21 Practical Tips to Help the Environment

tips to save the environmentIn this list are things you can implement both indoors and outdoors to help save the environment.

1. Prevent energy leaks at home.

Check this out: Did you know that heating and cooling can make up to 50 percent of your energy bill each month? If you heat and cool your home more efficiently by fixing leaks, you’ll save money and reduce your impact on the environment.

Plugging up those energy leaks is simple. Insulating your home will keep your house warmer in the winter and help to cool things off in the summer. Sealing all your ducts can help as well.

2. Lower your home thermostats!

That’s right, thermostats, plural! Most people have their heater, hot water heater, and refrigerator thermostats set at unnecessary temperatures.

Try this out for a few months: Set your heater at 68 degrees F or lower in the winter and 78 degrees F or higher in the summer. Programmable home thermostats are an even better way to heat and cool your home responsibly.

Next, adjust the temperature on your hot water heater to 140-degrees F or lower if possible. Most people keep the temperature on the hot water heater much higher than they really need. Try it out!

And finally, make sure to use the energy-saving settings on your refrigerator. Better yet, try switching to a more modern, energy saving frig. Look for new refrigerators with the Energy Star label.

3. Switch as many bulbs as possible in your home to compact fluorescent bulbs.

Good news! Compact fluorescent bulbs are really going mainstream nowadays, which means they’re cheaper and easier to find than ever. That’s great, because the California Energy Commission reports that lighting can make up to 25 percent of the average home’s electricity consumption. When you switch your incandescent light bulbs to ultra efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, you’ll be making a big difference in your energy use. Additionally, compact fluorescent bulbs generally last up to seven years each.

4. Use a low-flow shower head.

You may associate a low-flow showerhead with one that reduces your shower to a frustrating trickle. Thankfully, technologies have improved so that you can enjoy a high pressure shower while saving water at the same time!

Another benefit is that with a low-flow showerhead, you will not only save water, you’ll also save energy! Why? The California Efficiency Partnership says that about 73 percent of the water you use in your shower is hot water, and you use a lot of energy to heat that water for you shower. They go on to say that the use of low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators can reduce your water heating costs by around to 50 percent!

5. Compost!

Return your organic waste where it belongs: the soil! Rather than sending banana peels, grass clipping, etc. to the municipal dump, start a compost pile instead. The Environmental Defense Fund says that around 18 percent of the waste an average family in the U.S. produces comes from the yard and garden. If you recycle your yard and garden waste, you’ll reduce the amount of energy used to send this waste to the dump. Add your organic kitchen scraps to your yard waste and you’re significantly decreasing your waste.

Compost also makes your plants stronger and healthier, reducing the need for fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Don’t forget that many cities have municipal composting programs for your yard waste.

6. Use drip irrigation systems in your garden.

Drip irrigation systems, also known as micro-irrigation systems, are designed to deliver water directly to your plants, with minimal waste. According to Colorado State University, drip irrigation systems are around 90 percent efficient, whereas traditional sprinkle systems are only around 50-70 percent efficient.

7. Plant trees in your yard and community.

Everyone knows that planting trees can help the environment. Trees sequester (trap) CO2 emissions, minimizing the effects of global warming. They also have many other beneficial effects. Trees cool your home, reducing the energy used for cooling. Trees improve mental health. Trees increase property values. Trees reduce urban runoff and capture dust particles from the air. Trees reduce noise pollution. The list goes on and on!

8. Go “mostly organic” in your lawn and garden.

Using organic gardening products and techniques is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. You don’t necessarily have to go 100 percent organic either. Try out a few organic pesticides or fertilizers and see what works for you! By going mostly organic in your garden, you’ll help to stimulate beneficial soil organisms, reduce harmful wastewater runoff, and create a healthier place for your pets and children to play.

9. Use a reel or electric lawn mower.

If you have a small yard, consider using a manual push reel mower. Why? Here’s a testimonial from Lars Hundley, one of the writers for this blog:

“People who use gas mowers put up with ear-splitting noise, headache- and nausea-inducing fumes and mechanical problems,” says Mr. Hundley, Chief Gardening Evangelist at Clean Air Gardening. He prefers the serenity and simplicity of old-fashioned reel mowers. “There is a real element of pleasure to using a manual mower,” he says.

Today’s reel mowers are a far cry from the one your grandfather used. “Reel mowers are light, quiet, and virtually maintenance-free,” notes Hundley. The mowers are environmentally friendly, and also better for your grass. “Rotary mowers tear the grass — reel mowers cut grass like scissors, leaving a fine spray of clippings as mulch for your yard,” he explains. They do take some effort, but they aren’t any harder to push than an 80-pound gas mower that isn’t self-propelled.

Reel mowers aren’t necessarily practical for really big lawns, so think about switching that gas mower to a clean, non-polluting electric mower.

