back. But we do our part to recycle and save using the newer bulbs all over the house.
    S_S, you’ll get the hang of the more eco-friendly living when you can, just try.


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