Some people think that saving the planet means sacrificing time or money. In fact, living an environmentally friendly life can save you a whole lot of BOTH.
Here are five super-easy things you can do today that will help the planet — and save you lots of cash.
1. Unplug devices that aren't in use.
Even when they're not being used, appliances and electronics that are plugged in are using energy, called "standby energy." While some things, like refrigerators, need to stay plugged in all the time, other things, like a TV in a spare bedroom or a toaster, can easily be unplugged until it's needed.
For the average family, 10 percent of all energy use goes toward these electronics. Altogether, American families spend about $4 billion is spent every year to power things that aren't even in use.
Of course, not all things use an equal amount of electricity. While a cellphone charger constantly plugged into the wall doesn't draw much energy, a TV or fully charged laptop can use quite a bit. By simply unplugging things that aren't regularly in use and choosing products, we can have the same environmental impact as taking 18 million cars off the road.
2. Take it easy on the AC and furnace.
There's nothing quite like stepping into a gloriously air-conditioned house after spending a day in the hot sun, but trying to keep a house too cold uses a ton of energy. Each year, the amount of power consumed by AC units across the US releases 100 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
One way to reduce the impact of the AC in the summer and a furnace in the winter is to simply set the thermostat to be a little warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. While it might not be an ideal 72 degrees all year round, it will be much cheaper and have less of an impact on the environment.
A programmable thermostat can also adjust the temperature based on the time of day, giving the AC and furnace a break if nobody is home during the day anyway. Machines also run more efficiently if the furnace filter is changed on time.
3. Upgrade your lightbulbs.
A typical incandescent bulb is woefully inefficient, with most of the energy it uses being lost as heat. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are much more efficient and last longer, but they also cost more and contain mercury, which is harmful to the environment once the bulbs get thrown out.
LED bulbs are really the best way to go. While they might be the most expensive option up front, they last five times longer than incandescents while using a tenth of the power. Compared to CFLs, they are twice as efficient. When just one LED bulb replaces an incandescent bulb, 4,000 pounds of carbon are reduced each year. If an entire household of lightbulbs is replaced, there are both significant energy savings and reduction in carbon emissions.
4. Drink tap water instead of buying disposable bottles.
In the United States alone, more than 50 billion plastic water bottles are used every year. Unfortunately, only one in four of those bottles will be recycled. The amount of energy used to produce plastic water bottles is the same as a year's worth of electricity for 190,000 houses.
Not only is bottled water a wasteful choice, it's an expensive one. Ounce for ounce, bottled water is 300 times more expensive than tap water. Using a metal reusable water bottle filled with water from the tap can save hundreds of dollars each year while eliminating the need for all of those plastic bottles.
5. Buy local food.
Fruits and vegetables are transported hundreds of miles from where they were grown to where they ultimately end up. Buying locally sourced food, like at a farmer's market, is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of their transportation. Small farmers also tend to have more environmentally friendly practices.
Many farmers give huge discounts on "seconds," which is a nice term for ugly produce. Sometimes there will be some physical damage, but for the most part, it's perfectly fine and just isn't the desired size or shape. Once it's cut up and put in your favorite recipe, you'll never remember how ugly the carrot may have looked when you bought it.
Start saving the planet — and saving money — today. And be sure to share these awesome tips with your friends. They'll definitely thank you for it.
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