12 Green Living Habits That'll Save You Every Month


Another Earth Day is just around the corner. Let's get a head start on saving the planet with these eco-friendly lifestyle tips that'll also save you moolah every month. (See also: 11 Ways the Government Pays You to Live Green)

1. Take Advantage of Natural Light

I try to keep the lights off in the house as much as possible, even when I go to the bathroom late at night (I use my phone as a flashlight instead) to reduce my overall energy costs. As an alternative to the artificial lights in my house, I take advantage of natural light from the windows during the day (open your doors and blinds) and sometimes candles or other secondary light sources (like my devices) when the sun goes down.

2. Plug Drafts to Reduce Heating Costs

If there are drafts coming in from holes and crevices around your house, the climate-controlled air for which you pay is escaping. Resolve this costly problem by plugging drafts yourself (if you're able to identify the draft location and capable of doing the work) or hiring someone to help you out. Many times, however, the solution to the problem is as simple as putting a towel or blanket in front of doors and wrapping windows and A/C units for the winter.

3. Adjust the Settings on Your Appliances

Your appliances could be working overtime unnecessarily. Check the settings on your fridge, freezer, stove, microwave, and more to determine if they're turned up too high. If they can get the job done properly on lower settings, turn them down.

4. Install a "Greywater" System

Greywater — essentially any household wastewater with the exception of the toilet — can be repurposed in other areas around the home to help you cut back on water usage across the board.

"A... laundry-to-landscape greywater system can reduce water costs by reusing water used on clothes washing or sink/shower water to irrigate the garden," says Morgan Vondrak, a certified sustainable landscape designer at Argia Designs in San Francisco. "This is a great way to grow fruit trees and water intensive edible shrubs."

Conservation and green design expert Pablo Solomon suggests a couple more uses for greywater. "Put a dishwashing pan in your sinks and showers to catch water. Also dip out and save your bath water. This greywater is great to flush toilets and to water plants," he says.

5. Use Cold Water to Wash Clothes, and Clean the Dryer Lint Trap

Using cold water versus hot water when washing clothes won't save you a ton, but if you're looking to shave a few bucks of your bill every month (and you're okay laundering with cold water), it's a decent solution.

"When doing laundry, use cold water instead of hot in your washing machine, which can save you over $3 per month," Solomon advises. "The dryer typically accounts for 5% of your monthly electric bill, but keeping the lint trap clean on a regular basis will dry clothes faster and lower energy expenditures."

6. Use Sunlight to Help Control Temperature

Drafts can affect the temperature of your home, especially when the heat is pumping during the winter months. But the amount of sunlight in your home can also dramatically raise or lower the inside temperature, which is important to remember during both the hot and cold seasons.

"Use window coverings to keep sunlight from heating your rooms too much in summer and to let in warming rays in the winter," Solomon recommends. "Window coverings can be expensive, but you can also improvise. You can use blankets, and you can also make your own curtains or buy them at resale shops. I have a friend who sewed bubble wrap between layers of cloth to make really attractive and amazingly efficient drapes."

7. Lower the Temperature of Your Hot Water Heater

I recommended using cold water instead of hot to wash clothes to save a few bucks a month, but you also should inspect your hot water heater to see if perhaps it's running too hot in general.

"If you have to turn on the cold water along with the hot so your shower isn't scalding, you are paying too much to heat your water," says Eileen Flanagan, author of Renewable: One Woman's Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope. "Most experts recommend 120 Fahrenheit. Once you find a temperature that is comfortable when you turn on just the hot tap, you can leave it set there and forget about it — except for vacations when you can turn it down further."

8. Power Your Devices From a Strip — And Remember to Turn It Off

Rather than plugging devices in single outlets spread all over the house, try to consolidate your energy and charging efforts onto one charging strip so you can control the power usage with one switch.

"Smart power plugs can detect how much electricity your 'energy vampires' — like TVs, game consoles, and mobile phones — are consuming and can be set to automatically turn off every night and then turn back on every morning," says Gene Wang, CEO and co-founder of People Power, a tech company in California.

As a habit, only plug in other devices and appliances — like printers, toasters, and coffeemakers — when you need to use them.

9. Nip Drips in the Bud ASAP

Hopefully we're all shutting off the sink while we're brushing our teeth and taking quick showers to conserve water, but it's all for naught if you have a leak in your pipes or a drippy faucet. If either of these situations are flushing your money down the drain, put a stop to it.

10. Think of Carpet and Rugs as Extra Insulation

Rugs and carpeting can provide extra insulation in your home, which is helpful during the winter months. It's often cheaper to install — especially area rugs — than re-insulating your home or turning the heat up. Plus, your little tootsies will thank you for not having to touch a cold floor in the morning.

11. Travel by Foot, Bike, or Public Transportation More Often

You can save a serious amount of money on gas and car maintenance by changing the way you travel, especially locally. Walk, bike, or take public transportation to the places you need to go more often when the weather is nice. Carpooling is a great option, too. I used to carpool with a buddy of mine to work — we would each have one week on and one week off, which resulted in significant fuel savings (more than $1,000) that I was able to put toward other expenses.

12. Consider Scheduling an Energy Audit

If you're serious about going green, but don't really know where to start, consider scheduling an energy audit to determine what can and needs to be done to reduce your carbon footprint and monthly energy spend.

"Most utility companies offer them free or close to free," says Shel Horowitz, author and green business profitability expert. "Last time we did one, they gave us hundreds of dollars worth of LED light bulbs and picked up two-thirds of the cost of re-insulating."

What are some of your green living habits that save you money every month? Let me know in the comments below.

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