By Marie Look on May 18, 2009

8 Tiny Ways to Go Green


This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, in which we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

If you aren’t quite ready to make any drastic changes but still want to lower your impact on the environment, there are several steps that, once taken, you’ll hardly have to think about twice. Here are eight tiny changes you can make to tip toe your way into a greener lifestyle.

1. Park It

When running errands, opt to park your car and go inside instead of using the drive-thru. The EPA estimates that for every minute the average car engine idles, it emits 6 to 7 grams of pollutants into the atmosphere.

That means that if one million drivers turned off their cars, rather than idled unnecessarily, for just two minutes per week for an entire year, these harmful emissions would be reduced by more than 750 tons. And don’t forget that for every two minutes your car idles, it uses roughly the same amount of fuel you’d use to travel one mile. What a waste of gas!

By replacing just one meal a week with a vegetarian option, you can save tons on carbon emissions. Photo: 8coupons.com

By replacing just one meal a week with a vegetarian option, you can save on carbon emissions. Photo: 8coupons.com

2. Eat Your Veggies

If you’re part of the meat-eating percentage of the population, consider going meatless for just one meal a week. It’s been estimated that 18 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with meat consumption, including raising the livestock and processing, packaging and shipping the products.

The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that if every American substituted a vegetarian dish for a meat dish for just one meal per week, the carbon dioxide reduction would be roughly equivalent to taking more than one-half million cars off the roads.

3. Go Electronic

One of the easiest ways to reduce your household’s paper consumption is by paying your bills online and receiving statements via e-mail. Taking advantage of paperless programs at your bank or utility company means you’ll save money on stamps, eliminate paper waste and always have easy access to your account information and payment history.

4. Power Down

The fossil fuels burned to provide a single home with electricity put more carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars. Use less energy by turning off lights and unplugging appliances when you don’t need them.

Even a cell phone charger continues to use energy when plugged in, whether your cell phone is charging or not. If you use a power strip, you can turn off several appliances with the flip of just one switch. Bonus points: Each time you wear out an appliance, replace it with a more energy-efficient model.

5. Check Your Temperature

Sometimes a small change in temperature can have big results. Try keeping your thermostat one to two degrees warmer in the summer and one to two degrees cooler in the winter. This will lower your electricity bill and save a wealth of energy over the course of the year.

Also, adjust your refrigerator thermostat to save additional energy. Storing food at the recommended temperatures – 37 to 40 degrees F for the fresh food compartment and 5 degrees F for the frozen food compartment – will guarantee your refrigerator doesn’t work harder than it has to and make it last even longer.

In nice weather, open windows instead of using lamps and air conditioning. Photo: Bestgreenhometips.com

In nice weather, open windows instead of using lamps and air conditioning. Photo: Bestgreenhometips.com

6. See the Light

In good weather, you can use natural light to your advantage by opening windows and drawing back curtains, rather than lighting your house 24/7 with lamps and ceiling lights. In hot weather, use heavy curtains or shades to block out the heat and prevent your AC from working overtime.

For those times you do need artificial light, consider using compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs use 50 to 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last up to 10 times longer. Just as with rechargeable batteries, CFLs cost more upfront, but a single bulb could save you $40 to $50 in its lifetime.

7. Clean Conservatively

By taking shorter and fewer showers you can save thousands of gallons of water each year. An ordinary shower head flows 5 gallons of water per minute, so if you take a five-minute shower instead of a 10-minute one you’ll save 25 gallons of water. Other ways to save water include running full loads through your dishwasher and laundry washing machine. Bonus points: Use cold water and cold-water detergents to save energy, and use a dryer rack instead of the mechanical dryer once a week.

8. Get Charged

Another simple way to eliminate waste and save money is to make the switch to rechargeable batteries. Even though their initial cost is higher, rechargeable batteries can be recharged hundred of times before they go bad, meaning they could last for years longer than the disposable kind and save you significant cash in the long run. Remember to responsibly recycle dead batteries, both rechargeable and disposable.


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      • Rajiv Narayanan

        Thanks for tips to make the earth a greener and clean place.

      • James

        I don’t agree with the current CFL bulbs. I’ve tried a number of different brands and all have expired more rapidly then the old incandescent bulbs I have. And I have yet to find a place to actually honer their warranty. Also even better then just a drier rack hang your cloths outside to dry. Worried about fading just inside them out when you hang them up. I love the rechargeable batteries. I’ve been doing that for years. And one other simple way to help is do you have plants that you water? Consider a rain barrel. Very easy to install and works great! I also use mine to wash off the mower and outside tools.

      • Jason

        Going vegetarian is better for the enviroment because of the fact that meat is just murder of earth’s creatures for food that is not needed from animals. Most people think that meat controls the population of animals when in fact, if the world went vegetarian, then people wouldn’t try to breed animals for slaughter thus, decreasing their population and crops would be saved for humans. Check it out at peta2.org,scroll to the bottom of the page were it shows a picture of a pig and it says, “What they never told you.” Check out other campains while you’re there.

      • lois spencer

        I just love getting this each week. Maybe I don’t do anything huge but I try to do the small things. I love the cfl light bulbs. I have three in now and they have lasted about two years so far. I just started to compost and am thinking about a rain barrel. How are they doing the winter? I live in the Northeast. Does the water freeze during the winter?

