The Ultimate Guide to Going Green

You’ve probably heard it before: climate change is the existential crisis of our time. And although the worst is yet to come, the effects of our changing climate are already here. Wildfires plague the west coast while hurricanes pummel the east, as unseasonal weather disrupts food production in the bread belt. But what can we do about it? The best thing we can do is take action. Transitioning to greener, more sustainable means of living is not just helpful — it’s inevitable. Best of all, although going green does (in some cases) require an initial investment, it will save you money in the long run. Sound too good to be true? Read on to learn how to go green and save money.

This ultimate guide to going green can teach you how to reduce your carbon footprint in your home, your business, and your day-to-day life.

Why go green?

In many cases, going green is cost-efficient. Using sustainable energy lowers your gas and electricity bills. But going green isn’t just about cutting costs — it’s also a crucial vanguard to protect ourselves and our children from the dangers of climate change.

Over the past twenty years alone, Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice. In the same time period, Antarctica lost about 127 billion tons per year. Melting ice means rising sea levels, which threaten coastlines everywhere. And fluctuating temperatures are already driving extreme weather events across the globe.

In the U.S., large corporations are the biggest contributors of carbon emissions. But the effects of our changing climate are already cataclysmic. If we hope to turn the tides, we all need to do our part.

Fortunately, there are a ton of simple steps that you can take to improve the sustainability of your home, your business, and your day-to-day life. Plus, sustainable living isn’t just morally right — it also comes with a ton of cost benefits and tax breaks!

So how exactly can you join the fight for our climate? Read on to learn how to go green and save money in your business, your property, and your lifestyle.

Go green and save money in your business

What can you do?

Reduce, reuse, recycle

You’ve probably heard it before, but this simple slogan can drive impactful change. If you use paper cups in your office, swap them for recyclable paper cups, or even for reusable glass or ceramic alternatives. If you don’t already recycle, be sure to start. You can even set up a compost system for food scraps, like banana peels and apple cores!

And this doesn’t just apply to food. Whenever you’re buying new office supplies, prioritize high-quality, long-lasting options over cheap disposable alternatives. In the long run, you’ll save a ton on replacements.

Go paperless

Do you regularly print fat stacks of company memos? Do you ask your employees to fill out payroll forms and tax statements on paper? Or do you communicate with your mailing list via snail mail? If so, your business might benefit from going paperless! You’ll save a ton of money — after all, ink cartridges aren’t cheap — and you’ll waste far fewer resources in the process.

Reduce electricity

In your office, be sure to use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs in leiu of standard incandescent light bulbs. These energy-efficient bulbs use 75% less electricity than standard bulbs, but deliver just as much light!

Plus, simply installing large windows can lower your light usage during the daytime. Natural light is sustainable and cost-effective!

If you want to go above and beyond (and you have the means to make the investment), you can also reduce power usage by investing in renewable energy. By installing solar panels or wind turbines, you can offload some of your office’s energy usage to clean, renewable sources. It will permanently lower your electric bill, and it even qualifies you for a tax credit!

Need help financing the investment? Browse top business loan lenders here.

Don’t overdo heating and cooling

Is your office air conditioned to frigid temps all summer long? And do you crank the heat up to 76 all winter? When you crank up the air conditioning, you’re not just freezing your employees — you’re also wasting energy racking up a massive electric bill! In the summer, set the thermostat to 71 degrees Farenheit at the lowest. To save even more, lower the heat to 61 degrees when the office is unoccupied.

If you own your building (rather than renting), you should also invest in weather-stripping and caulking to more effectively retain heat.

Use green vehicles

If your business requires driving, consider upgrading some of your vehicles to green alternatives. If you drive a lot, an electric or hybrid vehicle will vastly reduce your carbon footprint and your gas bill! Plus, it qualifies you for the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit.

If you don’t have a company car, you can still encourage your employees to make the switch by installing an alternative fuel vehicle refueling station. The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit motivates business owners to install such facilities by allowing them to subtract 30% of the costs from your taxes!

