37 ways to go green this year
37 ways to go green this year
Is this the year for change? We all make New Year’s resolutions, set goals and strive for healthier lifestyle changes. But, have you made tangible changes toward a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle? The late author and poet Dr. Maya Angelou said,
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
- Don’t like the ever-increasing energy bill you get each month? ...You can change that.
- Tired of seeing trash littering the streets and waterways in your neighborhood? …You can help remedy the problem.
- Negative environmental effects of fossil fuels got you fumed? …There’s a fix for that.
All it takes is small changes on your part to yield colossal benefits in your life and to the health of the environment. Mother Nature will thank you!
We want to help you make that change, so we strung together a big fat list of ways to sprinkle a little green into your life. By the way, many of these tips can actually save you some green; a substantial amount of green in some cases. What could be better than saving the planet and fattening your wallet at the same time?
Going Green = Valuable Rebates
Many green upgrades are eligible for state and federal rebates. This helps you recoup the often costlier upfront expenses associated with buying eco-friendly products.
Rebate and Tax Incentive Resources:
- Federal and state rebate programs
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)
- Rebate finder tool for ENERGY STAR certified products (EPA.gov)
If you can benefit from at least one of the tips below, we’ve done our job. Pat yourself on the back for being a part of the green movement in America.
1. Use energy efficient light bulbs
Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs last nearly 10x longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they save you a lot on energy costs in the long run (see below). Better yet, switch to LED bulbs in your house. An LED bulb lasts more than 5x longer than a CFL bulb, is more durable and more energy efficient.
The EPA states that 20 to 30 percent of municipal waste consists of food scraps and yard debris. Instead of throwing it away, compost it.
Although the science behind how composting works is pretty complicated, the basics of composting is easy. Mix “brown” materials (sticks, leaves, dirt) with “green” materials (fruit/veggie scraps, coffee and filters, tea bags), keep it moist, mix it at least weekly, and in several weeks you’ll have a fresh batch of organic compost ready for fertilizing plants, flowers and vegetables.
3. Replace your water heater
Water heaters are notorious energy hogs. In fact, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) says only heating and cooling systems trump water heaters for most energy consumption in the average home. When it’s time to replace the water heater, keep these 3 tips in mind:
- Tankless water heaters are not always the most efficient option. In fact, most of the times they’re not.
- Stick with the power source (usually gas or electric) that you currently have to eliminate potentially costly retrofits.
- ENERGY STAR certified water heaters are always a good bet. Pay attention to the Energy Factor (EF); the higher the number, the better. Electric water heaters will have an EF of 2.0 or higher while gas models will be 0.67 or higher.
If your water heater still has some usable life in it (efficient lifespan is generally around 13 years), you can “greenify” your current water by making it more efficient:
- Wrap it in a water heater insulating jacket (available at home improvement stores)
- Wrap insulation around the exposed hot water pipes
- Turn down the water heater temperature at least 30 degrees F (e.g., 140 to 110 degrees). Reducing the tank temperature by less than 30 degrees won’t lead to any substantial energy savings.
- Use cold water to wash clothes, and reduce water usage throughout the house.
4. Ramp up your recycling
Availability of curbside recycling service continues to grow nationwide, and the same is true for recycling drop off locations. Not only is recycling one of the greenest things you can do, but it offers a throng of other benefits:
- Lowers your taxes (it’s cheaper for most cities/towns to recycle compared to landfilling)
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves air quality
- The recycling industry creates jobs and boosts the economy
- Recycle more and downgrade your curbside trash container to a smaller, less-expensive one
FURTHER READING: Information about recycling from the EPA
5. Use public transportation
Buses, trains, cable cars, etc. – it’s available in every municipality, yet many people neglect public transportation (PT). About 60% of vehicle emissions in the U.S. come from cars and light trucks. That’s three times more than buses, freight trucks and trains combined.
For some perspective…
A person who drives 20 miles roundtrip to work each day could reduce his or her carbon emission footprint by 4,800 pounds per year by switching to public transportation. That’s a lot greenhouse gas!
Other benefits of PT include reduced gasoline consumption, less traffic congestion, and it’s cheaper than owning a car when you factor in insurance, fuel, maintenance, etc.
