If there’s one day you think about saving energy, it’s probably Earth Day. But saving energy often means sacrificing something—in many cases, convenience or even money. Going green by buying a hybrid car or using new technology, for example, can save money in the long run, despite high upfront costs for these and other energy-saving options.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, you can save money and reduce energy use on Earth Day this year. Here are some ideas for how to save the earth and some money.
Skip meat on Mondays
On average, Americans ate 71 pounds of red meat apiece in 2012. But this figure doesn’t take into account that children, babies, and vegetarians all consume less meat than the typical adult does. In reality, meat consumption per meat-eating adult is much higher. Plus, it’s likely higher than the 0.21 pounds per day recommended by the USDA. So how can we compensate? Enter Meatless Mondays.
The premise of Meatless Mondays is simple: don’t eat meat one day per week. The reason here is that meat production—especially by factory farms—is very harmful to the environment. This truth has come into focus more recently with the California drought. National Geographic reports that it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Compare that to just 449 gallons per pound of rice or 216 gallons per pound of soybeans.
If you’re used to eating meat at every meal, then turn reducing your meat consumption into a fun challenge.Meatless Mondays even has recipes to inspire you, including the Sweet Potato Frittata and Thai Fresh Spring Rolls, both of which look delicious.
And, of course, since you won’t be buying meat for these meals, you can save money by eating cheaper nutritious foods such as beans and lentils.
Switch to paperless billing
Sitting down at the kitchen table with the checkbook and calculator used to be how everyone took care of their bills. But now there are other options, such as going paperless and paying bills online.
I find paperless billing much easier than getting bills in the mail, which can be difficult to organize. I’d have to keep track of the piece of paper and remember to mail a check along with the bill. (No thanks.) Instead, it’s easier when it’s just a matter of handling bills online or even setting up automatic electronic payments.
Most large companies now offer paperless options. So, instead of getting a paper bill that consumes forest resources, opt to receive electronic bills. That way, you can pay your bills online using a service like Evolve Money, which in many cases is free to sign up. You can also save money by not having to buy stamps or make trips to the post office.
Buy stuff used (when you need it)
This one’s probably my favorite trick. Buying things used is a no-brainer in terms of saving money. Many of the things that we use every day can be bought used in fully functional working order at a fraction of the cost of its new version.
There are plenty of tools out there for buying used stuff. Obviously, Craigslist is the go-to for many. And eBay works wonderfully for anything that’s easily shippable.
Yet, plenty of new marketplaces are available for buying used stuff, too. Swappa sells phones for a fraction of the cost of new ones. Instead of the unregulated and sometimes confusing listings on eBay, Swappa allows only the sale of ready-to-activate phones in good working condition, which they verify before allowing sellers to post them for sale. In fact, I recently bought a used iPhone 5S in mint condition from Swappa that cost about 40% less than buying a new one.
By buying used, you’re also helping the earth by reusing a product instead of buying it brand new, which uses costly, sometimes limited resources.
Switch to cold water washes on laundry day
The EPA says that heating water to wash clothes accounts for about 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes altogether. While hot water can be effective for cleaning heavily soiled clothes, it also can damage clothes by making them shrink and fade.
Instead of using hot water, switch to cold washes, which the EPA says can save $40 annually. While that’s not a whole lot of money, it’s a nice bonus when you’re helping the environment by using fewer resources.
You don’t need to choose either hot or cold 100% of the time, either. Instead, think of cold water as the default and use hot water only when absolutely necessary.
Don’t forget that you can line-dry clothes as well, which saves energy costs compared to using a clothes dryer. As part of cutting his utility bills by 80%, Mr. Money Mustache doesn’t even own a dryer. Yet, again, you don’t have to get rid of the dryer entirely. Instead, just use it when necessary, not for every load, he says.
Enjoy free eco-friendly activities
Sometimes the simple things can give us the most enjoyable experiences, as well as save us some money.
Going for a hike or a bike ride around town can be a good way to get out and experience nature. By going outdoors, you can also save money possibly otherwise spent on movie tickets for the entire family or on a shopping trip to the mall. You can also get the added benefit of exercise.
If you live in or nearby a city, then check out the different event listings for outdoor activities once the summer heats up. For example, we have movies in the park where I live, in which the Parks Department shows free movies outdoors every week.
With Earth Day serving as a highlight in many places, there’re bound to be outdoor activities in celebration too.
Pass on using disposable stuff
I get why using disposable goods is popular. When you’re having a party, it’s easier to use paper or plastic cups, plates, plasticware, and other disposable stuff than to hand wash everything. Then there are everyday things like paper towels and plastic water bottles, to name only two. But using this stuff is bad for the environment, and it costs you money, too.
Nearly all of these things have an easy replacement that’s cheaper to use and potentially more useful, too. Using cloth towels and rags to clean up around the kitchen means that you can keep using them without continuing to buy paper towels.
In many cases, bottled water has little to no difference compared to what comes out of the tap. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, then buy a filter. It’ll save you tons of money compared to buying bottled water, which can cost 300 times or more by volume compared to tap water according to Slate.
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