By Trae BodgeMarch 31, 2014 | 9:48 a.m. EDT
The Earth and your bank account have overlapping interests.
These 11 tweaks for greener living will make you feel not only more empowered but a lot richer, too. And none of them (except, okay, maybe No. 7) take any big effort at all!
- Follow a “BYOB” policy: That last B stands for “bag,” not “booze.” Just stash a bunch of reusable totes by your front door or in the trunk of your car, or better yet, attach a couple of Shopper Totes from Pier 1 ($4 each) to your key ring so you never forget them. Some stores, like Target, Whole Foods and many grocery stores, will even give you a small discount on your purchase as a thank you.
- Don’t have a cow: Nearly 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from farming livestock (mostly cows), according to a 2013 report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. So try a cheaper veggie burger instead of a pricier (and greasier) hamburger once a week instead. And remember, vegetarian Monday doesn’t have to mean pasta. Amy’s, found in your grocer’s freezer, makes nine types of veggie burgers ($6 for four patties) and organic, heat-and-serve meals, including Thai Stir Fry, Indian Vegetable Korma and Mexican Casserole ($5 each).
- Do fewer dishes: Rather than run a bunch of half-loads in your dishwasher, just wait until you can’t fit another plate, bowl or spoon in it. According to the EPA, running only full loads will save the earth 100 pounds of carbon dioxide and save you $40 a year, plus you’ll avoid that horrible feeling that you’re always unloading the dishes. Same goes for laundry: full loads only.
- Shed a little light: The average American household has more than 50 light bulbs. If you swap out just five of your most frequently used incandescents for those curly Energy Star-certified Compact Fluorescent Bulbs ($29.88 for a 4-pack of 60 watts at Home Depot), you’ll use at least 75 percent less energy and save about $70 a year on your electric bill, or up to $135 per bulb over its lifespan. Not a bad return on something that costs just a few bucks up front.
- Ride high: Ditching your gas guzzler and buying a 50-mile-per-gallon Toyota Prius ($19,000) isn’t the only way to help reduce your car’s carbon footprint. If you drive less than 68 miles a day, the 2014 Electric SmartCar ($12,490), which has been ranked the most efficient vehicle of the year, may be right for you. It takes no gas or oil and gets the equivalent of 107 miles per gallon. Plus, you’ll get a $7,500 federal tax credit. The only caveat other than its tiny size: You’ve got to charge it, but with an adapter, it plugs into any regular 120-volt outlet.
- Don’t drive like a jerk: FuelEconomy.gov found that not speeding, slamming the on gas and braking like a maniac could improve your gas mileage by up to 33 percent. It also found that just properly inflating your tires could improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent, saving you a dime a gallon.
- Roll with it: Leave your car in park and ride a bike instead. If you don’t have one, go to your local bike shop and get properly fitted, and don’t forget to pick up a helmet while you’re there. Nutcase makes some super-stylish ones ($50-$75; nutcasehelmets.com). Pedaling will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, and you’ll burn roughly 9 calories every minute, which means you’ll feel hotter and the earth won’t.
- Go with the wind: Last year, the average U.S. household spent about $400 smackers on electric bills from June to August, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. To lower yours by about 14 percent, just dial up your thermostat by 2 degrees this summer and turn on your ceiling fan. Energy Star has rated the Haiku by Big Ass Ceiling Fans ($995; haikufan.com) as the most energy efficient fan in the world. It’ll make you feel like you’re lying on a beach with a cool sea breeze blowing over you, or hopefully, you know, something like that. Just remember to turn it off when you leave the room.
- Don’t get bottled up: Every American drinks an average of 30.8 gallons of bottled water each year, according to a 2012 report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation. If you’re drinking it in 8-ounce portions that means you alone are personally responsible for nearly 493 plastic bottles every year, 87 percent of which are now clogging up landfills, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rather than muck up the planet, just get a reusable water bottle and fill it at the tap. Contigo ($9.99-$24.99 from Target) makes leakproof bottles in all sizes. And trust me, it’ll taste just as good.
- Clean Green: When it comes to keeping your house sparkly clean, avoid cleaning products that contain phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia, as the EPA deems these to be environmentally hazardous. Honest ($5.99 for 26 oz. from Bed, Bath & Beyond) and Mrs. Meyers ($7.99 for 32 oz. from Soap.com) are non-hazardous and effective alternatives to chemical cleaners, as is good old vinegar and water.
- Score free stuff: Before you head out to the store to buy more made-in-China plastic everything, try checking your local Freecycle board (freecycle.org). The group, which is of course free to join, currently boasts more than 7.1 million members worldwide and allows you to search for free stuff that others want to just give away, including furniture, kids toys, computers and more. Freecycle is also a great way to get rid of all that unused junk taking up space in your basement. This is the best kind of recycling, and it’ll make you, and the planet, happy.