Be Smarter About Your Commute
If just 5% of the people who commute by car into New York City every day switched to public transit, walking or cycling, they’d prevent 150 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year. And that’s just the environmental side of things: If you take into account car maintenance, gas costs, tolls and the worth of your actual time, commuting by car can cost a household up to $125,000 over ten years!
You can reduce your carbon footprint and your monthly expenditures by using public transit, biking in nice weather, telecommuting once or twice a week (if possible), or using ride-share apps to establish carpools with others who live nearby.
Think Before You Buy
In this age of big-box retailers, it’s possible to purchase anything and everything at a fraction of the cost that we once paid. But what’s the point of buying cheap if you just have to replace the item in six months?
Not only is it killing your wallet, but it’s also killing the planet: Many cheap consumer goods are made in faraway places with lax environmental laws, so the planet is harmed when the goods are manufactured—and then again when the products are shipped halfway around the world.
So rather than look for the least expensive items, shop for quality, and try to buy local and domestic goods first. Renting or borrowing things like lawnmowers and table saws is another great way to go greener—as is hitting up your library.
Organic produce grown by farmers in your community typically costs less than processed food—and it has a significantly diminished impact on the planet. What’s more, you’ll also be supporting local producers instead of giving your money to big agribusiness corporations. Everyone wins!
When you eat green, you should drink green too. So ditch the plastic bottled water and invest in a metal canister with a built-in water filtration system. You’ll get the crisp taste of bottled water without creating plastic waste, and you could save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year by filtering your own tap water.
Schedule a Home Energy Audit
A home energy audit is the heavyweight champion of saving money while also preserving the planet. For a one-time expenditure, you could potentially save thousands of dollars over the life of your home. Even renters can benefit, thanks to the comparatively large savings you’ll get for a small layout.
In a home energy audit, professionals use infrared cameras, surface thermometers and furnace efficiency meters to find spots in your home where you’re unnecessarily expending energy. They’ll also take a look at utility bills and assess your family’s lifestyle to determine the best course of action for your household.
Conducting a home energy audit is a bit like consulting a personal finance adviser—it can pay massive dividends over time, but it needs to be done right the first time. So consult the Better Business Bureau, ask to speak to references and confirm that the auditor uses a calibrated blower door and does thermographic inspections before handing over your hard-earned cash. For a list of auditors in your area, check out the Residential Energy Services Network.
Clean the Old-Fashioned Way
There’s no need to buy harsh chemical cleaners—a number of inexpensive, common household items can do just as good of a job, if not better. Baking soda, vinegar, lime juice, ketchup, kosher salt, tea tree oil, club soda, cornmeal, peroxide and even toothpaste can be used to clean everything from floors to antique linens.
Install Low-Flow Water Fixtures
A study conducted by the State of Nebraska’s Energy Office Engineer found that 43% of the cost of a hot water bill can be linked to showering alone. The same study also reported that a low-flow showerhead alone can save $32.50 per person, per year, on a water bill. Water-conserving toilets can also reduce consumption—by 25%, according to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.