Get green at home

20 do’s and don’t-worry-abouts to help you live lighter on the planet––and your pocketbook

Jess Chamberlain

1. Install a water-saver faucet adapter ( to start flow quickly with the back of your hand and shut off flow when you release.

Investment: From $17

Savings: 2.2 gallons per minute

2. Displace water in your toilet tank with a 2-liter plastic soda bottle, weighted with coins or pebbles. Toilets use more water than washing machines or showers.

Investment: Free!

Savings: 0.5 gallon per flush

3. Slow flow with the Ladybug shower adapter ( At 95°, the volume slows to prevent warm water waste. Just pull the cord when you’re ready to rinse.

Investment: $30

Savings: 2.5+ gallons per minute

4. Wrap your water heater with insulation to reduce heat loss.

Investment: $20 for insulation from your local home improvement store.

Savings: Reduce your home energy use by 9%; about $7.20 per month

5. Install a programmable thermostat (Honeywell 5-2 day thermostat; so that your heating/cooling system runs only when you need it.

Investment: $36

Savings: Reduce home energy use by up to 33%; about $26.40 per month

6. Get a removable chimney balloon damper ( to keep cold air out when the fireplace isn’t in use. A chimney accounts for at least 14% of home heat loss (just think, it’s like leaving a door open).

Investment: $40

Savings: Reduce home energy use by at least 7%, about $5.60 per month

7. Line-dry your clothes (the dryer is an energy hog). It’s not as easy as when Grandma did it, though: Many homeowners’ associations ban clotheslines. Go to to learn more.

8. Flex your muscles in the garden: Use a broom instead of a blower, a watering can instead of a sprinkler, and a push mower instead of a gas one.

9. Keep a gallon-size bucket showerside and use your warm-up water to nourish your veggie patch.

10. Learn to compost: Kitchen composting is one of the easiest ways to lessen landfill. Try the sinkside compost pail from Williams-Sonoma ($32). Get tips at

11. Save money and packaging: Grow herbs at home with Potting Shed Creations’ herb kit ($25).

12. Install foam light-switch and outlet sealers (—they insulate to prevent heating and cooling loss.

Investment: 33 cents each ($20 for 60 seals from Ace Hardware)

Savings: Reduce home energy use by 2%; about $1.60 per month

13. Cut down on phantom loads (energy use by electronics that are plugged in but not powered up) with a Belkin Conserve Surge Protector (—it lets you truly shut off all appliances plugged into it.

Investment: $50 each

Savings: Reduce home energy use by 20%; about $16 per month if used throughout the home

14. If you’re traveling less than a mile, walk or bike instead of driving. This will save you time (think traffic, parking) and the planet from car exhaust.

You’re off the hook: 5 things you have our permission not to worry about

» If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it. A perfectly good kitchen cabinet shouldn’t be trashed in favor of a new eco-friendlier version. Remember, manufacturing any new material consumes energy.

» Rest easy knowing your time-saving dishwasher also saves natural resources. Hand-washing can use up to six times the water and twice the energy of an Energy Star dishwasher. Go further: Skip the dry cycle.

» Don’t worry about buying a hybrid car right now. If your oldie-but-goodie vehicle gets at least 25 miles per gallon on the highway, keep it. More energy and resources are used to produce a new hybrid car than to maintain a conventional one.

» Skip buying organic for any fruit with a thick peel. Avocados, pineapples, and watermelons are all good bets. Visit for a full shopper’s guide.

» Don’t plunk down money for solar panels just yet. More-immediate energy savings can come from improving insulation and window and door sealing

(see tips 4, 6, and 12).

Next: Our favorite sources for how to live green