6. Walk or bike instead of driving
Don’t like taking the bus or train? Strap on your walking shoes or hop on your bike for a greener way to commute.
About 50% of Americans live within 5 miles of their workplace. If you fall into this category, walking or cycling to work is definitely a viable option.
How does walking or cycling vs driving affect the environment?
A 10-mile roundtrip to and from work burns about 124 gallons of gasoline per year in the average midsize car. That’s equivalent to 1.3 tons of CO2 emissions. The cost of that fuel would total about $500 per year (at $4/gallon) and would put extra wear and tear on your vehicle.
Cycling or walking eliminates these harmful CO2 emissions and saves you money on gas. And let’s be honest, we Americans could benefit from a little exercise considering about 67% of adults are overweight or obese.
EXAMPLE: A 180-lb. person would burn about 372 calories per day biking to and from work (10 miles total). Done five days per week for a year, that’s equivalent to nearly a 28-lb. weight loss.
7. Install a programmable thermostat
Boost energy efficiency in your home by installing a programmable thermostat. This little gadget is easy to install and it helps reduce energy usage during times of the day when you don’t need it.
A basic programmable thermostat will set you back $20 to $50 while a more advanced Wi-Fi enabled “smart” thermostat will make your wallet about $200 lighter.
These thermostats are actually FREE in the long run
The initial cost of purchasing a programmable thermostat is offset a few different ways:
- Rebates offered by the state you live in (not all states participate): Look up your zip code
- Rebates offered by your power company. Check its website for more information.
- The energy savings pays for the thermostat within a year or two. Used properly, a programmable thermostat can reduce heating and cooling costs by $180 per year in a typical single-family home.
***If you have a heat pump, you should go with a programmable thermostat specifically designed for use in buildings with heat pumps to ensure proper efficiency.
8. Adjust your thermostat
If you can’t get yourself to fork over the $50 for a new programmable thermostat, you can still reduce the energy usage in your home or business by turning it down in the winter and turning the temperature up in the summer.
Here’s the general rule to maximize efficiency:
- Set the thermostat to 68 degrees while you’re awake and at home
- Dial it back 10 to 15 degrees while you sleep or when you’re away
- Set the thermostat to 78 degrees while you’re awake an at home
- Turn it off at night or when away at work. Close your curtains (preferably blackout ones) when you leave the house for extended periods of time to block the sun from heating the inside of the house
MYTH ALERT!: Contrary to what some may think, your heating and cooling systems do not work harder – and thus consume more energy – by adjusting the thermostat temperature throughout the day. In fact, the opposite is true. The lower the interior temperature in the winter, the slower the heat loss. The same is true for the summer. The hotter the inside of the house, the slower the flow of heat comes into your house. It may sound a little weird, but it’s true!
9. Install a rain catch
A rain catch is a simple device that literally catches rain and stores it until you’re ready to use it. It’s an eco-friendly way to irrigate your lawn and garden.
You can purchase a rain catch and barrel system online or from a home improvement store, or you can make one yourself. All you basically need is at least one large barrel (e.g., 55 gallon drum), piping (e.g., PVC pipes and elbows), drain (e.g., sillcock), and something to catch the rain (e.g., gutter system or large tarp).
TIP: You can find four DIY rain catch systems over at Treehugger.
10. Dial down lawn sprinkling
Cut back on water usage by letting the rain handle the lawn sprinkling. Smarter sprinkling can help you maintain a beautiful green lawn even while using less water. Here are some good tips:
- Water early in the morning to minimize evaporation and to allow for maximum penetration into the soil
- Keep the grass slightly taller than normal to make the turf more drought tolerant
- Overseed your lawn with drought-tolerant grass seed designed to sip and hold water like a camel
- Install underground sprinkling and ensure each spray head is in good working order (e.g., spray pattern is correct and spraying on the grass instead of the driveway or sidewalk).
- Reread the previous “way to go green” and implement it into your irrigation efforts
11. Wind & Solar
This isn’t the most inexpensive way to go green, but it is one of the most impactful. Wind and solar power systems have come a long way in terms of improving efficiency and dropping in price.
FACT: The cost of solar has dropped 99% between 1997 and 2013.
So, renewable energy is becoming a more viable and popular option to homeowners and small businesses. It’s not just for large commercial buildings with flat roofs anymore.