10. Replace your single-paned windows with double-pane windows.

This can be an expensive home renovation, but it will make all the difference in the world in terms of saving you energy during the cold winter months. The American Council for Energy Efficiency has a website on selecting the best energy efficient windows for your home. In addition to double panes, energy efficient features to look for on windows include tinted glass coatings, low-emissivity (low-e) coatings, and multiple layers of glazing.

11. Turn off lights and electronic devices when you’re not using them.

We all know it’s important to turn off the lights when you leave a room to save energy. How about turning off your T.V., radio, computer, etc.? We’re not talking about simply turning the off switch. Many electrical appliances continue to use a small amount of energy when turned “off.” This energy will add up over time.

So, we recommend connecting several appliances to one of those surge suppressing power outlet strips that has an on/off switch. When you leave for work in the morning, flip the switch and your devices will be completely turned off. Try that for a few months and see how much energy you save!

12. Fix water leaks in the bathroom, kitchen, landscaping, etc.

You know those tiny leaks you’ve been meaning to fix inside your house and in your landscaping? Guess what? That water loss adds up over time and can cost you big money. Not to mention all that wasted water! Protect our freshwater resources and save money by fixing those leaks! It’s another of many great ways to help the earth.

13. Consider switching to a low-flow toilet.

According to the U.S. Government’s Environmental Protection Agency, about 41% of our indoor water use in the home goes toward flushing the toilet and 33% goes to bathing! Modern low-flush toilets are designed to use water efficiently. Here’s a website that has lots of information on reducing water use with a low-flush toilet and other simples changes in the home.

If you don’t switch to a low-flush toilet, you can also use low-tech methods like putting a brick or a small milk jug in the tank to reduce water use. You can also take this sage advice, “If you pee, leave it be, if you strain, pull the chain!”

14. Use ceiling fans to cool off in the summer.

If you use ceiling fans during hot summer days, you can create a cooling effect similar to “wind child.” A few ceiling or regular fans strategically placed in your home can reduce the amount of time you spend with the air conditioning on. There are even Energy Star certified ceiling fans out there that use even less energy than typical ceiling fans!

15. Use solar energy to dry your clothes!

Here’s something you can do that is easy, practical, and won’t cost a penny to implement. In fact, it will save you money! No matter where you live, the sun has to come out eventually. When it does, hang your clothes out to dry.

So, take advantage of this natural energy to dry your clothes! It may take you 10 extra minutes out of your day to hang up your clothes, but that’s a small price to pay in the long run.

16. Invest in solar energy.

There are many ways to invest in solar energy. Unfortunately, some solar energy products for the home can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and have a payback period of a decade or longer.

However, there are lots of inexpensive solar gadgets out there you can try out. For example, solar-powered landscaping lights can help you reduce how much energy you get from the “grid.” How about solar cell phone chargers?

If you can afford it and you’re going to be living in the same spot for many years to get the payback, outfit your home with a few solar panels.

17. Rethink transportation.

This tip encompasses several different ideas. It involves a lot of thinking, some basic planning, and finally putting your plans into action. Yes, hybrids are great. Yes, biofuels are cool. Yes, using public transportation is important. Yes, you should get out and walk and use your bicycle more often.

However, don’t feel bad that you don’t make enough money to buy a fancy hybrid. Don’t feel bad that public transportation sucks in your city (as it does it mine!). Don’t feel bad that you had to take a job with an hour commute to make ends meet!

Just sit and think about a few practical and environmentally friendly ways you can get from one place to another. Can you car pool to work? Can you take a bus when you go to the movie theater? Can you walk or bike to the corner store? Brainstorm and put at least a few of these ideas into action. Even if you don’t buy a hybrid car, walking instead of driving to the grocery store is a great way to help the environment!

18. Use small, efficient devices to cook food.

You love to cook and you’ve got a big fat oven that you use to cook everything. Cool. But consider that toaster ovens, pressure cookers, crock pots, microwaves, and electric grills are efficient and won’t heat up your kitchen in the summer. Less heat, less energy to cool your home.

19. Use some Xeriscaping principles in the garden.

You may have heard about Xeriscaping from your friends who live in arid regions of the U.S. However, Xeriscaping is not just for those who live among cactus and sage brush. Xeriscaping simply means that you use water wisely in your garden and landscaping. Some concepts of Xeriscaping are: using efficient irrigation systems, using low-water use plants, reducing turfgrass, and creating thoughtful water-wise garden designs.

20. Use some native plants in the garden.

Why grow native plants in your garden and landscaping? First off, native plants are better adapted to your area. This means that they require less maintenance and less water. They are also more resistant to pests and diseases. That translates to water savings and reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers. Additionally, native plants attract native wildlife and native beneficial insects. You don’t have to plant 100 percent natives to make a difference, consider just planting a few.

21. Get involved locally!

Look for small ways to help the environment in your community and offer your skills and expertise towards eco-friendly projects.

So, there’s your list of easy and practical ways that you can help the environment.

But wait. There are obviously more than 21 ways to make a difference, right? Of course there are. That’s where you come in!

Source: Practical Environmentalist (Abbrev.)

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