10 Simple Ways You Can Save the Planet and Money

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The growing global warming crisis is turning most of us into cost-effective, energy-saving crusaders.

Most of the power plants in the world use fossil fuels that create an enormous amount of pollution, endanger the environment, and since they are of a limited supply they threaten energy security.

In reaction, a number of firms offer their consumers “green power,” which is a cleaner-burning energy source that provides power similar to that of fossil fuels. These clean-power generators specialize in producing electricity using renewable resources. Additionally, in some countries consumers are allowed to select their power provider the way one might pick a long-distance provider.

Unfortunately, these greener energy sources will not appeal to a wider audience until they become a cheaper alternative, and currently they are not. Until those prices come down and availability goes up, you can still save a considerable amount of money every year, as well as spare the environment any added grief. The fact is that if we all made a few simple, small changes to the way we live, we could make a huge difference for ourselves and future generations.

1. Fight the light!

Don’t leave lights on when no one is in the room. If you are going to be out of the room for more than ten minutes, turn off the light. If you know of a light that everyone forgets to turn off, make a sticker or a sign to hang next to the switch that says “Lights Out!” or “Don’t Forget!”

Where possible, use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Those funny-looking bulbs produce the same amount of light by using 3/4 less electricity. Plus, they last for years and years without burning out.

2. Pull the plug.

It’s not enough to turn your tube off with your remote — to make sure that your devices aren’t draining trickles of electricity, you should unplug them. In fact, if you have any doubt about this “trickle” try listening to your cell phone charger when it’s plugged in — it makes a very quiet buzzing sound. If that sounds like a lot of faff, invest in a Bye Bye Standby (or something similar) — it’s a unit that allows you to switch all your equipment off with one easy switch, which can be placed next to the light switch on the wall.

3. Take note.

Check the seals on your refrigerator and freezer by sticking a dollar bill in the door — if it doesn’t stay exactly where it is, you need to get your seals replaced. Dodgy seals waste energy by allowing warm air into the fridge and cool air out. And check your fridge-freezer location too — if it’s near heat-emitting appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines or cookers, it can use up to 15 percent more energy each year.

4. Wasting water wastes electricity.

Why? Because the biggest use of electricity in most cities is supplying water and cleaning it up after it’s been used.

About 75 percent of the water we use in our homes is used in the bathroom. Unless you have a low flush toilet, for example, you use about 5 to 7 gallons of water with every flush. A leaky toilet can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water a year. Drippy faucets are bad, too. A faucet that leaks enough water to fill a soda bottle every 30 minutes will waste 2,192 gallons of water a year.

Another simple way to save water and energy is to take shorter showers. You’ll use less hot water — and water heaters account for nearly 25 percent of your home’s energy use.

5. Get filtered.

If you find yourself overfilling your kettle in order to avoid pouring the crunchy limescale swimming around the bottom into your lovely cuppa, get a filter kettle. There are lots of different brands to choose from.

6. Turn it down.

Ninety percent of the energy used by washing machines is in water heating, so the best way to save energy is to use cold water and cold water detergents. Turn the setting to 40 degrees on your washing machine for heavily soiled clothes, and wash lightly soiled clothes at 30 degrees. The wash cycle will also usually take less time as there’s less need to heat water.

7. Get cozy.

Make your house a home by installing insulation to make sure you keep the heat where it belongs — inside your house. Even though it’ll cost you to get it done, it could save you several hundred dollars a year. And, in winter, your house will be the only one on the street with snow still on its roof — a sure sign of excellent insulation. I can’t think of a valid reason as to why having snow on your roof is something to be glad about… but it’ll certainly look awesome in your family Christmas photos!

8. Wait for the heat.

It’s tempting to constantly raise and lower your thermostat throughout the day, but it’s a huge waste. Because homes and apartments take time to heat and cool down, pick a good temperature and let the thermostat do the work. If you’re always adjusting your room temperature, your heating system is constantly at work which, in the end, requires more electricity.

9. Shocking news about batteries.

Did you know that Americans use an average of about eight batteries a year per person? Batteries that are thrown away produce most of the heavy metals — dangerous substances like lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, copper, and mercury — that are found in household trash. These metals are toxic. They can be harmful to humans and wildlife.

When discarded batteries from our trash wind up in landfills, these dangerous metals can seep into the ground water and eventually into the food chain. So, instead of throwing batteries in the trash, we should all take them to a toxic waste disposal area, if at all possible.

Turn off the toys and games (like GameBoys) that use batteries when you are not playing with them. That makes the batteries last longer, and you won’t need as many of them.

10. Save outside the house.

Remember how saving water saves energy? Use a broom instead of a hose to clean off the driveway, patio or deck — this will save hundreds of gallons of water each year. If you only have a small lawn, consider getting a manual push mower. It doesn’t use any energy except your own. Pushing the mower spins the rotating wheels, which spins the cutter. Consider it good exercise!

Don’t use an electric or gasoline leaf blower. Instead, use a rake. If you need to leave a security light on over night, change the incandescent bulb to a compact fluorescent. It will last months and maybe years and save you energy and money. Some compact fluorescent bulbs even come in yellow so they won’t attract bugs.

Saving energy isn’t hard and, while there’s always room for improvement, it doesn’t have to be a task that consumes you. Try some of these tips and check next month’s bill; you’ll find that you can save money on energy almost without thinking about it. And remember: Conservation not only holds down utility bills, but also prevents increases in the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

“Don’t blow it - good planets are hard to find.


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