There are countless ways to help the environment from home. Some require nothing more than keeping a conscientious eye on your energy usage, while others require time and commitment. Nonetheless, any action you take toward lessening your impact on the world won’t only help the environment, it will also help your wallet.
1. Unplug appliances
This is probably the simplest thing you can do at home to reduce your energy footprint and save money. Did you know that when your TV is turned off it still draws about 30% of its power? We don’t expect you to do full inspection of your house every night to make sure that every lamp, device and appliance is unplugged, but it definitely helps to use power strips that you can switch on and off with ease. Remember: high-voltage appliances like air conditioners and microwaves should always plug directly into the wall, not into power strips.
2. Solar energy
Solar energy is an excellent option for those of us in sunny climates. If you live in Tucson or Joshua Tree, you’ll find that solar panels — although a not-insignificant initial investment, will reap you thousands of dollars in savings. It takes about 3-5 years for the cost of the panels to pay for themselves, but after that, it’s free power and net savings every year.
Most states incentivize going solar by offering homeowners extremely generous tax breaks and will even pay upwards of 30% of the systems cost and installation. It’s also likely that you’ll produce more energy than you can expend. And guess what? Oftentimes, energy companies will pay you for the surplus you give back to the public electrical grid. It’s a win-win.
We all know this one. This doesn’t mean just sorting plastics from paper and dumping them in their respective bin. It also means reusing and repurposing the disposable items you do have. Keep those plastic grocery bags and reuse them in your bathroom trash bins or even for future grocery runs.
Many people understandably feel like recycling their cereal boxes couldn’t possibly make a difference. However, recycling has been ramping up in the past several years and the EPA assures us it has been making a difference.
“Recycling and composting of MSW results in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction. In 2014, the 89 million tons of MSW recycled and composted provided an annual reduction of over 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, comparable to the annual emissions from over 38 million passenger cars.”
Additionally, many states and cities offer individual rebate programs for recycling. Helping the environment isn’t just an altruistic gesture — it can also save you money.
4. Cut back on water
Cutting back on water doesn’t mean living a life of monk-like austerity with short, frigid showers in the wintertime (although it wouldn’t hurt your water bill, either). You can help the environment and cut back on so much wasted water simply by fixing and preventing tiny leaks you never knew were there. Prevent water damage, leaks and toxic mold with a smart water system like Flo by Moen. It does all the work for you by detecting leaks and alerting you to their source. You can save money by viewing your current water consumption, setting conservation goals, and tracking your progress against those goals.
5. Use your windows
This doesn’t necessarily mean going without heat or AC when you need it. On cold days, opening your blinds during the day will help you retain heat from sunlight even at night, and the opposite goes for keeping your blinds closed on hot days. Opening multiple windows will help you get a nice cross-breeze going during summer months. And, of course, insulate! You can become less reliant on your thermostat by weatherproofing windows in a drafty home.
6. Buy less
We don’t need much of what we own. Increased demand leads to increased production, which leads to even more consumption, pollution, and waste of natural resources. Not only do we have floating trash islands full of stuff we no longer use, but we keep buying and throwing out the same things over and over again. Some scientists have been exploring sending trash into space. Space! But we can always start small and stop buying bottled water and start reusing containers.
7. Eat less meat
Everyone knows this but no one likes hearing it. Our buying choices affect the farming industry, and right now factory farming is in overdrive. Livestock consumes over 1.3 tons of grain each year, billions of gallons of water, and contributes to mass deforestation. Factory farming is also the single-largest contributor to pollution, producing over 130 times more pollution than all humans combined. And this isn’t just methane gas in the air; it’s also hurting our water supply. Most factory farms do not have adequate waste removal systems and it’s often unregulated. Animal waste is kept in large, open-air facilities and frequently leaks into the neighboring water supply and crops. There’s no escaping it; beef and pork doesn’t pay itself and it’s hurting the environment.