Keeping Green

Kermit the Frog sang “It’s not easy being green,” but if you can help out the environment we all share, and save a little time and money too, it’s a good thing. Here’re a few tips to make things better around the home.

Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact florescent lights.  Why bother?  Replacing a 100-watt bulb with its CFL equivalent will save $100 in electricity costs over the life of the bulb.  Incandescents only convert 10% of their energy into light, the rest is heat. CFLs last up to 15 times longer than your average incandescent.

Add motion detectors to your outdoor lights.  No fumbling in the dark for a switch and, since they shut off when they’re not needed, they’ll cut down about 50% of the time the lights are on, which means saving money on your electric bills.

Get healthier paint.  VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released even after the paint is dry and regular paints can contain benzene and formaldehyde which can trigger asthma and allergies. A gallon of regular paint, when thrown away, can seep into the ground and pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water. Look for the Green Seal, which means the paint has been certified as safe.

Sweep, don’t hose-off, your driveway.  You’ll burn 173 calories an hour sweeping vs. 86 with a hose and a hose uses 25 gallons of water every 5 minutes.  And you’ll avoid runoff that can eventually get into waterways…and cut your water bill.

Swap out the showerhead.  Fix a drop a second leak and you’ll cut down on 165 gallons a month of water use.  Low-flow showerheads and faucets are easy to install and cut water use in half.  A family of four can save as much as $250 a year in water bills.

Get rid of junk mail.  Americans receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail per year, per person.  That consumes enough energy to make 2.8 million cars and takes up 100 million trees every year…and it saves you the time of having to deal with it.  Directmail.com, 1-888-5-OPTOUT and www.nativeforest.org can help get you off the lists.

Don’t bag it when you mow.  The clippings you leave on the lawn release nitrogen so you’ll be spending 25% less on fertilizer, which also means less nitrogen runoff into the waterways.  By the way, the EPA estimates that grass clippings account for 18% of household trash.

When you’re buying candles, get soy.  Paraffin wax comes from oil refining.  Soy’s renewable, petrol’s not.  They also burn up to 50% longer and have less smoke.

Turn the dishwasher off the drying cycle.  The dishes dry anyway (OK, maybe it takes a little longer) but you’ll cut down at least 15% of the energy use and save as much as $25 a year on your electricity bill.

Get a gas grill.  The next time you’re deciding to buy, go gas.  They produce about half as much CO2 as charcoal grills and about 1/3rd as much as electric grills.  They also don’t emit the volatile organic compounds through smoke. If you want to use charcoal, look for coals and chips certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Clean the lint out of your clothes dryer.  It’s easy; it can decrease dryer energy usage by up to 30%, which means it could save you up to $40 a year.

Use aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap.  Aluminum foil isn’t made from petroleum and it can be used in both the oven and the refrigerator.

Lastly, now that you’ve saved all this money, what do you do with it?  I know a place where you could buy some furniture…