Get Green at Home
20 do’s and don’t-worry-abouts to help you live lighter on the planet—and your pocketbook
1. Install a water-saver faucet adapter (water-saver-faucet.com) 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.
Savings: 0.5 gallon per flush
3. Slow flow with the Ladybug shower adapter (evolveshowerheads.com). At 95°, the volume slows to prevent warm water waste. Just pull the cord when you’re ready to rinse.
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; homedepot.com) so that your heating/cooling system runs only when you need it.
Savings: Reduce home energy use by up to 33%; about $26.40 per month
6. Get a removable chimney balloon damper (chimneyballoon.us) 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).
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 laundrylist.org 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.
11. Save money and packaging: Grow herbs at home with Potting Shed Creations’ herb kit ($25).
12. Install foam light-switch and outlet sealers (acehardware.com)—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 (belkin.com/conserve)—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 foodnews.org 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).
Bookmark these now: Our favorite sites for green living
lowimpactliving.com: Helpful eco projects and services; don’t miss the impact calculator.
inhabitat.org: The latest in sustainable style, plus great coverage of design competitions.
re-nest.com: Apartment Therapy’s eco site features affordable green home projects and cool home tours.
lazyenvironmentalist.com: Sign up for eco-tip emails from founder Josh Dorfman.
efficiencyfirst.org: Resources for smarter home performance, including a blog on the latest government news and rebates.
Our pick for further reading: In Green Sense for the Home (Taunton Press; $22), out this month, the authors rate the real environmental and monetary pay-off of 50 home projects.
Note: All energy savings are based on the San Francisco PG&E estimate of an $80 monthly household energy bill.