10 Easy Ways to be Nicer to the Environment and Your Wallet

By Nora Dunn on 10 October 2007 (Updated 17 March 2011) 10 comments

In recognition of upcoming Blog Action Day, I have ten easy suggestions for improving your lifestyle and the environment. Thank you to Joanna Yarrow's 1,001 Ways To Save The Earth for providing me with the creative inspiration.

1. Make Your Jeans Walk The Mile

Believe it or not, 3/4 of a pound of fertilizers and pesticides are used to produce one pair of jeans. But thanks to Myscha's recent popular article, there are at least 25 things you can do that will keep your torn up tattered denims from being a waste.

2. Dry Cleaning Isn't Dry Cleaning Anymore

It isn't dry, and when you think of all the chemicals used to dry clean your fancy duds, it isn't really clean either. Try not to buy clothes that require dry cleaning. If you must, then try to space out trips to the dry cleaners by taking care to air out your outfits between wearings.

Also believe it or not, some clothes that are "dry clean only" can in fact get washed on the cold cycle. Certainly heed this advice with caution, but I've done many a delicate load with my "dry clean only" duds and not had any troubles.

3. And If You Must Dry Clean, Get Rid of Those Hangers!

In my dry-cleaning days, I had more hangers than I did clothes. Take your extra dry cleaning hangers back to the dry cleaner for recycling. They'll save money on their own overhead, and you'll also help them save the environment from further hanger consumption.

4. It Doesn't Have to Be Scalding Hot to Clean

  • Speaking of washing clothes, try using a cooler cycle than what you are used to. Nine times out of ten your clothes aren't so dirty that they absolutely require the hot wash, and you'll save 30-60% of the energy consumed using the hot cycle.
  • When it comes to drying, don't over-dry your clothes, and consider using the cool-down cycle to utilize the residual heat in the dryer.
  • Even better, consider line drying your clothes.
  • If you're in the market for a new washer or dryer, this site has some great tips on what to look for to save both energy costs and the environment.

5. Iron Clad Pots & Pans

Although they may cost a little more at the outset, a good set of cast-iron pots and pans will last a lifetime (or two), and is more energy efficient than many other kinds. With the superior performance and non-stick qualities, you'll also turn out some of the best home-cooked meals you've had in years.

6. Car Washing Is A Gas!

When I owned a car, I loved to have it clean. I mean sparkly clean. But it meant many trips to the car wash, which was both expensive and a waste of energy and resources.

Of course, I tried to visit car washes with a water-recycling system (which recycles 95% of the water), but that wasn't always possible.

For those more disciplined than I, you can save some money, and heck - burn some extra calories - by washing the car yourself, and hold off on the hose; use a bucket and sponge to save extra 20 gallons of water consumption over using the hose.

Really into this idea? Better yet, use a rain barrel to catch rainwater for your car washes. The properties of rain water are actually more beneficial for getting the dirt off your car and keeping it shiny longer.

7. Cancel The Gym Membership

  • Huge energy is consumed to light and air condition your gym, and power all the machines. All to allow you to pretend you're climbing stairs, riding a bike, or running in the park. Why not try actually climbing the stairs, riding a bike, or running in the park?
  • I already showed you one way to reduce your gym membership fees, but here are a few more:
  • Find a way to volunteer for a conservation project. You'll not only help the environment by planting trees or maintaining public green spaces, but you'll also burn a ton of calories doing so!
  • If you can, bike to work. You will actually inhale less pollution than your counterparts who are sitting in their cars in bumper to bumper traffic. And if the commute is too painful to bicycle the old fashioned way, try an electric bicycle to help you pedal.

8. Cut Down On Your Pens

I never knew where they come from, but if you saw my pen collection five years ago you'd say I had an obsession. Now there's only one pen I actually use, and it's a really nice refillable ball-point pen given to me as a present exactly five years ago. Not only does it write beautifully, feel great in my hands, and the refills are cheap, but it saves all those crappy disposable pens from filling dumps.

9. Recycle Your Cell Phone, and Pocket Some Cash

In this day and age of having not only a functional but fashionable cell phone, we seem to replace them more and more frequently. Of course you can donate your old phone to local charities, or give it back to the retailer for recycling, but you can also find a service like this one that will actually purchase your used cell phone from you.

10. Be Frugal

Just being frugal not only saves your wallet, but helps to keep the planet green. In the age of consumption and abundance, it is easy to absolutely have to have the latest this and the most popular that. Before you put your credit card down to pay for the latest impulse gizmo though, consider your actual needs. Will this item be truly useful to you, and a positive addition to your life? Can you live without it?

Seventeen million heated toilet seats have already been sold worldwide, and one of the manufacturers of heated toilet seats projects sales of over 400,000 a year to North Americans alone.

Reality check, anyone?

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Andrea Karim's picture

Regarding the car wash, although it applies to pretty much everything involving water these days - get your hands on some phosphate-free, environmentally-friendly soap. I know it costs a bit more, but it'll make a difference in the long run if we do a little less damage to our water supply. :)

Guest's picture

I think we can use one cell phone for atleast two years, and this is enough time for a cell and after then we have to change it because in this much time there are lot of change in technology which can help us for further two years. And as you adviced, I always recycled it at retailer, very wise article.

Myscha Theriault's picture

As you know, I'm always looking for ways to go green that don't drive me into a financial ditch. Love the pen thing you mentioned. What I like about it too, is it brings back into focus an often overlooked gift opportunity, a nice engraved pen and pencil set (refillable) This is something my Mom did for me when I graduated from college, so I would have a nice set in my briefcase at interviews. High school graduation would also be a good time, or a sixteenth birthday. It honors a special occasion, and sets a nice environmental and professional tone at the same time.

Great post, Nora! (And hey, thanks for the kudos on my denim article.)

Nora Dunn's picture

There really are dozens of ways we can go green and save money. It was actually tricky to narrow it down to just ten!

Myscha Theriault's picture

I've done two other posts on 10 ways to go green and save money. And you know what? I hadn't covered any of the items on your list, to my recollection. So yes, there are definitely ways out there we haven't necessarily thought of to explore. Good job.

Amy B. Scher's picture

I didn't know, and would never think of most of these tips. I'm off to figure out what to do with all my extra pens! Thanks Nora. Excellent post!

Guest's picture
Tim D.

Good ideas! Here's one more: Think about all that good water that's running down the drain while you're waiting for it to get warm enough to wash your hands. We fill a plastic gallon jug with it and then use that to fill the dog dish, or water the plants.

Guest's picture
Tim D.

Good ideas! Here's one more: Think about all that good water that's running down the drain while you're waiting for it to get warm enough to wash your hands. We fill a plastic gallon jug with it and then use that to fill the dog dish, or water the plants.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hey, would you mind posting a link to where I can get a heated toilet seat? That sounds like something that would be nice to put in our outhouse.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Count me in on the list of people who want to know where to buy heated toilet seats!