Yes, we all want to help save the planet, but a little more immediate pay-off would be nice, too. The ideas here are not just about what you give up, they’re about what you get – more comfort, more light, cleaner air, less expense, for starters, and as you’ll see, the more you do, the more benefits you’ll find.
How Green Is Your Routine?
“Making systems more efficient so that they use less energy is one thing; conserving energy, thinking about how you personally relate to energy, is another.” (Sandy Wiggins, Past Chair, US Green Building Council, from the Green Builders film)
Ten easy ways to build a little green into your daily life:
1. Find out what your personal carbon footprint and calculate your impact.
2. Dial back the thermostat. You could go so low you need to wear a sweater to bed, but it’s not really necessary. For every degree you lower your thermostat in winter or raise it in the summer you cut energy use by about 3 percent. Just two degrees in the right direction could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon each year.
3. Turn off the lights when there’s no one in the room is an obvious one. But if you also turn off electrical equipment like computers, microwaves, TVs, DVD players, etc., you can eliminate what’s called “phantom load”, and it can add up quite rapidly.
4. Bag the bags. Use re-useable bags instead of paper or plastic, both problematic in terms of production and disposal.
5. Lower the temp. It’s estimated that for every 10 degrees you lower your water’s heater temperature you can eliminate 3-5 percent of your carbon emissions. A temperature of about 120 degrees, between low and medium, could save 7-11 percent of your water-heating costs, and is safer around kids than high settings. (Check to make sure your dishwasher doesn’t require a higher setting, or purchase one of the new models that uses a special booster heater.). And just by washing clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot whenever possible, the average household could save about 500 pounds of carbon a year.
6. Resolve to recycle. Sometimes it takes strength to resist the temptation just to toss the stupid plastic tray into the garbage. But if you recycle just half of your household waste, you could save 2, 400 pounds of carbon every year, and that doesn’t even begin to measure the energy savings in raw materials, manufacturing, garbage movement and management and disposal and just plain pointless waste. By the way, it’s a myth that recycling costs more than it saves. It might have been true for some localities when programs were just starting, but recycling technology, industry procedures, and most of all, the times, have changed. Recyle all possible bottles, paper and plastic. If they don’t already exist, insist on practical, effective recycling programs in your community, workplace, and your kids’ school.
7. Green your old electronics. Recycling electronics is not always so easy, but electronics are becoming a huge toxic problem in landfills here and in the developing countries where the pieces often end up. Printer toner cartridges can be returned to the store. More possibilities are becoming available all the time. A couple of places to start: Earth 911 and National Wildlife Federation - Recycling Electronics
8. Every drop counts. Check out Water Wisdom for much more about water efficiency, but even if you just turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, you’ll save two gallons per minute. More quick tips are available at Water Use It Wisely
9. Get off the road. This site is mainly about buildings, but if you’re looking for green habits that will really pay off big, consider staying out of your car as many days as possible. Some of the most environmentally advanced communities in the country are planned around the basic premise of density: if you can walk to where you want to go, you are inherently lessening the impact on the environment. Short of moving to one of these places, if you took the bus to work just one day a week you could save 39 pounds of carbon a month (check out The Green Guide). Short of that, fuel efficient cars make sense, and even just keeping your tires properly inflated can improve gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gas puts 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (and by the time you read this, might cost almost that many dollars!).
10. Start greening your own home. Not quite ready to commission your own brand new perfectly green house from the ground up? You can start with where you live now, whether apartment or mansion, old or new. The lower energy bills, the cheaper operating costs, the cleaner air and the increased comfort have a definite appeal, as well.