The benefits

In addition to helping to support the survival of our species on this planet, improving the sustainability of your business practices also brings tangible financial benefits. If you take the time and effort to go green, you can enjoy the following advantages.

Improved employee productivity

No one wants to spend their workdays hunched over a desk in a stuffy, overheated, windowless room. So-called “sick building syndrome,” a malady marked by headaches, fatigue and dizziness, is linked to airborne contaminants suspended in stale, poorly-circulated air. Poor temperature control is also linked to slowed reaction times among workers.

By contrast, replacing artificial indoor lighting with natural daylight can boost worker productivity. Proper fresh air exchange systems significantly reduce symptoms associated with sick building syndrome, resulting in fewer sick days.

Improved public image

Not convinced that going green is the right move for your business? Well, what if we told you that 80% of consumers want you to?

That’s right, a shocking 80% of consumers across the U.S. and UK prioritize buying from ethical and sustainable businesses. That’s a massive majority of consumers. If you want to win the loyalty of your customers, sustainable business practices are a great way to start.

Plus, a recent CGS study revealed that two-thirds of buyers consider sustainability when making a purchase. Moreover, two-thirds of shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. If you want to stay relevant and competitive in this increasingly climate-conscious market, going green is imperative.

Tax breaks

If you invest in renewable energy by installing green fuel sources (e.g. solar panels, fuel cells, wind turbines, geothermal systems, etc.), you qualify for the Investment Tax Credit! You can deduct 30% of investment costs for solar power, fuel cells, and wind turbines, or 10% for geothermal, microturbines and combined heat and power (CHP). However, in order to qualify, you must own the equipment yourself. Also, the equipment must be operational in the year that you take the credit.

And as stated above, investing in a green vehicle and/or a green vehicle refueling situation can also qualify you for tax breaks.

Your business may also be eligible for state tax credits and other local incentives for going green. Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewals and Efficiency (DSIRE) website for programs and resources available in your location. It’s worth your while to bookmark the site, as programs change fairly regularly.

Go green and save money in your home

What can you do?

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 water consumption by 25%, according to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

Install energy-efficient doors

But what makes a door energy-efficient? Doors constructed from fiberglass or steel and built to fit tightly into their frames retain heat far more effectively than wooden doors.

There are advantages to each material. Fiberglass doors are often more attractive and are well-suited to cold or humid environments, but they’re also more expensive. On the other hand, steel doors are stronger and better at retaining cold in hot, dry climates. But their severe aesthetic may not suit every house.

According to the 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, you can expect a 77.8% return on investment (ROI) for the installation of a fiberglass door, and a 75% ROI for a steel door. Plus, these figures only account for your rising property value — you’ll also save on your gas bill every month!

Use tankless water heaters

Tankless water heaters heat and cool water as you use it, rather than continually heating a massive tank. Accordingly, they use a lot less energy than traditional water heaters. How much less? Depending on how strategically you place them, tankless water heaters lower your energy bills by at least 20%, and by up to a whopping 50%. That’s a lot of savings!

Put in a skylight

A skylight may not sound like a particularly modern innovation. But when you consider that 10% of your energy usage comes from your lights, it starts to sound a bit more compelling! Simply by opening your home to gorgeous natural light, you can decimate your carbon footprint.

Transition to native plants on your lawn

Looking for a cheap way to go green and save money? Not everyone can afford to knock a hole in their roof or install a brand-new plumbing system. Luckily, if you have a grass lawn, there’s a cheap way to slash your energy bill and protect the planet in one fell swoop. Simply replace your grass with a garden of plants native to your area!

With a native plant lawn, you can say goodbye to your sprinkler system. That means less wasted water and a beautiful, low-maintenance garden!