      • Paula Bunevith

        We have been composting for years. Our soil is so rich, from doing this. My husband is the one who turns everything over. When we give the soil away. We have friends who have had tomato plants come up. We had Cantalopes and Pumpkins that took over one whole section of the yard. It’s fun to see this happen. I use cloth bags for shopping. we use the new light bulbs. Buying the more expensive ones they have lasted and out light bills are down. We also put 5 gallon buckets along the back of the house when it rains and it runs off the roof into the barrels and I water all my flowers with it. If everyone did a little , it would be great.

      • Christina Judge

        Another good idea is to empty the contents of your vacuum cleaner into your compost…essentially, it might usually contain sand, dirt, maybe pet/human hairs, etc…which are all biodegradable things. If you use a bag in your vacuum (you need to check what it is made from!) it just might be compostable, too.
        My Mom even puts her clothes dryer trap lint into her compost pile, which works when most of your clothes are made from cotton fibers.

      • pepperponi

        I agree that the CFL bulbs don’t work like they are said to. We try to use our reusable shopping bags as much as we can. The problem is remembering to get them before going shopping.

        All the little things that every one does to recycle helps! I think it’s amazing that going in to some place rather than taking the drive thru saves gas and energy!

        My mother wants to start composting but she doesn’t know how. Any tips?

      • Tammy

        We have a website that has all sorts of information on composting. If you go to http://www.prrrdy.com and select Composting in the top right side, there are articles and brochures to help get you started. One brochure is called Compost Happens and it has everything about how to get started and how to fix any problems that might arise.
        Even people that live in apartments or don’t have yards can compost. Vermicomposting is great. Our office keeps pet worms for our coffee grounds, tea bags, apple cores, grapes, and all of the other things that end up not eaten. Our office plants love the results.

      • Jessica

        Jason and Pepperponi,

        The reason your CFLs are burning out quickly is because they are intended to be placed in spots where the light will be on for extended periods of time, and not in high frequency lighting areas. The more you turn them on and off the more quickly they will burn out. In other words, they are not sprinters that turn on really quick and only last a short period of time, they are the long-distance runners, that are meant for endurance. Use them for lighting in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, but not hallways and bathrooms. They work most efficienty in lighting areas that are used typically for a few hours. Also, all CFLs are not made to the same standards. They just have to meet the bare minimum requirements for Energy Star to enjoy the same label. It definitely matters what type of bulb you put where, so don’t be afraid to ask a lighting specialist at your local hardware store.
        I have been using CFLs of all different shapes, sizes and brands for quite a while now, and I definitely have seen an improvement in the more recent products. I love my squiggley lights! Don’t be afraid to give them another chance.

      • Patti E.

        I think it’s awesome the way you tell us how we can help out our mother earth.
        Patti E.

      • http://earth911.com Arthur

        I am wondering about the possibilities of creditcard/identtity theft by paying bills online. Despite carefully destroying all bills with my credit card nos., someone recently charged stuff using my number. I also use only “secure sites” in the rare occasion I use my no. to oreder something online. Anyone here have bad experiences paying bills on line?

      • A K Khandelwal

        I am wondering about water wastage on maintaining the green grass in the gardens. As it need regular water and we need to cut it regularly.
        Accordingly to my opinion Grass is meant for beauty and it hardly effects enviroment compare to small plants and big trees..
        Please advise more opinion as it can save lot of water

      • http://kntshovary.blogspot.com/ Teresa

        My little ways of going green include using cfl bulbs, turning off the ceiling fan lights with 4 bulbs and use the table lamp with one bulb. For the garden I save my dishwater, and whatever water I accumulate by rinsing, soaking, etc. This is what I use to water my potted plants outside.

      • me

        great tips, one of my friends composts and her yard looks great! peace out everyone!

      • GLC

        Great article. I love organic fruits and veggies.

      • http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2258851/easy_ways_to_go_green.html?cat=57 Suzie Soule

        I love these ideas. Every little bit helps. Here are my ideas for going green!

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      • Brian Knoblauch

        I’ve had very unpredictable results with CFLs. At work we had switched to them completely, but were burning them out at an insane rate (MUCH faster than incandescent). Never figured out why. Perhaps power line conditions? Anyways, it sure didn’t work there.

        At home I have a few strategically placed with decent results. Seem to be lasting fine. Not all that good for reading light, but OK if you don’t read under them for too long. For long term reading I move to another room that still has incandescents. Also, found I have to keep the CFLs away from radios/TVs, other RFI sensitive devices. CFLs seem to put out a good deal of EM spectrum pollution compared to other electronics.

        I like the reduced energy consumption of CFLs, but it’d be foolish to switch to them completely as they’re not a complete solution. LED lighting looks to be a dramatic improvement, other than the price.

      • sc

        This was a very helpful sit on my study of ways to be more green in my house and in my school,I would give this sit a 8 on a scale of one to ten. This sit had good info and it is a kid friend lee

      • T

        How come people are not noticing that going green is helpful in so many ways. I wish ive learn sooner. its basically saving the planet. It saddens me because this is home, this big blue marble is home an we are not taking care of it. WE AS ONE HAVE A WAKE UP CALL COMING VERY VERY SOON AN THERE WILL BE NO FIXING IT BECAUSE THERE WILL BE NO US (2012 hint) please everyone out there please inforce an teach a change.