40 Ways that Going Green Can Help You Save Money as You Save the Earth
Going green isn’t only good for the planet, it can also be highly beneficial for your budget, too. And while some green energy home improvements take some significant cash upfront, there are others that you can start doing today for free.
1. Switch to LED Lights
LED light bulbs last longer, are less likely to break because they’re plastic, and they use less energy. LED bulbs can use as little as 10 watts of energy to give you the same lighting power as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. So, while you may pay $0.50 more per bulb, you’ll save some serious cash in the long run. Your electric bill will be lower and you won’t need to replace lights as often.
2. Open windows and use ceiling fans in lieu of A/C
This tip may not work during the hottest months of the summer, depending on where you live. But you can use this tip in the spring and fall to cut your monthly electric bills and increase cash flow. Just make sure to turn off the A/C, so you’re not cooling the great outdoors!
3. Switch to energy efficient appliances
This tip obviously takes some cash for the upfront investment. But if you need to replace an appliance anyway, shop for an energy efficient model. Look for the ENERGY STAR logo to find appliances that will use less energy to do the same tasks. According to Fox Business, you can save $110 per year by replacing an old washer with a newer energy-efficient model.
4. Consider getting a natural gas stovetop
This one may seem counterintuitive, but according to TreeHugger.com, natural gas is actually greener than going with an electric stovetop.The reason? Electricity in the U.S. is still largely powered by coal-burning power plants. So, natural gas is the greener choice. Unfortunately, it’s also usually more expensive.
So, if you do want to stick to electric stovetops to save money, TreeHugger recommends that you opt for ceramic or glass-surface versions. These models use halogen heating elements, which are more energy-efficient than coils.
5. Get solar panels
This is another tip that requires an upfront investment – a big one, at that. According to NerdWallet, the cost for an average residential home is around $15,000 to $25,000. But the cost savings overall will quickly make up for what you pay upfront. But, as EnergySage explains, the 20-year savings range from $10,000 all the way up to $30,000. So, the system will eventually pay for itself.
TIP: Getting a home equity loan for a home renovation? Consider adding the funds for going solar. Also, check to see if your state offers any cost-saving programs or tax incentives for solar panel installation.
6. Use solar lights for outdoor lighting
Want to light up your yard without increasing your electric bill? Find outdoor solar lights that store up sunlight during the day and power themselves at night. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money up front for this one. In fact, it will be cheaper than calling an electrician and having them run wire for traditional lighting. You can shop for good solar lights at discount stores like Target.
7. Recycle as much as possible
No, this doesn’t refer to tossing all your trash in a blue bin, although that’s a great green thing that you should do as much as possible. Instead, we’re talking about actual recycling where you use disposable products more than once. Instead of getting a new Ziploc every time you make a sandwich for work, wash one out and keep reusing it. You can reuse foil, bottles, repurpose plastic bags. Find a new use for your “trash” and avoid purchasing more disposables month after month.
8. Start composting
Starting a compost pile will reduce the trash waste that you throw in the garbage to keep it out of landfills. It will also give you free fertilizer for your yard and garden. If you want to avoid an ugly pile (and smell) in your yard, you’ll need to buy a compost bin. But you can get a reasonably sized good bin for about $30.
9. Lose the paper products and opt for washable alternatives
Anything you can do with a paper towel, you can do with a good rag or the right dishtowel. Wiping countertops, cleaning up messes, even draining oil on fried foods. All of these things can be done with a reusable, washable rag. The same goes for cloth napkins versus paper napkins. Save the paper, shave a few bucks off your grocery bills each month and avoid the paper waste that fills up landfills.
TIP: Eco-conscious parents can also apply this to diapers. Buying washable cloth diapers cuts down on the landfill waste that your kids generate. And most experts say that regular machine washing is enough to keep them clean, so you don’t need to waste money on an expensive sterilizer.
10. Line dry your clothes
If you’re going to run your clothes dryer, always run it while full to save energy. But a better solution is to skip the dryer altogether and line dry your clothes, bedsheets, and towels as much as possible. If you’re worried about stiffness, use fabric softener in the washer instead of dryer sheets.
