Most people associate going green with having big upfront costs with little to no tangible reward until much later down the road. And to a certain extent, they're right. Big ticket items like electric vehicles, solar panels, energy-saving appliances and new dual-pane widows aren't cheap and won't pay for themselves in energy savings for many years. Sure, you'll end up saving money by purchasing these items in the long run, but it's tough to see the big picture when staring thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars of upfront costs in the face.
Even if you can't afford the bigger and more expensive methods of going green, there are a lot of smaller things you could be doing right now that won't cost you much money, if any at all, and the savings can really add up to put more money in your pocket each and every month when it comes time to pay the bills.
Here are 5 easy ways to save money by going green:
1. Save Water and Save Money
Water is a precious resource that's in short demand in certain areas of the country. As such, utility companies often charge a premium for water.
It's estimated that the average household wastes 11,000 gallons of water per year due to faucets that leak and running toilets. Eliminate leaks and make a minimal effort to conserve water on a daily basis and your bill could decline by as much as 20% per year.
Here are some tips to help you conserve water:
- Know how much water you're using and watch for spikes in usage. If you know how much water your family is using from month to month, you'll be able to quickly identify problems that are costing you money. A huge increase in water usage from month to month may be indicative of a bigger problem you can hunt down and fix in order to conserve water and save money on your bill.
- Identify water leaks early and fix them as soon as possible. A quick way to identify whether there's a leak in your house is to check your water meter and then wait a couple hours without using any water in the house. If the reading on the meter has gone up, you'll know there's a water leak somewhere in the house that's costing you money. Identify it and fix it to save cash on your bill. Check pipes and spigots regularly for leaks or drips and fix them as soon as they become apparent. A single leaky faucet that drips 4 times a minute will waste nearly 140 gallons of water a year. A leaking toilet is even more expensive, as 2 gallons per minute could be running down the drain and could end up costing you more than a thousand dollars extra on your water bill per year if allowed to continue running for a long period of time.
- Install low-flow aerators in faucets and water-saving shower heads. This is an inexpensive addition to your home that could reduce water use by as much as 50% to 60% when taking showers or using water from the sink.
- Water the lawn for shorter periods of time and change watering times to the evening. Nobody wants a dead lawn. The desire for a bright green lawn often leads people to overwater their lawn and many people do it in the middle of the day while the sun is shining. Grass doesn't require a lot of water to survive and you really only need to water your lawn once or twice a week in most areas. An inch of water is all that's needed and you'll end up with a healthier lawn as a result. Grass will put down deeper roots and will be less susceptible to disease when watered infrequently. Watering at night will allow you to take full advantage of the water you do use, since the sun won't be shining and causing large amounts of water to evaporate before it ever reaches the roots of your grass.
- Run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine. This tip alone could save you a thousand gallons of water or more a month.
- Conserve water in the bathroom. Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth and you'll save up to 25 gallons a week per person in the family. Keep showers to 5 minutes or less to save even more water.
2. Conserve Energy and Save
Energy is one of the biggest expenses in most households. You can save money by going green with energy in your home. Here are some tips to help you maximize your energy savings:
- Be smart with your thermostat. Set it higher than you normally would in the summer and lower than normal in the winter. Sure, you might have to wear a light sweater around the house or peel off a layer or two of clothes, but your energy bill will be all the better for it.
- Watch out of vampires. Vampires in the electrical world are electrical appliances that suck up small amounts of electricity even when they're turned off. As much as 15% of your bill could be attributed to appliances and electronics that have clocks, lights or stand-by modes that drain power even when you aren't using them. Unplug these appliances and electronics and the savings will start to pile up. Televisions, video game consoles, microwave ovens, computers and cell phone chargers are examples of just a few of the many electrical items in your home that are sucking down power as we speak.
- Switch to CFL light bulbs. While I strongly disagree that people should be forced to switch over to CFL light bulbs, there is a good reason you should do so willingly. A single CFL bulb will save you at least $40 in energy costs over the course of the life of the bulb. I counted 35 bulbs in my house, meaning I'm going to save at least $1,400 by switching over to CFLs.
3. Forget About Bottled Water.
I'm not going to try to tell you tap water is better for you than bottled water. Sadly, in many areas of the nation, this simply isn't the case. What I am going to tell you is purchasing a good filtration system and filtering your water at home will save you money. It'll also help save the environment by keeping a ton of plastic out of landfills. If you're traveling, carry a refillable container of water with you, so you won't have to purchase bottled water.
4. Don't Be Wasteful.
We live in a disposable society. It seems like everything we own is designed to eventually be discarded, where it'll end up in a landfill somewhere, rotting away for hundreds or even thousands of years. Take a close look at your life and evaluate areas where you're being wasteful. Do you really need that new iPhone or Android that just came out when your old phone still works perfectly? Keeping your electronics until they break and repairing them isn't feasible will save you a bunch of money and you'll be a responsible and green consumer.
When you do have to get rid of something, donate it, sell it or take it a recycling center instead of tossing it in the trash. You'll be keeping it out of the landfill and might end up making a few bucks in the process.
5. Save Money on Gas.
Gas is another huge household expense, especially for families with members who commute long distances to work. If public transit is available in your area, you may be able to save money on gas by hopping on a bus, a train or even joining a carpool. You'll also get the added benefit of not having to drive all the time and not putting the same amount of wear and tear on your vehicle.
If you live close to your place of work, try walking or biking to work when weather permits it. You'll end up happier and healthier as a result and you'll be strong enough to lift your wallet when it's packed full of all that extra cash you've saved.