Entry-Level Options: Residential wind turbines are compact and designed for quiet operation. Prices start at $150 for a very basic model that produces little energy. You’re better off spending $300 to $500 for a better quality entry-level wind turbine. In this price range, assuming an average annual wind speed of 12 mph, you can generate enough electricity to power a small cabin, RV, or trickle charge a home battery bank.
Whole-home Options: The average house in the U.S. uses about 10,800 kWh per year. To power a home using this much energy, you’d need a wind turbine measuring up to 25 ft. in diameter. This obviously isn’t a viable option for many people because of HOA rules, local laws and lack of space. However, a smaller turbine can help offset some of the costs of powering your home.
***A wind turbine should always be positioned at least 30 ft. above obstructions, such as trees or buildings.
Solar panels are the most efficient option out there, as of this writing. There are also solar shingles on the market which are the same size and shape of a traditional asphalt shingle but have the added solar technology built in. This may be a good option the next time you replace your roof. What’s nice about solar shingles is that you don’t have to do your entire roof; you can just add them to the parts of the roof that receive the most sun.
TIP: Use the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Potential Map to see if solar is right for your location.
This is the best option if you’re looking for a whole-home renewable energy solution. It uses both wind and solar technology to power your home or building. The cost of a hybrid system will typically range between $20,000 and $50,000, but much of that cost is offset by state and federal renewable energy rebates and incentives. The installation company will determine the best combination of wind and solar to meet your energy needs.
There are two installation options:
- Grid-connected: Cheaper option, since you don’t need a battery bank. However, if the power goes out on the grid, you lose power as well. On the plus side, if you generate more power than you use, the power company actual pays YOU. That’s a nice change of pace!
- Off-grid: You can cut ties with the power company for good by setting up a battery bank onsite. This usually consists of a series of deep-cycle batteries which store the energy you capture from the sun and wind. The benefit of an off-grid system is that when the power goes out in your neighborhood, it won’t affect you. The downside is that all your neighbors will want to pile into your house to leach off precious electricity.
12. Upgrade appliances
Old appliances are about as efficient as Indy cars are on fuel (about 1.92 mpg in case you wondered). Replace your old appliances with new ENERGY STAR certified models and enjoy the energy savings.
Of course, be sure to dispose of your old appliances the “green” way to make this a truly eco-friendly transaction. Here are green disposal options:
- Find a local recycler to pick it up. Visit Earth911 to find a recycler.
- Sell it on eBay or Craigslist (if it still works) to keep it out of the landfill
- Give it away for free via Craigslist or Freecycle. You’d be surprised what people will pick-up when you put a FREE sign on it.
If everyone carpooled with just one other person, it would save the nation 33 million gallons of gas each year. Additionally, cutting just 25 miles of driving from your weekly itinerary would reduce your carbon footprint by 1,500 lbs. of CO2.
If your company doesn’t already offer a carpool option, arrange one yourself by asking friends and coworkers. You could also look into a company like Rideshare, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps integrate carpool services nationwide.
14. Unplug electronics
Electronics in standby mode, and phone/laptop chargers left plugged into the wall when not in use, continue to slurp up electricity – a phenomenon referred to a “vampire energy.”
About 10% of your annual energy bill can be blamed on vampires, an estimated $4 billion per year total in America. Some of the worst offenders include plasma TVs, computers and video game consoles in standby mode, which collectively add up to about $220 per year in electricity costs for the average household.
Stop vampire energy by…
- Using power strips
- Unplugging cellphone chargers
- Unplugging electronic devices and appliances you don’t use daily
Have a look at the infographic below from GOOD to see how much energy (and cent$) you waste each year to vampires sucking your
What a difference a little insulation makes. Considering up to 70% of your home’s energy usage comes from heating and cooling, it’s a substantial waste to let valuable heat or A/C trickle out of your house due to poor insulation.
Adding insulation can reduce heating and cooling costs by around 20%. To give you an idea of how much energy insulation saves each year in the U.S., it’s more than CFLs, Energy Star appliances and Energy Star windows combined.
How to do it:
1. Choose the right type of insulation:
- Batts and rolls (blankets) are ideal for do-it-yourself installations. They are made of fiberglass, wool, plastic or natural fibers.