Replace your fireplace

A cozy fireplace is a wonderful focal point for a warm, comfy living room! Unfortunately, it’s also a geyser of carbon emissions. But you don’t have to say goodbye to your warm winter nights by the fire. Just replace your fireplace with a pellet stove!

Burning wood releases nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, dangerous particulates, and more. Instead of wood, pellet stoves burn tiny pellets of compressed organic waste. A single pellet can burn for hours, creates very little waste, and warms your house far more efficiently than wood!

It costs $1,700-$3,000 to install a pellet stove (depending on whether you buy a free-standing stove or a fireplace insert). Depending on the size of your home, you can even turn down the thermostat and heat your entire home with your pellet stove for about $9/month.

Transition to renewable energy

You can reduce your carbon footprint a ton by installing renewable energy systems like solar panels or wind turbines! The right renewable energy solution for you depends on your environment — solar panels, for instance, are more useful in Los Angeles than in Rochester, New York. Regardless of your choice, installing renewable energy systems into your home will considerably lower your power bill. Plus, it qualifies you for the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit!

Need help financing your renovation? Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit are great, low-interest financing options for homeowners. Browse home equity loans here, or home equity lines of credit here.

Reduce waste

It takes hundreds of years for plastics to decompose. In landfills — which are designed to store garbage, not to expedite its decomposition — that rate is even slower. It’s important to do everything you can to reduce waste.

Wherever you can, buy lasting products in lieu of disposables. If you need to use disposables, invest in compostable materials instead of plastics. Nowadays there are even compostable plastics made of compostable materials!

Plus, if you have a yard, consider getting a compost bin! Instead of leaving your food waste to rot in a landfill for centuries, a compost bin will churn it into good, clean earth.

The benefits

Tax breaks

The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit covers 30% of the cost of installing renewable energy systems, with no upper limit! If you own a property which you don’t live on, you can still get a tax credit for improving its energy efficiency — just take the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit instead.

This tax credit is due to expire in 2021, so if you want to install renewable energy systems, the best time to start is now.

Lower costs

Renewable energy will slash your power bill, and low-flow water fixtures will obliterate your water bill. Also, investing in products that last will spare you the costs of constantly replacing brittle disposable goods!

Go green and save money as an individual

What can you do?

Get an electric vehicle

An electric vehicle is a great way to reduce your footprint and decimate your gas bill! Plus, getting an electric car qualifies you for a tax credit with a value of $2,500 to $7,500 (depending on the vehicle’s size and battery capacity).

Not sure you can afford an electric car out-of-pocket? Browse auto lenders here.

Bring your own mug

If you get coffee every morning before work, invest in a reusable thermos. It’s far less wasteful than throwing away a new cup every day, and (depending on its volume), it may also get you more bang for your buck!

And this applies to more than just coffee. If you get lunch every day at work, bring tupperware to avoid a pile of disposable packaging. Use reusable tote bags instead of plastic bags for your groceries. Every little thing counts!

The benefits

Tax breaks

The Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit can provide you with $2,500 to $7,500, depending on your vehicle of choice.

Lower costs

Beyond the feeling of satisfaction that you’ll get for doing your part to protect our planet, green living will also save you money! The average American household spent $1,972  spends nearly $2,000 a year gasoline (source). Investing in a clean vehicle might not be cheap, but you’ll save thousands every year after you take the plunge!

The same goes for reusable goods. While a nice ceramic mug and a cloth tote may cost more than a paper cup and a plastic bag, they cost a good deal less than a hundred paper cups and plastic bags.

Financing your green investments

So you’ve decided to go green. Congratulations! You are taking a crucial step in the protection of our planet. But if you don’t have the savings to afford a solar installation out-of-pocket, how will you finance your renovations? A personal loan or a home equity loan can help you to make your green dreams a reality!

To go green and save money, you’ll need to spend a little money first. Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to find financing. Compare personal lenders side-by-side here, and home equity lenders here. Or if you’d rather start with a greener vehicle, compare auto loan lenders here.