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Earth Day resolutions you should make

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Sunday, April 22, 2007]
Today, Earth Day, like Saint Patrick's Day is when everyone is "green" for a day. Being green for a day might be just fine on Saint Patrick's Day for those of us who are not Irish, but being environmentally "green" only on Earth Day is shallow and shortsighted. If for no other reason than one's own economic self-interest, one should at least be "light green" every day of the year. There are many things one can do that are better for the environment, save money and don't negatively impact on one's quality of life.

Here are some resolutions you should make for around your home that will reduce your impact on our planet, and save you money at the same time:

Save Electricity

Switch out your most used incandescent lights with compact florescent lights: I wrote about this in my article "Compact Florescent Lights (CFL): Are They Worth the Switch?" In short, this may be the single best money-saving thing you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. Yes, the up front cost of CFLs seem to be more expensive than incandescent lights, but the fact of the matter is that the replacement costs of incandescent bulbs actually cost more than CFLs due to CFLs very long lives. In addition, depending upon how many hours per day a light runs and your electric rates, the CFL may pay for itself in just a few months. If you want to test the CFL waters, my advice would be to start with the most used lights in your home as these lights will have the biggest reduction in your electric bill. To see how much money you might save and how much you might reduce your CO2 footprint by replacing your lights with CFLs, we have created a calculator on our CFL article.

Turn off unneeded lights: If you are not in a room, why waste money on electricity to light the room. I don't know about you, but there are much better things I could spend my money on than lighting an unused room. Now I realize that it might be next to impossible keeping unneeded lights turned off if you have kids, but one solution to this might be to replace some light switches with motion sensors. These are perfect for hallways, stairs and bathrooms. If you have pets you might need to make sure the sensors do not "see" motion near the floor.

Put electronics on switches: When it comes to electronics like TVs, VCRs, computers, etc. "off" does not mean off. Even when these devices are "turned off" they are still drawing electricity. In fact, over their lifetime some of these electronic devices actually draw more electricity while being "turned off" and not in use than when they are turned on and being actively used. The only way to really make sure these devices are turned off and not drawing electricity is to put them on switched outlets, power strips, etc. and then turn them off via these switches. Now I realize that power strips are often on the floor and inconvenient to get to, and our solution to this has been to use remote switch cords. These are basically an extension cord with a double headed plug on one end and a switch on the other end. The electronic device is plugged into the female side of the cord's plug and then the cord's plug is plugged into the outlet. This will allow you to place the switch in a more convenient place. Unfortunately, in my local stores I have only found two pronged remote switch cords, which is great for TVs, VCRs, etc. but not computers, which typically have three pronged cords.

Save Water/Hot Water

Wash your clothes in cold water: Many brands of detergent now have a version formulated for cold water. Washing your clothes in cold water will save considerable energy that would otherwise be necessary to heat water for washing clothes.

Use a dishwasher: Ironically enough, a modern dishwasher actually uses less energy and less water than is typically used when washing dishes by hand; just don't run the dishwasher unless it is full. Also allow the dishes to cool dry.

Don't let water to just run: When brushing your teeth, don't just let the water run. If you just let water run during the two minutes you are supposed to brush your teeth, eight gallons of water could go down your drain and the odds are it is hot water. Don't turn on the water until you are ready to rinse your mouth and toothbrush.

Take shorter showers or share a shower: Save hot water by simply taking shorter showers. If you have a significant other, you can further reduce you water usage and have a little extra fun (provided you don't get too distracted) by sharing your showers with them.

Plant climate appropriate plants in your yard: Planting climate appropriate plants can significantly reduce you need to water plants.

Water lawns at night: Watering your lawn at night can significantly reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.

Save Fuel

Keep your tires properly inflated: Keeping your tires properly inflated not only improves your fuel economy, but also makes your vehicle safer and reduces tire wear.

Plan your driving to reduce trips: If you plan your driving appropriately, you can reduce the total amount of driving you need to do. This will save time, fuel and reduce wear on your vehicle.

Don't be an aggressive/impulsive driver: The single biggest determination to the fuel economy of a vehicle is the driver. Increasing your following distance allows for more predictive driving thereby reducing the need to alternate between the break peddle and the gas peddle. Every time you touch the brakes, you are wasting the energy you expended to get up to speed. Using predictive driving, you can let off the gas peddle earlier before needing to stop or slow down. This reduces your use of fuel and reduces wear on your brakes. Simply changing driving habits can improve fuel economy by 4-5 mpg and make you a safer driver.

Buy more fuel efficient vehicles: The next time it comes time to replace your vehicle, make the fuel economy of your new vehicle a priority.

This time around, don't be green for just a day, make an Earth Day resolution to reduce your consumption of energy—at the very least your wallet will thank you.


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