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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: Quick fix
Tips » Quick fix $ Factor
Tip 1:
"Green" your laundry.
Detergents, fabric softeners and bleaches can be toxic to your family and to the environment. Some surfactants and fragrances in laundry detergents contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that can't always be removed by wastewater treatment plants and end up harming local wildlife. Chlorine bleach is not only poisonous for humans, but can create dangerous byproducts, such as dioxin, when flushed down the drain. Get your clothes clean without all of the pollution by switching to eco-friendlier cleaners. The companies Ecover, Sun & Earth, Seventh Generation and OxyPrime make less-toxic alternatives to traditional laundry detergents. Try nonchlorine bleach such as OxyBoost or Ecover's hydrogen peroxide-based option.
$ Factor:
The eco-friendlier detergents and bleaches cost no more than standard products.
Tip 2:
A little warmer, a little cooler.
About 47 percent of the average household's annual energy bills stem from heating and cooling. Every degree you raise your thermostat in the summer will reduce air conditioning bills by about 2 percent. Lowering the temperature by one degree in winter will save you 3 percent on heating bills. Regular maintenance and a tune up every two or three years will keep your heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, system operating efficiently, saving energy and money. A programmable thermostat -- excellent for a family that spends a good part of the day at work or school -- will shave 10 percent off your bill.
$ Factor:
Adjusting your thermostat is free, easy and can yield big savings. A programmable thermostat starts about $30 and produces an annual savings of about $100.
Tip 3:
Switch to cold water.
Almost 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes is used to heat the water, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Save money and energy. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water, instead of hot, using a detergent formulated for cold-water use.
$ Factor:
Turning the dial from hot to warm will cut your energy use by 50 percent per load, and save you up to $63 a year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
Tip 4:
Line dry -- like grandma used to do.
Dry your clothes on a laundry line rather than throwing them in the dryer. Clothes dyers are the third-largest energy users in the home, behind the refrigerator and washing machine, costing more than $100 a year to operate, according to Project Laundry List.
$ Factor:
Drying your clothes on the line can save you as much as $10 a month, said Brad Stroh, co-founder of Bills.com. Laundry lines vary in cost, from about $5 for a simple rope line to $500 or more for deluxe models.
Tip 5:
Stop the junk mail.
Each year, 100 million trees are cut down and turned into junk mail, with Americans receiving a total of 400 million tons of it every year. Earthworks Group, an environmental consulting firm, said cutting out junk mail is one of the most effective things people can do to reduce pollution. There are several ways to stop the flow of junk to your house.
$ Factor:
For a $15 one-time fee, Green Dimes will send you a junk-mail opt-out kit that will remove your name from mailing lists for junk mail and catalogs. They then monitor the lists to make sure your names stay off of them, potentially reducing your junk mail by 90 percent. Green Dimes also plants 10 trees for each kit sold. Or, you can contact the Direct Marketing Association, and pay a $1 fee to be removed from some mailing lists.
Tip 6:
Switch to CFLs.
Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. They're more expensive than traditional light bulbs, but it only takes about 3 months to make up for the higher sticker price in energy savings.
$ Factor:
You will save $85 over the life of the bulb for each 60-watt light bulb you replace with a 15-watt CFL. You'll also save 543 kWh of electricity and reduce your CO2 emissions by 833 pounds.
Tip 7:
Kill 'vampire' electricity.
Many appliances use electricity even when they're turned off. It's called a phantom load, or vampire electricity, and as much as 75 percent of the electricity used by home electronics and small appliances is used while they're turned off. The Ohio Consumers Council estimates that it costs consumers $40 to $100 a year.
$ Factor:
The simple solution is to unplug small appliances and electronics when you aren't using them. Or, plug them into a power strip and turn the power strip off when you aren't using those items. Power strips cost $10 to $20 each, and can save you up to $100 a year, depending on how many electronics you have. Simply unplugging one television, computer monitor and fax machine when you aren't using it will save you about $6 a month, Stroh said.
Tip 8:
Set up a compost bin.
Composting is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to reduce the amount of garbage your household produces. Through composting, yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings and food wastes such as vegetable scraps can be turned into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that reduces the need for commercial chemical fertilizers in home gardens.
$ Factor:
Compost bins vary in cost, from a few dollars for a simple, homemade bin up to several hundred dollars for a ready-made system. Composting at home can make a significant dent in household waste. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, estimates that about 25 percent of the 245 million tons of garbage going into U.S. landfills come from yard clippings and food.
Tip 9:
Run full dishwasher loads.
You'll save up to 20 gallons of water per load, or 7,300 gallons a year. That's as much water as the average person drinks in a lifetime.
$ Factor:
You can save even more money by running your dishwasher during off-peak hours, usually from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Many utility companies offer off-peak energy rates. And don't pre-rinse if your dishwasher can handle it.
Tip 10:
Don't preheat.
Don't bother if you are broiling, roasting or baking a dish that will cook for an hour or more. Don't preheat for more than 10 minutes for breads and cakes. And when roasting meats or baking casseroles, turn off the oven 10 minutes to 15 minutes before cooking time runs out; food will continue to cook without using the extra electricity.
$ Factor:
By reducing the time your oven is on by one hour per year, you'll save an average of 2 kWh of energy. If 30 percent of U.S. households did this, 60 million kWh of energy could be saved.
Tip 11:
Watch that pot.
Use the right-size pot on your burners.
$ Factor:
You could save about $36 annually for an electric range or $18 for gas.
Tip 12:
Filter your water.
Buy a water filter for your kitchen faucet and put to good use yet another way to do away with those plastic water bottles that are clogging landfills and burning up energy in recycling plants. About 1.5 million tons of plastic are used on the bottling of 89 billion liters of drinking water each year.
$ Factor:
You can buy a water filter for as little as $29, or about a month's worth of bottled water.
Tip 13:
Don't run while you brush.
Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. You'll conserve up to five gallons of water per day -- which could add up to 1.5 billion gallons that could be saved across the country each day -- more than enough for all of New York City.
$ Factor:
You could save time and money on water, up to 1,825 gallons of water per person each year. This much water would fill your bathtub more than 35 times. A family of four could save almost 7,500 gallons a year.
Tip 14:
No hint of lint.
Clean your dryer lint screen with every use and don't overload the dryer.
$ Factor:
You'll save up to 5 percent on your electricity bill -- which could mean an energy-equivalent savings of 350 million gallons of gasoline per year if everyone did this. Also, run your dryer during off-peak hours. Check with your utility company to see if they offer discounted rates during off-peak hours and verify when those hours are. Better yet, use a clothesline.
Tip 15:
From warm to cold.
Set warm wash and cold rinse cycles and save 90 percent of the energy used when using hot water only. And run your washer during off-peak hours.
$ Factor:
Together, all U.S. households could save the energy equivalent of 100 thousand barrels of oil a day by switching from hot-hot to warm-cold cycles. Check with your utility company to see if they offer any discounted rates during off-peak hours.
-- Posted: Oct. 4, 2007
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