Tuesday, April 13, 2010

10 Things to Make Our Wallets (and Mother Earth) Happy!

Every time my birthday comes around, I'm reminded of a slightly more important event that happens around the same time every year.

Two days before my first birthday, April 22nd, 1970, the environmental movement was kicked off with about 20 million Americans attending peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform. Now April 22nd is observed by half a trillion people, in scores of countries around the world.

You can google Earth Day's history if you're interested. What's more important is to pay attention to what it stands for today. That is, that we need to be responsible to our environment. Back in the first Earth Days, being environmentally responsible used to equal inconvenience and price, but today that that is far from the case. In fact, there are several tiny changes we can easily adapt into our lifestyle to actually save money.

Here's a few:

1. Change your light bulbs to CFL's. An ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. See more about this

2. Turn off your computer and/or laptop when you're not using it. A screen-saver could aptly be called an energy-waster. Unplug your accessories when convenient. Same goes with your phone charger - it sucks juice even when the phone isn't being charged. Unplug your A/V equipment when you go on vacation. Find out energy output on various computer equipment

3. Switch to a Time-of-Use power plan if your utility provider has one. You can save a lot of money by doing your high-energy activities at low-demand hours. Buy a timed thermostat if you don't have one...

4. Turn off your thermostat (or at least change it by a few degrees). On cooler days, adjust by putting on a sweater. On warmer days, sleep with fewer blankets. Use ceiling fans (but only when someone's in the room!) Did you know your computer throws off a lot of heat? (turn it off...)

5. Water your plants/lawn when it's coolest outside. If you don't have a timer, now is a great time to buy one. If you live in the desert, utilize low-water-use plants in your landscaping. Instead of a hose or blower to control the leaves on your patio or lawn, pick up a broom or rake and get some exercise.

6. This one's obvious - walk or bike instead of driving if you can. Carpool or take public transportation. Not so obvious - keep your tires inflated to the proper psi - this will increase mileage!

7. Use inexpensive natural products such as vinegar/baking soda to clean your home. Vinegar removes hard-water stains better than a lot of commercial bathroom cleaners. Baking soda is a great non-abrasive cleanser.

8. Don't run your dishwasher or washing machine if you don't have have a full load. Save time and money.

9. Re-use and re-cycle. Instead of buying bottled water, use a safe-alloy bottle and fill it with water from your tap or fridge. Save your old jars, pails, and margarine containers - they have lots of uses. Donate your good used clothes and re-usable items to charity.

10. Eat right. Buy more fresh vegetables and fewer pre-packaged dinners. Buy what's in season and prepare meals accordingly. Buy staples such as rice and beans in bulk, and when they're on sale. It's amazing how much better you, your wallet, the environment, and especially those of the bovine or porcine persuasion, feel if you limit your meat intake.

It takes very little effort to do incorporate the things mentioned above into one's life, but every little bit makes a difference. Have a happy Earth Day!

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