Five Ways That You Can Go Green and Save Green

Saving the planet is nice and all but sometimes we need a more personal and direct barometer for us to gauge our earnest attempts to reduce the size of our carbon footprints. As always, it comes down to money.

This week…

Five Ways that You Can Go Green and Save Green

“Going green” continues to be a big trend in America, with the biggest selling point on this lifestyle transition being “saving the Earth.” Well, that’s great; I like the planet a lot, too. Sometimes though, it’s tough to motivate yourself to believe individual baby steps will somehow keep the polar ice from melting or reduce the smog in Los Angeles.

However, one incentive that everyone understands is money and – wouldn’t you know it – many of these “reduce, reuse, recycle” practices are inherently related to saving said money. That’s the universal carrot in front of the dirt mule.

Think of it this way: if you had a publicist, he or she would release an official statement, describing the changes in your life as “efforts in the pursuit of a smaller carbon footprint” or some such thing while, in your private social circles, you would explain you’re doing it just to save money. It’s a win-win. Allow me to explain.

5. Cut off the power

First up, I’m giving you a pretty simple one that everyone can undoubtedly improve upon. You’ve heard about unplugging the chargers for cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, and iPods when they’re not in use, as that can save some juice and some money. It is absolutely true and a valid exercise for those interested in making a bit of personal difference, in terms of energy conservation.

However, there are more “vampire devices” in your house consuming a lot more power (relatively) everyday, for no real reason and these are the ones that will make the difference. Televisions, cable boxes/Tivo/satellite boxes, stereo systems, computers, and kitchen appliances are good places to start. According to a study by UC-Berkeley, average households can burn through 60 kilowatt-hours per month, which can cost you somewhere between $2-$10, per month (this figure is clearly linked to how much of an electro-phile you are).

Obviously, it’s not a ton of money but there’s another benefit to this: each kilowatt-hour is the equivalent to 1.55 pounds of CO2 emissions, meaning if you cut off those monthly 60 kWH, that’s over 1000 pounds less CO2 that you’re putting in the air (the equivalent of not-burning through over 50 gallons of gas, in your car).

The easiest way to do this (unless you like unplugging things, one-by-one, everyday) is to incorporate more power strips with on/off switches. Done. The world thanks you.

4. Buy music online

Every once in a while, I encounter someone who balks at the notion of buying music at the iTunes store or a comparable place. But it’s 2009, people. Let’s get real.

I get that we would all like to pretend we’re huge supporters of the arts, in terms of “no, I like to have the liner notes and I don’t want our world to lose the whole culture of album art” but… come on. Why use up gas in driving to and from the store and then encouraging a process that consists largely of plastic production? On top of that, most albums are cheaper on iTunes than they are, in tangible form (to say nothing of the proclivity of Apple to throw in bonus tracks with full album purchases).

There’s no reason for these people not to join the rest of us in the digital world. It saves you money, time, gas, storage space, and frustration (who likes trying to get that horrendous packaging open?) while also doing a very smart personal thing, in terms of eliminating your consumption of unfavorable things like excess plastic.

3. Cold wash and air dry

Everyone does laundry. Sometimes it’s in your own place with your own appliances and sometimes it’s in a public place where you’re merely renting technology with quarters. Either way, there is some good money and power to be saved as a result of following two very simple pieces of advice.

Firstly: when you are washing clothes, wash them in cold water. Most of the energy used by washing machines is done as it attempts to heat up the water. All machines now offer the option of a hot or cold wash – some even get more specific, in terms of degrees between the two ends of the temperature spectrum and so, unless there’s some very pressing reason to make the washing machine heat up the water (there are some certain types of fabric that do require hot water)… keep it cool.

Secondly: go old school and hang your wet laundry out to dry. Whether it’s actually outside (great for making it smell naturally clean and fresh) or just in the bathroom, bypassing the dryer clearly saves a lot of energy and money. Additionally, cotton garments like t-shirts will not shrink as quickly (if at all) if you present them to the air rather than the electrically charged tiny chamber of extreme heat. Unless you need recently washed clothing as soon as possible, avoid the dryer and just hang it up.

2. Cruise control

There are a lot of ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of your car and the costly fuel that goes into it. Checking tire pressure, replacing a dirty air or fuel filter, and turning off the ignition while idling are just some of the small ways to make sure you don’t waste gas or money.

One of the more underreported ways to keep your car’s performance at an optimum level is cruise control. Nearly all cars from the last decade are equipped with this feature, which keeps your speed steady at all times. The most “green” aspect of taking advantage of this magical little integrated gadget is the constant fuel economy – accelerating and braking over and over again can burn up gas for no good reason. Sticking with the steady pace rather than the stop-and-start technique also removes the unnecessary strain placed on your vehicle’s hardware (which will save you trips to the mechanic) and keeps you from inadvertently speeding up or slowing down (which will ensure you don’t get a ticket). Money = saved.

Cruise control should be avoided in areas with notable variations in elevation, however, as the car will use up a lot of gas in throttling up and down while on the inclines and declines. Use this power wisely, children.

1. Battery-powered brain

The top spot goes to the most obvious way one can save energy and money.

Buy rechargeable batteries. They cost more but (get ready for this) THEY CAN BE RE-CHARGED – USUALLY AROUND A THOUSAND TIMES. They also lead to you throwing out fewer dead batteries, which is good for yourself and your world. If you want some super cool rechargeables to show off in order to inspire your friends, try the impressively smart products from USBCELL.

On top of this, there are ways to reuse the “dying” disposable batteries you already have:

  1. If you have an object like an electronic Christmas or Halloween decoration that only needs batteries for brief bursts of time, there’s no point in leaving those valuable AAs inside, as that illuminated pumpkin sits in the dark in the attic for 12 months. Take them out, put them in a place that actually needs them.
  2. In some devices, merely rearranging the batteries’ order can pull a little more charge out of the once-proud cylinders (i.e., swap #1 for #2, #3 for #4, etc.).
  3. If your digital camera says the batteries inside are no longer up to snuff, don’t just toss them out – put them in your television remote, wireless headphones, or that touch lamp in the hall closet. Some devices require a higher minimum charge than others, and so when something that requires a lot of power says a battery is dead, it rarely actually is.
Justin Brown

Justin Brown is an artist and writer living in Virginia. He channels most of his enthusiasm into making things for his online art shop, Artness! by Justin Brown. You can keep up to date with him, his worldly adventures, and his dogs by following him on Instagram and on Facebook