It’s become trendy to be ecofriendly.
I used to pull soda cans out of other people’s trash can, walk down the hallway, and deposit them into the recycling bin at the end of the hall. We don’t have deposits in Maryland, so there was no profit motive, but it always amazed me how inconsiderate some people were. I know I got some strange looks, lifting stuff from people’s trash bins at the office, but I didn’t care (I only took the ones off the top, I didn’t dig and I didn’t tell the person about their inconsiderateness). The utility I gained from recycling that can, or picking up that bottle to recycle it at home, far outweighed the hit I may have taken going through someone’s trash. Thankfully, recycling has become more trendy so I no longer get those strange looks.
In addition to becoming trendy, being ecofriendly can benefit your wallet in ways you probably didn’t imagine. We all know that consuming fewer fossil fuels is one way to be ecofriendly and help your wallet, but are there other ways? Other ways to save the planet and dollars besides carpooling and hypermiling?
Yes, here are five areas you can contribute to the Earth and save yourself some green.
Use Less (Hot) Water
Water is exceptionally cheap; we pay around $50 a quarter to consume 7500 gallons of water, or a little over half a cent a gallon. Consuming less water by itself is hardly a significant way to save money but consuming less hot water is. Hot water takes electricity to heat up, which is generated by burning fossil fuels. Pumping water also takes electricity. While you may not save a ton of money by using less water, you do help out the earth, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by a little bit, and save a few cents in the process.
- Use cold water to wash your clothes. Detergents are now effective enough to kill germs with cold water, hot water is no longer necessary to kill the germs on our clothes.
- Install a low-flow shower head. Current federal shower head regulations require that new shower heads have a maximum throughput of 2.5 gallons per minute. Older shower heads can run as high as 4 GPM. A 5 minute shower each day (30) would use 600 gallons.
- Flush less. I don’t know about the whole yellow let it mellow, brown flush it down but getting a low capacity toilet is a great way to save on water. A frugal solution would be to carefully place a brick inside the tank.
Skip Plastic Bags, Go Reusable
Plastic bags, like all plastic products, are products of petroleum and one of the biggest items of pollution on the planet. The massive floating trash island in the Pacific  is made of plastic and it’s absolutely disgusting, we should all do our part by limited our use of plastic where we can.
- Some stores are now offering 5 cents off for each reusable shopping bag  you use. In fact, we recently went to our local Giant Foods with a couple plastic bags from home and were given the credit for those as well.
- If you buy a reusable bag, they’re no more than 99 cents at the store and you can get 5 cents off for each less bag you use. You don’t need to buy them though, just bring a backpack or some other bag with you and that will suffice as well.
- If you have a lot of plastic bags, consider recycling them at the bins outside your local grocery store. Most will have drops where you can leave plastic bags for recycling.
Turn Down The Air Conditioner
In the summer, one of the greatest draws in power is your central air conditioning unit and turning the temperature up on the thermostat is a great way to save yourself some money while doing the Earth some good. The real value in this is in the energy savings, which reduces demand on the grid and lowers the amount of fuel the power plant needs to consume to generate electricity. Likewise, your wallet will smile since it’ll be a little fatter given the skyrocketing price in energy.
- Consider a programmable thermostat that can regulate the temperature in your home. We have ours set to turn on at 6pm and shut off at midnight, though we do keep a ceiling temperature of 82 during the day. If it gets too hot during the day, it would take too long to cool at night.
- It’s estimated that each degree you set your thermostat above 78 is a savings of 7 – 10% on your cooling bill.
- Use fans instead of air conditioning. Fans work by blowing the warmth your body radiates away from your body. Much like how wind chill in the winter works, blowing air across your body naturally cools it.
Turn Down The Water Heater
Here’s something you probably didn’t think of – try turning down your hot water heater. Your water heater is another large draw of power in your home as it tries to keep that huge tank full of burning hot water. In the summer, we tend to take cooler showers so why not help that along by lowering the temperature of the hot water?
Practice Energy Conservation at Work
Energy conservation at home is easy, because you get all the benefits. Every dollar you save is one that you can put towards savings or spend at your next outing. At work, it’s less transparent but you still do benefit. If you and your co-workers can save your employer some money on utilities, that can translate into a slightly better bottom line and high salaries for you. Electricity is the number one cost at most companies so employ the same techniques you do at home at your workplace, and be an evangelist about it.
- Turn off your computer and your lights after you leave the cube or office.
- If you have a window, draw the shades to keep the office cooler and put less demand on the HVAC system.
- Turn off appliances that draw energy but are no longer being used like microwaves and coffee makers.
- Print only when necessary, as to conserve paper and ink.
With a few easy steps, you can both help the environment and your wallet!
(Photo: lori_greig )