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Go Green At Home — And Save

go-greenJune 2009

Saving money is a top priority for most people these days. Yet, most of us also want to do our best for the environment. Taking steps that help you go greener at home and also save money is a win – win goal. So in this report, my team and I have pulled together a variety of easy, practical tips. Add at least one new green, money-saving practice each week, and over time your wallet and the planet will say thank you!

Lighting. Incandescent light bulbs lose about 90% of the electricity they use as heat. Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) and LED bulbs, can reduce your electricity bill. Even though CFL and LED bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they are more efficient and last longer. To avoid problems, however, you must choose the correct bulb for an application because CFLs and LED lights can burn out quickly when used in the wrong place. For example, a regular CFL “coil” light placed in a can light or an enclosed fixture typically will burn out rather quickly—a waste of your money. Excessive heat can also cause LED lights to burn out. Learn more about CFL and LED lighting at the energystar.gov site.

Household cleaners. Save money by making your own household cleaners from items such as baking soda, white vinegar, and lemons. Get a Green Clean (pdf) from the Green Team at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park provides recipes and other cleaning tips. If you don't want to make your own cleaners, this article (pdf) from Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine tells you how to clean your whole house with just a few products.

Toilets. Consider replacing older toilets with water efficient models. Older toilets (manufactured before 1993) typically use 3.5 gallons of water per flush. New high-efficiency models use less than 1.6 gallons per flush. Check your local water department for any incentives your local government may offer for installing water-efficient toilets. Quick options for older toilets include putting a capped plastic bottle (liter size or smaller) filled with water in the tank to displace some water or replace the existing flapper with an early-closing one which keeps some of the water in the tank.

Tips for going green at home

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL or LED lights.
  • Make your own household cleaners using baking soda, white vinegar, and lemons.
  • Use cloth napkins instead paper napkins and cloth towels instead of paper towels.
  • Create your own compost. Catch rain water in a barrel to use for watering plants.

Kitchen. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. For cleanup and dishwashing use cloth towels instead of paper towels. Run the dishwasher only when full. Store leftovers in reusable containers instead of using plastic bags and wraps. When brown bagging it, don’t use a paper bag, use a long-lasting reusable bag or box. Package your sandwich and other food in reusable containers. Instead of buying bottled water, use tap water. If you don't like the taste of your tap water, use a filter. Take your own water using a reusable bottle.

Garden. Create your own compost. Compost can be made out of yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses in beds instead of sprinklers. Collect rain water in a barrel and use it to water plants. Use low-water plants that are appropriate to your area and to the soil and sun conditions in your yard. If your garden requires irrigation, water only once a week or less, water early in the morning or in the evening to lessen evaporation, and cut off the system when it rains.

Electronics and home appliances. Many electronics and home appliances continue to draw power even when they aren't turned on. Plug TVs, DVD players, stereos, small kitchen appliances and the like into power strips and turn off the strips when not in use. Unplug battery chargers when not in use. Turn off your computer when not in use, such as overnight or when no one is home. Use the power management features such as putting the monitor and hard drive to sleep after 15 minutes and the system after 30 minutes. Don't use a screen saver because it prevents the system from going into sleep mode. Rechargeable batteries are more cost effective than using throwaway batteries.

Enjoy your win — win savings. Adopting just a few of these practices can help you and your household save some greenbacks while helping keep the environment green.

For more information

Energy Saver from the U.S. Dept. of Energy

GreenerChoices.org from Consumer Reports

Green Living from National Geographic


Reviewed and updated August 2014.

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