11. Get a smart thermostat
Smart Thermostats can be programmed to turn off at different times of the day to save a bunch of money on your electric bill. There’s little reason to keep the A/C on during the day when you’re not in the house. So, you can set your Smart Thermostat to cycle off when you’re away and turn on just before you get home. That way, you don’t have to arrive home to a muggy house.
This is another one that takes an upfront investment. But according to the Nest, the right model can save you 10-12% on heating costs and up to 15% on air conditioning.
12. Get electric-powered lawn equipment
Unlike gas-powered lawn equipment, electric-powered equipment has no emissions. Even better, many brands work by buying own battery for all your lawn equipment. So, you simply buy attachments for the lawn mower, weed eater, blower and trimmer. This means you can save money and go green by opting for a single battery to power all your equipment needs.
13. Be smart with your water heater
If your water heater ever breaks, get an energy efficient model – a tankless water heater will heat water as needed, which is more efficient.
In the meantime, there are some cheap (and free) things you can do to save money and energy. First, unless your dishwasher requires a higher temperature, turn your water heater is turned down to 120 degrees. Then wrap the unit and the pipes in insulation blankets to help it retain heat. You can also install a timer to turn your water heater off when you don’t need it if you use hot water at regular times of the day.
14. Get smart power strips and turn off your gadgets
Regular power strips don’t save energy, but smart power strips do. They detect when plugged in devices go into standby, then turn off to save energy. If you don’t want to invest in more expensive power strips, just turn off your gadgets (and the regular power strip) when your devices are not in use. Be aware that power save modes still suck up energy. So, you have to power down if you want to save.
TIP: Leaving some devices plugged in will actually decrease the efficiency of the battery, so you’ll be forced to replace your devices more often. As soon as you hit 100%, unplug!
15. Use rechargeable batteries
Batteries in landfills are bad for the environment for any number of reasons. Getting rechargeable batteries will significantly reduce the number of batteries that you throw away each year. A good rechargeable battery can be charged and reused hundreds of times.
16. Go paperless
With the prevalence of smartphones and online accounts, there’s really little reason to get paper bills delivered to your house every month. They can also get easily lost amongst your junk mail. Instead, go to each account you have that sends you a paper bill and request to go paperless. You’ll receive email notifications when your monthly statement is ready for review.
17. Shop second-hand
Shopping second-hand reuses items that have already been manufactured. You find a new purpose for old items, keeping them out of landfills. You can shop second hand for clothing, furniture, and even electronics if you’re willing to forgo the latest models.
18. Buy products that are built to last
Durability and the lifespan of the products you purchase are important for going green while saving money. The longer you can keep products without replacing them, the less you contribute to filling up landfills with broken items. If you can keep a small appliance for ten years instead of just five, you reduce the waste and expense by half.
19. Get a home energy audit to find energy vampires
The tips above can help you reduce your carbon footprint in a general sense. But a home energy audit can help you root out the specific energy vampires that have invaded your home. Energy vampires refer to any device or location in your home where energy consumption spikes unnecessarily. You may have energy inefficiencies in your home that drain power, increasing your consumption and costing you more money.
20. Get low-flow showerheads and take shorter showers
Showerheads that blast you like a carwash may feel good, but they waste water. Instead, you should opt for low-flow showerheads that are specifically designed to conserve water. They’ll cut down your water bill if you pay for water in a single-unit residence. They’ll also help you use less water, so you’re not wasting resources.
You should also be aware of exactly how long you take in the shower. Again, soaking up the hot water in the shower may feel great, but it’s not doing our planet or your utility bills any favors.
21. Only run your dishwasher/clothes washer when they’re full
Running your appliances when they’re full saves water because you run the appliances less often. If you run your dishwasher with just one meal’s worth of dishes in the machine, you’re wasting water. You can’t tell your dishwasher to use less water because the machine isn’t full.
The same is true of your clothes washer. New models of clothes washers use less than half the water that older models do. But even if you have a newer energy efficient model, you should only run it when you have a full load. That will help you conserve water. Then if you use cold-water detergent, you can save money on your electric bill, too.
22. Plant drought-resistant landscaping
Watering your lawn enough in summer to keep your plants from dying can take a significant amount of water. In most parts of the country, you may need to water every day to keep your landscaping green. That’s a big drain on our water resources and on your income with higher water bills in the summer.
