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Bankrate's 2007 Living Green, Saving Green Guide
Green today
Learn 153 ways to be eco-friendly while saving green.
Green today
153 ways to go green
Home: Short term
Tips » Short term $ Factor
Tip 16:
Use low-flow water devices.
Wherever you use water, there's a low-flow device to fit it -- from hose nozzles, to showerheads, to faucet aerators. Handy products, such as the WaterMiser Waterbroom, use water and air pressure to remove dirt from outdoor surfaces, reducing water use by up to 60 percent. Low-flow nozzles save about 5 gallons a minute for a standard garden hose, and a low-flow showerhead uses as little as 2.5 gallons of water or less each minute and would save 25 gallons of water per 10-minute shower. Toilets made after 1996 use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, while earlier versions can use from 3.5 to 7 gallons.
$ Factor:
Low-flow hose nozzles cost less than $20; showerheads cost about $12 at home-improvement stores. Low-flow items can save you about 750 gallons of water each month per person in showers alone. They also cut your hot-water heating bills by up to 50 percent. New toilets -- from as little as $100 -- can reduce water use by up to 73 percent per flush. An even cheaper tactic: Put a water displacement bag -- about $2 -- or even a 2-liter plastic bottle filled with water in the tank away from the mechanism and you'll save almost a gallon of water per flush. Faucet aerators cost about $2 each and can cut water use from as much as 2.75 gallons per minute to as little as half a gallon a minute. Households using low-flow aerators save an average of 1,700 gallons of water each year.
Tip 17:
Watch the Watts.
Gadgets such as the Kill-A-Watt and the Watt Minder help you find the biggest energy users in your home. Plug an appliance into one of these devices and it will tell you how much energy it uses per hour, month, or year, and how much it's costing you.
$ Factor:
Wattage meters cost about $20 to $30. If you are interested in the bigger picture, rather than monitoring one device at a time, the Power Cost Monitor tracks, in real-time, the electricity use in your entire house and shows how much it is costing you. The monitor costs about $130 and attaches to your electric meter.
Tip 18:
Make your own cleaners.
Household chemicals, including some cleaners, contain volatile organic chemicals, which contribute to indoor air pollution and may cause disease. A cost-effective way to make your home greener is to make your own household cleaners. Many homemade cleaners use non-toxic ingredients and clean just as well as commercial cleaners.
$ Factor:
Making your own cleaner costs about 10 percent of the price a bottle of commercial cleaner, according to Karen Logan, author of "Clean House, Clean Planet." She says a bottle of her all-purpose cleaner costs 23 cents to make, versus a price tag of $2.69 for the off-the-shelf equivalent. If making your own cleaners isn't an option, look for cleaners carrying the Green Seal. Green Seal is a nonprofit organization that certifies products based on their environmental impact, biodegradability and other factors.
Tip 19:
Reuse your water.
Water is a precious commodity, and too much of it goes down the drain. Install a rain barrel that attaches to your downspouts and collect rainwater off your roof. Rainwater is relatively free of contaminants and can be used instead of tap water for all kinds of outdoor uses: watering gardens and lawns, cleaning sidewalks and washing the car. Add to the benefit by reusing your gray water -- the waste water from doing dishes, laundry and showering. It's fine for watering plants.
$ Factor:
Rain barrels cost $100 to $300 and collect from 50 to 100 gallons of water each. Savings on your water bill will likely be nominal. Recycling gray water can be as simple as reusing the water last night's pasta dinner boiled in to water your plants. More sophisticated systems, such as the Aqus from WaterSaver Technologies, disinfects, stores then and reuses the water from your bathroom sink to flush the toilet. It costs about $200 and reduces wastewater by up to 5,000 gallons per year in a typical household.
Tip 20:
Zap your meals.
Microwaves are between 3.5 and 4.8 times more energy efficient than traditional electric ovens. Cooking and reheating with a microwave is faster and more efficient than the stovetop or oven.
$ Factor:
Cooking with microwaves can reduce up to 70 percent of energy use for cooking. What's more, using microwaves extends the life of your oven significantly. And one more thing: Cleaning a microwave oven is a snap and saves even more of the cash you would spend on energy with a self-cleaning oven or on toxic-chemical oven cleaners.
Tip 21:
Get picky on phosphates.
Pick laundry detergents without phosphates, which deplete the oxygen in water and as a result kill aquatic life. And while you're at it, buy only powdered detergent in cardboard packaging as opposed to a liquid in plastic packaging. The liquid contains water, which you already have, so it takes more fuel to ship that heavier container of detergent and water, not to mention the energy and petroleum used to manufacture the plastic container. The cardboard container also requires energy and resources to produce, but many are now made from post-consumer recycled paper and the trees they originate from are a renewable resource.
$ Factor:
The cost-per-load comes out pretty much the same for powder and liquid, so going with the non-phosphate powders give you the chance to help the planet without any real cost to you.
Tip 22:
Use commercial car washes.
Getting your car washed at a commercial car wash is better for the environment than doing it yourself. Commercial car washes not only use significantly less water per wash -- up to 100 gallons less -- but they often recycle and reuse the rinse water.
$ Factor:
If every American who currently washes a vehicle at home chose instead to go to a professional care wash -- just once -- up to 8.7 billion gallons of water could be saved, and some 12 billion gallons of soapy polluted water could be diverted from the country's rivers, lakes and streams.
Tip 23:
Clean air filters.
Check air conditioning filters monthly to either clean or replace them. This will help the unit run more efficiently. Better yet: buy a permanent filter that can be washed and re-used. This will save you money over the long run and keep all those disposable filters out of landfills. If your unit is outdoors, check to make sure the coils are not obstructed by debris, plants or shrubs.
$ Factor:
Clogged filters can make electric bills skyrocket and eventually cause extensive, expensive damage to your air handler.
-- Posted: Oct. 4, 2007

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