Going green doesn’t have to break the bank to make a difference. We asked our sustainability experts for their top tips to make a big impact on your environmental footprint and not on your wallet.
- Stop Hand Washing & Pre Rinsing.
Use your dishwasher instead! Today’s ENERGYSTAR® certified dishwashers use less than half the amount of energy and can save nearly 5,000 gallons of water a year versus hand washing.
Always remember to scrape, not rinse. Not only does scraping save water but it actually helps your dishwasher detergent work better. Detergent needs food particles for the cleaning enzymes to latch onto, if there are no food particles for the enzymes to lock onto, you’ll see a reduction in cleaning and it may even cause etching to your glasses and dishes.
- Switch to LED Lighting.
Traditional incandescent light bulbs lose around 80 percent of their energy to heat, which means only 20 percent of the energy is used for light. LED light bulbs are much more efficient and use between 10 to 20 percent of the energy required to power an incandescent bulb. LED bulbs also last longer than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs, which not only saves energy but also saves you money.
- Upgrade your Fixtures.
Chances are if your home is older than 10 years you probably haven’t upgraded your fixtures in quite some time. Modern fixtures have come a long way when it comes to water and energy savings. You don’t have to break the bank in this department to make a large impact either. Simply replacing an old shower head with a new water-efficient version can be fairly inexpensive and end up saving you quite a bit in utility bills. Some larger fixtures like water heaters and toilets can even offer you rebates on top of the utility energy savings. Another upside? Switching out new fixtures can also be an inexpensive way to update your kitchen and bath design.
- Install a Programmable Thermostat.
According to the Department of Energy, turning back your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours a day can save up to 10 percent on your heating and cooling bill. Programmable thermostats allow you to set the times you are away so that your heating or cooling system doesn’t waste energy when the household is away at work or school.
- Add a Water Filtration System.
Modern filtration systems can filter out a variety of impurities without a hefty price tag. With many different options and price points, even the smallest investment like a pitcher filter system can make a big impact on the amount of bottles that end up in a landfill.
- Change your Landscaping.
One of the easiest ways to cut down on your water and energy usage in the yard is by changing up the vegetation. Adding plants that are native to your region and climate will not only reduce the amount of irrigation needed but also decrease the amount of maintenance needed. Native plants are already adapted to the special needs of your region and are more likely to thrive without a lot of upkeep.
- Plant Shade Trees.
Planting trees not only helps the environment but it can also help lower your homes heating and cooling bills. Planting trees on the east and west sides of your home can help create shade during the warm summer months and according to the Arbor Day Foundation could drop your air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent.
The savings don’t stop in the Autumn when the leaves fall either. Planting evergreen trees on the north side can help shield your home from the cold winter winds while still allowing sunshine to help warm your house.
- Plant a Pollinator Garden.
Bees may bring the sensation of fear or annoyance to some but they play a vital role in our every day lives. As bee populations seem to be dropping, simply planting a pollinator garden is one way to “bee” an advocate.
You won’t need a lot of space or a green thumb, just a few nectar and pollen rich plants in a few different sizes and shapes. Try planting native plants to your region to cut down on water and maintenance and stay away from chemicals and pesticides which can be harmful to the bees.
- Install Rain Barrels.
These barrels can be made or purchased for a small amount of money but will add great value to your garden. The barrels capture rainwater and store it for future use making it ideal for watering your garden or lawn especially during times of drought or increased water regulation. Rainwater is also great for plants and compost piles and can help reduce run off pollution and erosion.
- Buy Local and Eat Local.
Community supported agriculture has become a popular way for people to get access to fresh produce from their area. When you buy fruits and vegetables from a farmers market or co-op you are not only supporting your local agriculture but you are also cutting down on packaging and transportation. Transportation can be one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Don’t stop at just produce, think meat! Our experts say that some of the best resources in your community can be found within the local 4-H group. Purchasing farm-raised meats through your local 4-H teaches a whole new generation about sustainability and supports their future educational goals.