Planting drought-resistant landscaping means you will need to water less often. Look for native grasses and ornamental plants that have evolved to be ideal for the environment in which you live. This will allow you to skip watering a few days a week without coming home to a dead lawn.
23. Don’t cut your grass short, because it needs more water to survive
Long blades of grass develop a deeper root system, so it can seek out water underground. Long grass also shades the soil, which aids with water retention.This means that if you keep your grass longer, you’ll need to water less often to keep your lawn green.
Adjust your mower to a higher wheel setting, which will move the blades up from your grass. Then you can avoid scalping your grass and being forced to water more often just to keep it green.
24. Put a brick in your toilet tank for a cheap way to make a low-flow toilet
If you can’t afford to replace all the toilets in your home with low-flow models, a brick may be the solution you need. If you put a brick or any other object that takes up space in your toilet tank, there’s less volume for the water to fill up. Less volume means less water used each time your toilet fills. The tank will still flush normally, but you’ll conserve water.
25. Get a rain barrel to collect water at your downspouts
The amount of rainwater that passes through the gutters on your house can go a long way to offsetting how much water you use from outdoor taps. Simply put a rain barrel (or any big vessel) under the downspout that runs off your gutters.
You can use stored rainwater to water plants, wash your car and fill your pool. Most barrels have a spigot on the bottom so you can attach a hose and use the water just like you would from a hose attached to your indoor piping.
26. Get reusable shopping bags
Even if you shop at one of the few stores that offer paper shopping bags instead of plastic, it’s still not good for the environment. Rather than recycling disposable bags with every grocery trip you take, get reusable bags that you can carry with you each time. Just make sure you remember to put them back in your car after you offload your groceries. Keeping the reusable bags in your vehicle will ensure you have them anytime you decide to make a quick shopping trip.
27. Stop buying bottled water
Plastic water bottles are a leading source of the plastics taking up space in landfills and the microplastics in our ocean. Buying a good filter for your kitchen tap, so you can fill up reusable water bottles from the tap can go a long way to reducing the waste that you toss each week.
TIP: If you live in a hurricane zone, make sure to add a few big plastic pitchers or jugs to your hurricane supplies. That way, you can fill them up before a potential storm hit and avoid the lines to buy plastic bottles and gallon-jugs at the store!
28. Shop local farmer’s markets
Buying meats, produce and even dairy through your local farmer’s markets supports local businesses, helps you stop contributing to the emissions caused by manufacturing and shipping food long cross-country. You can also usually get food that’s locally grown for much cheaper, even if you want to buy organic to avoid harsh chemicals and pesticides that damage ecosystems.
29. Take up gardening
Even better than buying produce locally, you can grow it on your own. If you live in an apartment or condo, you can have a balcony garden or an indoor herb garden. If you have the luxury of a yard, you can go even bigger to grow produce and even fruit trees in your yard. This will reduce the number of herbs, fruits, and vegetables that you purchase. You can even use pickling and canning to ensure that peak season growth doesn’t go to waste and can sustain you throughout the year.
TIP: If you want to support urban foraging plant vegetables and fruit trees in your front yard and invite urban foragers to share in your bounty!
30. Stop using straws
Plastic straws are another leading source of microplastics, so cutting them out of your life is definitely good for the environment. However, paper straws are notably more expensive, so if you’re on a budget it may not be an option to make the switch. Instead, just stop using straws altogether and take up sipping.
31. Don’t buy disposable razors
Approximately 2 billion disposable razors end up in landfills each year, totaling up to 1 million points of plastic waste. Metal safety razors allow you to only replace the blades in your razors, and even that you do less often. Even better, the blades are recyclable, so you can avoid landfill waste entirely.
32. Get reusable chopsticks
Roughly 3.8 million trees get cut down each year to make all the wooden chopsticks that the world uses. And while most of those get used throughout Asia, the U.S. still accounts for 2% of the wooden chopstick use in the world.
To stop using wooden chopsticks, hit up an Asian market to get a lacquered pair of chopsticks. You can even get a chopstick holder, so you can take your reusable chopsticks with you when you go out to eat.
33. Make your own cleaning products
Harsh chemical cleansers aren’t good for you, your kids or the environment and the plastic bottles that they come in usually end up in landfills. Luckily, there are plenty of do-it-yourself cleansers that you can make from everyday items that you probably already have around your house, such as lemon, baking soda, and white vinegar.
