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!
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.
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.