- Foam board is mounted inside or outside of walls and is ideal for new construction. It’s particularly useful for insulating concrete and concrete blocks.
- Loose-fill or blown-in insulation is best for unfinished attics, inside finished walls and other hard to reach locations. This should be done by a professional.
- Sprayed foam is a better option than loose-fill/blow-in insulation due to its higher R-Value, but it does cost more.
2. Install it:
Install the insulation according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s probably worth having a professional take a look at the condition of your home’s insulation. In the end, having a professional do the job will pay off with lower heating and cooling bills.
3. Seal up other nooks and crannies:
Areas like windows, doorways, electrical outlets and outdoor faucets are notorious for letting in cool air in the winter and warm air in during the summer. Most of the time you can seal these areas using a little caulk. Try some expanding foam for larger gaps.
16. Greener roofing
If it’s time to replace or repair your roof, consider greener alternative to standard asphalt shingles. Several green roofing options include:
- Shingles featuring reflective pigments -- come in virtually any color
- White “cool” roofing (there’s some debate over the effectiveness of cool roof coating products on the market)
- Vegetative “green” roofing; turn your roof into a garden
- Solar PV panels or solar shingles
- Choose metal roofing – expected lifespan of at least 4x longer than shingles
17. Reuse stuff you normally throw away
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
- Plastic grocery bags are great as waste basket trash bags
- Egg cartons/milk jugs/paper towel rolls/soup cans/etc. make great DIY projects for kids. All that’s needed is a little imagination
- Paper has two sides -- use ‘em both before you
throw it outrecycle
- Old t-shirts are useful as rags
- Reuse boxes to ship stuff you sell on eBay rather than using brand new boxes
There are plenty of other examples out there. Use your imagination and think outside the box when it comes to reusing and upcycling waste.
18. Install low-flow everything
I’m talking toilets, faucets, showers…you name it. The cost of replacing your current water hog is typically offset within a year when you factor in your water savings. Plus, you’ll be doing your part in helping to reduce water usage.
REBATES: Most cities offer some sort of rebate for purchasing low-flow products. Some municipalities even pay you back the entire purchase price of the product, making this one of the most cost-effective ways to go green. Find rebates for your city at the EPA WaterSense website.
19. Buy used
Go green by avoiding virgin-material-made products whenever possible. There are so many avenues nowadays for buying used instead of new. Here are a few:
- Clothing and household stuff: Goodwill, Salvation Army, eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, secondhand stores
- Building materials: Habitat for Humanity ReStores
- Buy used cars (fuel-efficient cars, I should add)
20. Clean with eco-friendly products
You can buy environmentally friendly cleaning products or make your own for pennies on the dollar. Here are some easy DIY homemade cleaning product recipes that will help eliminate chemicals and save you some money at the grocery store:
- Window / Glass cleaner: ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 cups warm water. Add to spray bottle and get to cleaning.
- Shower cleaner (antibacterial/antifungal recipe): 1 cup white vinegar, 15 drops of tea tree oil and 2 cups water. Shake together in a spray bottle are use daily to keep the shower clean and bacteria-free.
- Soap Scum Blaster: Mix 1 cup white vinegar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch and microwave for 2 minutes. Pour in 2 tablespoons of dish soap and pour into spray bottle. Use on bathroom countertops and showers for tough soap scum.
Find other great DIY recipes here:
21. Dispose of toxic materials responsibly
Household hazardous waste (HHW) has no place in our landfills. It can leach into area waterways, pollute our air and negatively affects area wildlife.
Most cities offer an annual or biannual HHW collection event where you can bring things like paint, chemicals, solvents, cleaners, scrap tires, batteries, used motor oil and light bulbs. Check with your city or county to find out when these events are held.
Your trash hauler may also accept HHW upon request, but not all do. It’s worth looking into.
22. BYOB (bring your own bags) to the grocery store
Of the 100 biggest cities in the U.S., 17 of them have passed or are considering passing bans on using plastic bags in grocery stores (2014, source: Plastic Bag Ban Report). However, there are still about 380 billion plastic bags produced in the U.S. each year. These bags don’t easily decompose and the inks contain toxic chemicals.
Sure, you could choose “paper” instead of “plastic,” but an even greener way to go is to BYOB.
