Easy Ways to Live Greener

to ensure that pro-planet types would no longer be ignored by legislators. But you don’t have to be lobbying Congress to make a difference. Do your part by practicing these six habits each day

In the Morning

  • Brew “certified” coffee. A USDA Certified Organic label means it was grown using sustainable standards.
  • Green “to go.” Not brewing at home? Take a travel cup to your favorite java joint; they may fill it at a discount.

At Work

  • Double up. Configure your office printer or copy machine so it prints on both sides of the page.
  • Put it to sleep. If you’ll be away from your computer for more than 20 minutes, change it to “sleep” mode.

Running Errands

  • BYOB. Bags, that is. It’s good for your wallet, too: Some retailers, such as CVS, now pay you for every disposable bag you don’t take ($1 on a special CVS card for every four trips on which you BYO).

Before Bed

  • Truly turn off electronics. Plug your devices — the TV and DVD player, or the computer and printer — into a UL-certified power strip; switch the whole group off for the evening to prevent phantom electrical draw.

Start ‘Em Young

  • Game off? Yep, get the kids to turn off video games (both the TV and the console) after they’re done playing, and you’ll win back about $100 per year.
  • Pitch in. Live in one of the 11 states with bottle bills? Have your kids collect aluminum cans and plastic bottles to redeem for cash to spend on a treat.
  • Don’t tap out. Teach children to turn off the water while brushing their teeth. Leaving the tap running during the recommended two minutes of brushing can waste up to five gallons of water a day.
  • Book it. Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book, The Lorax, stars a creature who “speaks for the trees” against those who’d cut them down. Talk about the message with your tykes (book and matching plush doll, $5 each, Kohl’s).

Green My Ride

In January 1994, GH lamented that American cars were only required to average 27.5 miles per gallon, noting, “If the U.S. required American automakers to produce cars averaging 45 miles per gallon of gas (the Honda Civic VX already averages 55 mpg)… the country would save 3.1 million barrels of oil a day.” So how are we doing? U.S. cars are required to average 35.5 miles per gallon — by 2016. In the meantime, use these three tricks to up your mpg.

  1. Slow down. Driving 10 mph above 60 is like adding nearly 50 cents to the price of a gallon of gas, since higher speed equals more guzzling.
  2. Get pumped. Once a month, check the pressure of each of the tires against the guidelines listed in your car’s manual; add air if needed. Doing this can improve mileage by about 3 percent.
  3. Air out. Replace filters regularly. A new oxygen sensor alone can improve mileage by as much as 15 percent.

21 Ways to Green Your Home (and keep some greenbacks in your pocket)

1. Switch to Energy Star-rated CFL bulbs, like GHRI fave Satco’s Mini Spiral S6202; they use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. You’ll knock $30 off your electric bill for each bulb over its lifetime.

2. Plant trees around the house strategically (on the south and west sides; shading the air-conditioning unit, if possible) to save up to about $250 a year on cooling and heating.

3. Install dimmer switches in the living and dining rooms and three bedrooms to dial down electricity fees about $37 a year.

4. Since 1992 legislation, all new showerheads must have a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or lower. Replace your old showerhead and save up to $45 a month for a family of four.

5. Wrap an insulation blanket around your water heater and lower its running cost as much as 9 percent.

6. Run a full dishwasher whenever possible — it uses half or less of the water and energy of washing the same dishes by hand. And don’t waste water by rinsing before loading (today’s machines are designed to power off the mess).

7. Invest in a faucet-mounted water filter for a low $30, and use refillable bottles like our top-rated GHRI pick, the Nalgene OTG Everyday 24-ounce bottle. By giving up bottled water, a family of four can save about $1,250 a year.

Double-Duty Ideas

The goal is “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

8. Magazines. Roll up a couple of these and stick one into each of your calf- or knee-high boots so the footwear will keep its shape.

9. Empty paper-towel roll. Flatten,and use it to sheathe a knife kept in a drawer.

10. Small glass food jars. These make perfect see-through storage vessels for nails, screws, nuts, and bolts.

11. Old shower curtain. Stash one in your car’s trunk to line it when carting potentially messy paints or picnic and beach gear.

12. Used coffee grounds. Spread them over flower beds of acid-craving plants such as azaleas or rhododendrons.

13. Plastic tub. Get the largest-size container of yogurt, sour cream, or margarine. When done with the tub, rinse and reuse it as a travel dish for pets or for craft-supply storage.

14. Plastic gallon milk jug. Cut off top with a utility knife just above the handle and use as a scoop for kitty litter, birdseed, etc.

15. Foam packing peanuts. Put some in the bases of potted plants to help drainage.

16. Plastic mesh produce bag. Turn it into a no-scratch scrubber for a gunky pot or pan. Ball up the bag, scour, then throw the whole mess away.

Good (Enough) Ways to Go Green

GOOD WAY VS. GOOD ENOUGH
17 Switch to a front-loading washer from a top loader. In a recent GHRI test of front loaders, they used less than half the water traditionally used by a top loader for a full load. Pocket up to 25 cents for every laundry load you wash in cold water (versus hot). Cold-wash three loads a week, and save up to $40 a year.
18 Install a programmable thermostat, which can save an estimated $150 yearly if preset to cool your home’s air or pump up the heat (such as before you get home from work). Lower your heater’s temp by 2 degrees to potentially lower your bill about $40 a year. In warm months, set the AC at 78 degrees (at 73 degrees, you’ll pay 40 percent more!).
19 Upgrade two toilets made before 1992 to low-flow ones, and turn down water costs nearly $200 a year in a two-bathroom, four-person home. Not in the budget to replace your toilets? Try Brondell Perfect Flush ($79), which will convert your toilet into a dual-flush — saving about half the water and $100 per year per toilet.
20 Always look for the ‘organic’ label on veggies and fruit, which means that they were produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. If buying only organic is a strain on your finances, opt for organic versions of the items known to have the highest pesticide levels: peaches, apples, and bell peppers.
21 Open windows and doors or operate window or attic fans when the weather permits. Most heating and cooling systems do not bring fresh air into the house. Bring home superhero plants. Certain easy-care greens (English ivy, mums, and peace lilies) naturally help remove indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.
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