- Reusable Shopping Bags - If you look, there are ways to pick up reusable shopping bags cheap or even free. Heck, you could even make some yourself if you're handy with a sewing machine. Then you have to remember to take the bag with you when you go shopping. I have a collection of reusable shopping bags from several different sources and I love them. The bags are so much sturdier then the cheap plastic ones you get at the store, you can carry a lot more at one time and you don't have to worry about the bag ripping as you're carrying your groceries inside. Add to that keeping plastic out of the landfill and possibly getting credit for bringing your own bag at the grocery store and you've got a win - win situation.
- Programmable Thermostat - I was lucky, there was already a programmable thermostat installed in my house when we purchased it. We make sure that we use it and it really is great. You just have to review your settings in the spring and fall and you're good to go. My house starts warming up (or cooling down) shortly before I get home and the heat (or air) kicks off shortly after I leave in the morning. I love it because we aren't heating or cooling the house when we aren't home and we don't have to worry about remembering to check the thermostat all the time. It's set and we're good.
- Power Strips - I have my computer equipment all plugged in to a power strip. We also have the tv and game systems plugged into a power strip. This way, when we aren't using them we can flip the power strip off and don't have to worry about all those energy vampires. Also try to remember to unplug chargers when you're not using them as they can suck energy too.
- CFL Bulbs - We use the energy saver bulbs in almost all of our lights now. We've been replacing them as the lights blow. I just can't stand the idea of throwing out a bulb that still works. These bulbs use less electricity so you save on your electric bill. Just remember that they contain small amounts of mercury so you need to dispose of them properly.
- Water Heater Setting - We have our water on the lowest setting. It still provides plenty of hot water and we save money by not getting the water hotter then we need. Some water heaters can also benefit from a thermal blanket. Check the manual that came with your water heater. If it can, you can pick one up at your local hardware store.
- Travel Cups and Mugs - We no longer buy water in small bottles for carrying around with you. When have travel mugs and reusable containers for carrying cold drinks around with us. We use to go through about 30 of those bottles every week, so we're definitely saving by not buying water we can get from the tap super cheap.
- Full Load Dish Washing - I will only run the dishwasher when it is full and even then I do not run the dry cycle. I just allow the dishes to air dry. Since I switched to air dry, the dishes don't seem to dry any slower then they did when I let the machine dry them.
- Cold Water Wash - I wash almost all of my clothes in cold water. The cold cycle is better for your clothes and your wallet. And you don't need special detergent for this either, just use your regular detergent.
- Recycling Old Electronics - Instead of sending your old electronics to the landfill, recycle them. Check with your community to see if there are any events where they will do this for free.
- Toaster Oven - I love my toaster oven. It allows to me cook small portions quick and easy. Since it's so small you don't have to wait for it to warm up and the food cooks quicker. Plus, you're not heating up a whole large oven. I use this a lot when I'm making a tray of chicken nuggets, or warming bread to go with dinner. This is especially nice in summer when you don't want to heat up your whole kitchen with the oven.
- Energy Star Appliances - If you need to replace any of your appliances, go with a new one that will be energy efficient. To find out if it is or not, check the energy star ratings. We replaced our washer and dryer last year and went with Energy Star rated models. This even allowed us to get a rebate from our electric company.
- Cloth Towels and Dishrags - Whenever possible I try to use a cloth towel or a dish rag instead of paper towels. This helps to keep trash out of landfills and saves me money because I'm buying less paper towels.
- Pass On Used Items In Good Condition - I don't know why, but when you have a house, "stuff'" seems to multiply in the night. It seems like there is always a box or two of "stuff" that we are getting rid of. Whenever we have this stuff we try to see if anyone we know can use it. If they can, we pass it on to them, if not, we donate it to charity. I just hate to throw away something that is still working and in good condition.
There are plenty of other things you can do to help the environment and your wallet at the same time. There are just some of the things we have been doing in our house. Feel free to post any other suggestions you have in the comments section. I'm always looking for new ideas.
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