Go Green, Save Green

As an avid environmentalist, (I go to ridiculous lengths to divert trash to recycling, just ask my boyfriend!) I am thrilled that going green has become the latest trend. However as with any trend, creative capitalists are finding ways to make a pretty penny with expensive green upgrades like fancy in-home composting systems or shiny new hybrid SUVs that garner gas mileage equal to a standard transmission coupe. The pressure is on to buy the latest green gadgets in order to be cool.

But it doesn’t have to cost you a dime to join the trend and reduce your carbon footprint. No one said you have to spend money in order to become environmentally friendly. To get started, choose eco-friendly projects that are also wallet friendly.

The first step to saving green by going green is kind of a no-brainer. As your mother used to remind you, turn off the lights! Make it a habit to flip off the lights every time you leave a room, even if just for a few minutes. And while it is nice to come home to a brightly lit kitchen, trade leaving the overhead lights on for a low-energy night light that can guide you to the closest switch when walking in the door. Don’t forget to check outdoor and basement lights!

If you don’t mind spending a few bucks that will go a long way in saving you money, change your light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They cost more than regular light bulbs, but last about ten times longer. According to energystar.gov, if every American home replaced just one light with an Energy Star qualified CFL, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year. Try it!

Another great way to save money while saving the earth is to turn off the tap. Leaving the water running while brushing your teeth wastes about 2 gallons of water. Think of the carton for a gallon of milk &emdash; you’re wasting two of those with each brush! Likewise, don’t let the water run while you’re doing dishes, shaving, or bathing your pets.

Another common way we waste water at home is by flushing bugs, hair and tissues down the toilet. Put these things in the garbage can and save the 2 gallons of water that goes with each flush. You should also wait until your dishwasher is full to run it and try to limit hot water washes to your really dirty whites, using cold water for all other laundry.

Finally, reduce your utility bill and your household emissions by adjusting your thermostat a couple degrees. I’m not suggesting you sweat it out at 80 degrees in July, but how about setting the A/C at 74 instead of 70? And flip those numbers for winter, keeping the heat set closer to 68 and just put on a sweater to stay warm.

Other earth-friendly and free ideas include riding your bike for close-to-home errands, forgoing A/C by opening your windows and drinking tap water rather than expensive bottled water.

I know that most of these ideas are elementary, but consider this to be your reminder to practice the easy green habits before you go out and spend a wad of cash on double-pane windows and solar panels. Yay Earth!

A version of this post was published in the Cincy Chic column “Cents & Sensibility” on April 12, 2010.


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