34. Buy recycled products, like paper
When you need to buy paper products, opt for recycled versions. This includes everything from towels and napkins to printer paper. If you buy recycled products, you stop contributing to deforestation. Just be aware that these products can be more expensive, so take our advice from Tip 9 and try using cloth alternatives instead.
35. Buy raw ingredients to cook instead of packaged food
Packaged food always costs more than if you buy the raw ingredients and make things from scratch in your kitchen. Packaged food also has the big carbon footprint of the raw ingredients getting shipped, then going through a manufacturing process, then getting shipped to stores. If you grow food at home, shop local farmer’s markets and then cook meals at home, you avoid contributing to the environmental cost of America’s huge food and grocery industry.
36. Find the best way to grill green without going over budget
Charcoal grilling is the worst for the environment, by far. And having a charcoal grill means you’re constantly having to buy charcoal, which increases your cost. But what’s the greenest grilling method?
If you have solar panels, then the greenest way to grill is to get an electric grill. It will also reduce your cost because there’s no consumables. However, if your electricity comes from coal power plants, then gas grills are actually more eco-friendly. Just be aware that you’ll have the recurring cost of propane tanks.
Also, be cognizant of the challenges you can face with recycling the tanks. If you have a large-tank propane grill, it’s easy to find recycling programs where you turn in your used tanks and get a new one in exchange. However, if you have a camping grill, the small tanks aren’t refillable and usually don’t offer recycling programs. You’ll have to find a recycling center in your area that’s willing to take them.
37. Use mass transit
Whether it’s subways, above-ground rail systems or bus systems, mass transit avoids the greenhouse gas emissions of driving your own vehicle or using ride-sharing services. It may take some planning and some extra time to get where you want to go to accommodate mass transit schedules, but you’ll significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
You will also save money, because you avoid the cost of purchasing vehicles, maintaining those vehicles and filling up your tank. Transportation costs take up almost 20% of the average household budget when the family owns vehicles.
38. Ride your bike to work
If you want to save the environment and save even more money by cutting transportation costs, then you can ride your bike to work. This tip won’t work for everyone. If you live too far away and it would make for an hours-long commute, then this isn’t practical. But, if you live within a few miles of your office, this may be the cheapest and most eco-friendly option.
A Debt.com employee totaled up how much money they save by biking to work. It’s a 7-mile trip, which takes him about 30 minutes each way. He saves more than $280 per year biking to work instead of driving. Even mass transit would be more expensive than using and maintaining the bike he already owns.
If you want to try this option out, Bike to Work Week is May 13-19. If you’re not up for trying the full week, then you can narrow it down to Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 17.
37. Walk whenever possible
Minus the cost of your shoes that you have to wear anyway, walking is free. So, find ways to walk whenever possible. You should be able to pair mass transit with walking to get anywhere you need to go if you live in an urban area.
38. Make your next auto purchase green
If you can’t give up your vehicle, then the next best thing is to go electric for your next vehicle purchase. Just make sure that there are enough charging stations where you need them to avoid getting stuck.
If full-electric isn’t feasible, then hybrid vehicles offer the eco-savings of electric with the dependability of having a fuel tank when you need it. When purchasing a hybrid or any car, you want to aim for the highest gas mileage possible. This will mean less fuel consumption, which also saves you money.
39. Keep up with your manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines
If you want to keep your car running as cleanly as possible, you need to follow the recommended maintenance instructions provided by your manufacturer. This means regular oil changes, fluid replacement and keeping your tire pressure aligned with what the manufacturer recommends. All these steps will keep your car running at maximum fuel efficiency for as long as possible.
40. Don’t leave your car idling
Leaving your car idling while you run in someplace or idling to “warm your car up” when it’s cold isn’t good for the environment. The bigger your vehicle, the worse idling is for the environment. And if you have a diesel engine, it’s even worse. So, if you’re not driving and you’re parked somewhere, go ahead and turn the vehicle off.
NOTE: Some states like New York are beginning to implement policies against idling. If you have heavy-duty vehicles, including diesel trucks, then you can get fined for leaving your vehicle idling for more than 5 minutes.