23. Ditch the gas-powered mower, snow blower, trimmer...
This one’s tough for the men out there who enjoy the smell of gas and the purr of a John Deere. But, the fact is that gas-powered lawn equipment pollutes the air and ground.
Air: A single lawn mower emits 106 lbs. of greenhouse gases per season. Put another way, one fuel-powered lawn mower produces the same amount of smog-producing emissions as 40 new cars run for an hour (Source: California EPA, Air Resources Board, 1999).
Ground: Fuel spillage when refilling your lawn and garden equipment is no joke. In California alone, 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year. Obviously, this isn’t healthy for the environment and isn’t at all helpful for breaking our dependence on foreign oil.
Solve these issues by switching to electric, solar or manually powered alternatives.
MONEY-SAVING TIP: Some cities offer mower-exchange programs for anyone willing to swap out their gas guzzler for a new electric model. Just do a search online for “lawn mower exchange in [your city or county]” to see if you have one in your area.
24. Choose sustainable flooring
Common varieties include reclaimed hardwood flooring, bamboo, cork, natural fiber carpets, amongst others. Wood flooring is great for homes with allergy or asthma sufferers, and it’s easy to clean.
TIP: Don’t use cork flooring in a bathroom as it absorbs water easily.
The expected lifespan of a good quality hardwood floor is 25 to 100 years. See a comparison of life expectancy and cost of materials/labor over at the Minnesota Green Affordable Housing Guide.
25. Use nature to your advantage
Take advantage of what the great outdoors offers in terms of natural shading, radiant heat from the sun and the cooling power of wind. Try these three tips:
- Get Shady: Strategically plant a shade tree to significantly reduce the cost of cooling your home in the summer. Position it so that it blocks sun from coming into your house during the afternoon hours. Don’t make it an evergreen tree, though, because it may hinder tip #2.
- Free Heat: During the winter, open up your drapes and shade to allow the sun to heat your home during the daytime hours. If you get a good amount of sunshine radiating through your windows, it can boost the temperature in your home by 5 to 10 degrees F.
- Natural A/C: Open those windows in the summer to let “nature’s fan” cool your home. Good airflow through your home will help boost the quality of the air inside your home and reduce the need to crank up the A/C.
Nature can help reduce the need for heating and cooling, and that’s a great thing for the environment and your wallet.
26. Use less paper
In today’s digital age, do we really need to waste so much paper? In 2010, 84 million tons of paper were produced, according to the American Forest Paper Association. Sure, paper production has been on the decline since 2000, and paper recycling is relatively high at 65%, but we still throw out a lot of paper.
Use less paper by stepping into the 21st century and going digital. This includes, but certainly is not limited to:
- Making lists on your tablet or smartphone instead of paper (e.g., shopping lists, to-do’s, reminders)
- Display photos digitally rather than printing them out, or be very picky about the ones you print out
- Opt out of receiving junk mail from unsolicited sources
- Don’t print out maps, directions, recipes, or other pages accessible from a computer/tablet/phone
Lastly, purchase recycled paper instead of virgin-sourced paper products.
27. Eat fresh foods to reduce food packaging waste
Fresh foods typically aren't bound by plastic packaging, which means less waste. And oh, by the way, fresh foods are 100x better for you than processed, packaged foods. So, this one’s a double whammy tip; go green and get healthy at the same time!
FACT: Containers and packaging makes up 23% of waste in landfills, much of which is food-related.
Stick to fresh fruits, veggies, meats from the butcher/deli, and products contained in recyclable packaging (look for the tiny “recycle” logo on it). You’ll be surprised how much less waste you’ll be putting curbside each week.
28. Plant a tree
- A single tree removes about 10 lbs of CO2 from the air each year
- It helps reduce the heat island effect by shading roofs, roads and other ground surfaces
- Traps dust in air – as much as 75% of it
- Just one tree produces the cooling effect of 10 room-size A/C units running for 20 hours/day all due to evaporation
…I’d say that qualifies ‘planting a tree’ as a way to go green. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to do your part at home, work or school.
Better yet, volunteer with an organization like TreePeople to plant and care for trees in a community near you.
