Even though a lot of people may disagree, choices that can help save the environment often save you money as well. By learning from and curbing our regular habits, we can decrease our impact and contribute meaningfully to the Earth. Teaching our kids these alternatives while they’re young is also important: if kids know where things come from and how the world works, they’ll be more likely to continue these eco-friendly habits throughout their own lives. Here are 6 subtle changes you can make to save both money and energy in your everyday life.
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1) Change Your 5 Most-Used Light Bulbs to LEDs
LED bulbs can be expensive, but buying a few of them to put in your house can save a lot of money and energy in the long run. They last 10 times as long as compact fluorescents and ages longer than incandescents. In terms of heat, they only produce 3.4 BTUs per hour as opposed to 85 for incandescents, which contribute to heat build-up in rooms and can raise the cost of air conditioning. At first, you’re paying more for the bulbs, but over time, the cost is saved because you’re buying less of them.
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2) Spend at Least an Hour Outside Every Day
I know how easy it is to sit on a couch and flick through TV channels. Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing else to do; you’ve got no friends around, and you’re hungry, so those Nacho Doritos are a nice complement to your mindless vegging session. But before you sit down and press that power button, ask yourself if there’s something you can do outside for the next hour. Find a trail you’d like to hike, go for a walk with your dog (or even your cat if you’re into that). Buy a field guide about local wild flowers and learn about the plants around your home and what medicinal purposes they have—you might be surprised how useful certain plants can be for everyday situations. If none of these things sound interesting, there’s always the beach.
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3) Change Your Clothes Washer & Dryer Habits
Whenever I can, I make sure to use cold water in my washer and avoid using my dryer completely. Most of the energy from washing clothes comes from heating the water, so by using the cold setting I save 90 percent of the energy costs. For the dryer, not only does it shrink all my pants and render most of the already skinny-fit jeans unwearable, but it also wastes uses about 5 to 7 pounds of carbon per hour of use—that may not seem like much but if you’re doing 400 loads a year, it adds up. When it’s cold outside, hang laundry somewhere in your house that gets a lot of sunlight. It makes your clothes smell better, saves money on dryer sheets, and sometimes clotheslines can be artsy, too, which increases the aesthetic pleasure of your home.
Image © Robyn Lee
4) Eat Less Meat
A lot of people really love meat. Globally, we eat about 105 pounds of it a year and in America alone, that number is more than doubled. But the problem with meat consumption is that it’s causing issues in our bodies as well as our environment. In order to make a quarter-pound burger, it takes: 6.7 pounds of feed, 52 gallons of water, 74 square feet of grazing land, and over 1,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of fossil fuels. This doesn’t account for all the methane released by ruminant livestock (read: cows), either. In total, methane emissions from cows account for 28 percent of global emissions. Besides all those climate facts (which probably won’t stop you from eating meat anyway, let’s be honest), that processed meat is being shown to cause heart problems—replace that steak with a black bean burger every once in a while.
Image © JD Thomas
5) Buy Secondhand Clothes and Items
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my best clothes have come from Salvation Army. Not only can you make fun of the hilarious t-shirts in Salvo (and sometimes buy them), but you can buy nice clothes for next to nothing. Shirts are usually about 7 bucks, and pants range from 2 to 14 bucks, again, usually. A lot of people only use places like Salvo for clothes, but you can also find furniture, dishware, books, and sunglasses among other things. Another example of buying secondhand would be to purchase a used car instead of a new one. Buying secondhand not only saves you money, but since you’re buying something that’s already been made, you’re not creating a chain of demand and costing electricity to run factories that produce smog and pollution.
Image © Jeff S. PhotoArt
6) Walking> Biking> Taking the Bus > Driving > Taking a Train > Flying on a Plane
In this order, you’ll save the most money and reduce emissions. If you’re planning a trip, always be sure to keep these steps in mind. Two years ago, transportation accounted for 28% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and that number has increased 18% since 1990. Trains are better than planes, but many still burn coal, and despite new technology, air traffic accounts for 2% of the global emissions that are contributing to accelerated climate change, and that number’s growing. If you’re really close to your desired destination, remember that good old-fashioned walking is always a great way to travel.