29. Repair leaky fixtures
A leaky faucet wastes more water than you may think. One gallon of water equals 15,140 drips. A fast-drip leak – say one drip per second – wastes 5.71 gallons of water per day! A slow drip probably wastes a gallon or more. Multiply that out for the year, five years, etc… you get the picture. And just think, this is for ONE faucet. What if you have three or four leaky fixtures in your home!
It’s easy to replace faucets, leaky water heater drains and bathroom fixtures. If you’ve never done it before, just do a quick search on YouTube and you’ll find plenty of tutorials to walk you through it.
30. Use eco-friendly fertilizers and pesticides
Nowadays there are plenty of eco-friendly versions of pesticides and lawn fertilizers on the market to choose from, so swapping out the chemicals for all-natural alternatives is a simple way to go green.
Eco-friendly fertilizers: Homemade compost is the best option here. If you don’t make your own compost, you can purchase compost at a local landscaping facility or go with any number of organic, all-natural fertilizers found at any landscaping or home improvement store.
Green pesticides: If at all possible, avoid pesticides altogether by setting sticky traps, killing insects by hand and by prevention. A good way to prevent insects is to avoid watering lawns and gardens at night, keep grass short and to not over-water. More info here.
Homemade potions: There are quite a few homemade concoctions out there aimed at repelling insects, killing weeds and helping your lawn and garden thrive without using chemicals. Stuff like soap spray for killing insects, garlic sprays for aphids and other insects, or boiling hot water for killing sidewalk/driveway weeds (and ants). See some other homemade garden spray recipes here, or just do a search online – there’s tons of them.
- Some products are labeled “organic” but aren’t truly so. If it contains bio-solids, it’s not organic.
- Add plants to your lawn and garden that attract the “good” bugs that then kill the “bad bugs,” including alyssum, yarrow, fennel and dill. Let the animal kingdom do the dirty work for you!
- All-natural botanical pesticides include: rotenone, pyrethrum, neem and sabadilla.
- Different plants do better with certain organic fertilizers, so be sure to use multiple fertilizers if necessary
- Collaring or putting a border around plants is sometimes good enough to keep insects away.
31. Repair drafty windows and doors
These are simple fixes that will greatly improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling. About 10-25% of heat escapes from a home’s doors and windows. That’s a lot of wasted energy.
- Seal up cracks around a window using a caulk designed for use with windows. You can do the same for drafty doors.
- For larger cracks, use an expanding foam – available at any home improvement store – to seal it up.
***Use expanding foams cautiously because it can damage windows if you use too much of it.
- Replace the weather stripping around doors to improve the seal between the door and the frame.
These fixes cost less than $20 and will easily pay for themselves in terms of energy savings.
32. Inexpensive green upgrades for your vehicle
Go green when hitting the road, especially if you do a lot of driving. Here are some tips and tricks to upgrade your vehicle’s eco-friendliness.
Reusable air filter: Instead of replacing your air filter once or twice a year, switch to a reusable air filter, such as those made by K&N or Spectre. You can clean these filters and put them right back into your air box. It reduces waste, and it supposedly improves your horsepower and fuel efficiency.
Nitrogen-inflated tires: Inflating your ties with nitrogen instead of regular air helps improve fuel efficiency and it holds pressure better than air. There is one caveat to consider, however. Access to nitrogen is limited in some areas, and it usually costs more to fill your tires with it. Just checking your tire pressure every couple weeks and filling up with air as needed is nearly as effective at maximizing fuel efficiency compared to going with nitrogen. That said, if you can find a local auto shop (e.g., Costco) that offers free nitrogen inflation, it’s worth making the switch.
Eco-friendly brake pads: Bosch introduced a new line of copper-free ceramic brake pads that are safer for the environment. Apparently, the copper that’s in traditional brake pads washes off into lakes and rivers, harming the wildlife in the process.
Asbestos fibers were traditionally used in making brake pads, but one eco-friendly alternative has proven to be safer and equally effective -- banana peels. That’s right, the same banana peels you toss in the trash (but should put in your compost bin) can be mixed with a resin to make brake pads that work just as good as the old asbestos pads.
Not sure if these banana peel brake pads are on the market yet, but keep an eye out for them at your local auto parts store.
Green Tires: Low-rolling-resistance tires improve fuel efficiency by reducing the amount of resistance between your tires and the road. This accounts for about 5-15% of your vehicle’s fuel economy, so you can get quite a big boost in fuel efficiency by going with a low-rolling-resistance tire. All major tire manufacturers offer these greener tire alternatives.
Electric conversion kit: This upgrade is far from inexpensive -- typically costing $3,500 to $10,000 – but I’ll include it to satisfy anyone out there looking to dominate the road with the ultimate green machine. These electric car conversion kits hit the market in 2008, and they work by replacing the dirty gas-powered engine with a clean 100% electric-driven motor.
The conversion process involves removing the engine, exhaust, fuel tank, radiator and several other components. The three main components of the electric kit include the batteries, controller and electric motor.
There are quick and dirty ways to build an electric car from all used parts, which would save you a bundle. This guy turned a Geo Metro into an electric car for next to nothing. He now gets the energy equivalent of 130 mpg in the car!
33. Watch less TV
The average American stares at a screen – TV, tablet and smartphone – for more than seven hours per day. That number is, in some cases, much higher for people like myself strapped to a computer all day.
Not including actual work you do on your computer or phone (Facebook, Instagram and selfies don’t count as work), turn off your electronic screens for an extra hour or two each day. Your energy savings will slowly add up over time, and who knows, you might actually discover that there’s a big beautiful world right outside your door.
34. Ditch plasma for LED
Speaking of TV watching…Plasma’s are the energy hogs of the flat screen world. Next time you replace your TV, consider an LED model. LED TVs are a type of LCD TV that utilize energy-efficient LEDs to light the screen.
A quality 50-inch LED TV typically costs less than $10 per year to power (assuming 5 hours of use per day). A plasma TV of the same size may suck down triple or quadruple that amount of juice.
Yeah, the running costs of any TV these days is far from exorbitant, but every little bit of energy savings helps.
Have a look at Energy Star’s list of the most efficient TVs for 2014:
35. Cover your swimming pool
It’s amazing how much energy you can save by using an inexpensive cover on your pool, such as those floating bubble covers. According to Energy.gov, a pool cover can reduce energy costs associated with heating a pool by as much as 70%.
EXAMPLE: Heating an average-sized pool to 80-degrees in Chicago during the summer months using a heat pump costs about $810 in energy costs. However, this figure is reduced to $105 when a cover is placed on the pool when not in use.
You can go a step further and ditch the heating unit altogether and just use the pool cover for all your heating needs. If your swimming pool gets a lot of direct sun, the pool cover alone can boost the water temp by 15-degrees or more.
36. Install an energy monitoring device
The only way to truly find out where energy is being wasted in your home or business is to install an energy monitoring system. These little doohickeys track energy usage throughout your home or building so you can see exactly which appliances and electronic devices are sucking the most power.
It’s totally possible to reduce your monthly energy expenses by 15% to as much as 40% by using an energy monitoring device. Prices vary significantly from as little as $25 for a single outlet model to $200 or more for a whole-home energy monitoring device.
37. Switch to rechargeable batteries
Recyclable batteries cost more than single-use batteries, but the gap is closing. Today, the availability of rechargeable batteries is far beyond what it was just a decade ago. Prices are also much cheaper than back then.
- Production of rechargeable batteries consumes 23 times less non-renewable natural resources compared to single-use batteries
- Rechargeable’s have 30 times less impact on air pollution, 28 times less impact on global warming and 12 times less impact on water pollution.
- Much more efficient: You can recharge modern rechargeable batteries thousands of times where in the past most types could only be recharged hundreds of times at the most.
Needless to say, even rechargeable batteries die eventually. So, should you toss the dead ones into the trashcan? NO! Rechargeable batteries – including lithium ion (Li-Ion), nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd) and nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) – should never end up in landfills.
Recycling rechargeable batteries is easy
Call2Recycle is a nonprofit company dedicated to ensuring these batteries are recycled rather than landfilled. Go to Call2Recycle’s locator map to find a battery recycling station near you.
Thanks for reading…
There are so many other ways to go green, but hopefully these tips will help give you a good start. Please share this article with friends and family if you found it useful. A more sustainable future is something we can all benefit from, and it all starts with educating each other about the benefits of preserving the environment in our day-to-day lives.