SAVE SOME GREEN WHILE BEING GREEN
SAVE WATER AND ELECTRICITY IN THE KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY ROOM
- Only run your dishwasher when it's full. This can save up to 400 gallons of water per home per month. It will also cut down on your water bill.
- Use the right setting. The permanent-press setting on your washing machine uses 5 gallons more per load than the regular setting. Reserve it for clothes that need line-drying.
- Set the washer to cold. Use cold water to wash your clothes and save 50% of the energy you would otherwise use for hot water. Set your dryer on the moisture sensor, not the timer, and cut energy use by 15%.
- Go with a trickle. For kitchen chores that demand an open spigot, go with a trickle, not a torrent. Restrict the water flow to the width of a drinking straw and save up to a gallon of water per minute.
- Fill 'er up. Run the dishwasher and the clothes washer with full loads.
- Have a little WaterSense. Soon, you won't have to worry about bringing home products that promise a deluge and deliver a dribble or that don't live up to their water-saving claims. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently launched a certification program that vets devices for water efficiency and performance, and awards the WaterSense label to those that do the job right. You can already find the label on high-efficiency toilets; bathroom faucets and aerators are next in line. The WaterSense program also certifies landscapers who have been trained to use water wisely. To find a landscaper in your area, go to www.epa.gov/watersense.
SAVE WATER IN THE BATHROOM
- Install low flow shower heads in your bathroom, you will still have great water flow but will conserve water. Listen up, water wasters: With a few twists of the wrist, you can save 25% to 60% of the water it takes and 50% of the energy necessary to shower and shampoo you and your family.
- How so? Install a low-flow shower head, which restricts the water output to no more than 2.5 gallons per minute - the federally mandated limit for new fixtures. The shower heads generally are not expensive (some utility companies give them away) and screw into existing fittings.
- You'll squeeze the most out of the low-flow strategy if you live in a home built before 1994 and if you haven't renovated your bathroom: Older shower heads send as many as 5.5 gallons per minute down the drain. The new fixtures go as low as 1.5 gpm, saving 7,300 gallons and $30 to $100 a year over their 2.5-gpm counterparts.
10. Unlike older versions, which put you under a sprinkle, one new low-flow maintains decent pressure by forcing air into the mix, and another channels water into massage-like streams.
- If you haven't a clue how fast the water runs through your shower head, put a bucket under the nozzle and time how many seconds the water takes to get to the 1-gallon mark. If it's less than 20 seconds, head for the hardware store.
- Stop the flow. Turn the water off while you brush your teeth. Running the water for two minutes -- you are brushing for two minutes, right? -- sends 2 gallons of water down the drain.
- Forget to flush once in a while and save up to 4.5 gallons per memory lapse.
- Shower. Switch from a bath, which requires 30 to 70 gallons, to a shower, which uses 25 gallons in ten minutes under a 2.5-gpm shower head. Then shower shorter. Can't do it? Jennifer Aniston takes three minutes to get the job done, according to The Green Book (Three Rivers Press, $13), and you don't hear her complaining.
- Test the toilet. Put a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl, your tank is leaking and you're wasting up to 200 gallons of water a day.
RETROFIT YOUR FAUCETS AND STOP THE DRIPS
- As you browse the plumbing aisles, check out faucet aerators -- doohickeys that screw into your faucet threading and cut the water flow from 3 to 4 gallons per minute (the rate on older fixtures) to as little as a half-gallon. As with shower heads, you can figure out how fast your faucet flows by putting a quart container under the stream. If the container fills in less than five seconds, your faucet could use this fix.
- As their name suggests, aerators blend water and air, reducing the flow without sacrificing pressure. At 50 cents to $3 apiece, the devices are some of the cheapest green gadgets available. Your utility company may even offer you a rebate or hand them out free.
- Aerators come in a range of flow rates, up to 2.2 gpm. A faucet that flows at 1 gpm gets your toothbrush and washcloth plenty wet. But unless you want to grow old waiting for your pasta pot to fill, you'll need to give your kitchen faucet a bit more oomph. Use an aerator with a flow rate of at least 2 gpm.
- Plug the leaks. A leaky faucet wastes as much as 2,700 gallons in a year -- if it doesn't drive you crazy first. So fix it already.
- Use outdoor solar lighting. The yard and patio lights come in a variety of styles and colors. Not only are they cost effective they burn no electricity.
- Switch your regular light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. By just changing five regular light bulbs for fluorescent bulbs, it would be the equivalent of taking one million cars off the highway for a year.
- Programmable thermostats can not only reduce your heating and cooling cost but will cut CO2 emissions by up to 9%. By adjusting your settings just 2 degrees you can make a difference.
- Turn off your computer. Even in standby mode you are still using energy.
- When shopping for new appliances always look for the energy star symbol. These may be a little pricier but you will save in the long run. See EnergyStar.gov for more information on energy star products.
- Insulate your water heater. The newest electric water heaters have plenty of insulation. But if you have one built before 2004, wrap it in an insulating jacket and save 10% -- about $30 -- annually on your water-heating bill.
- Cover the hot tub. Hot tubs lose heat even with the top on. Float a plastic thermal cover under the hard cover and cut energy use by one-third.
- Service the furnace. Have your furnace tuned every two years and you'll save about 1,250 pounds of carbon dioxide and 10% on your heating bills.
- Turn down the heat. For every degree you lower your home's temperature during the heating season, subtract 5% from your bill, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. An Energy Star programmable thermostat saves more than twice its price within a year.
- Dim the lights. Install light dimmers, which cut electricity use by the same percentage that they lower the light.
- Stop drafts. As your father would say, don't heat the great outdoors. Put weather striping around the frames of your front and back doors and save about $30 per year in energy costs.
- Lower your water temperature. Set your water heater at 120 degrees F. If your heater does not have a temperature gauge, dial down until the water feels hot, not scalding. (Before going too low, make sure your dishwasher has a booster heater, which gets the temperature back to 140 degrees F, necessary for proper cleaning.)
- Insulate pipes. Wrap precut pipe insulation around exposed hot-water pipes, including pipes traveling through crawl spaces.
- Use timers on lights. Install occupancy sensors or timers on lights in areas you use only occasionally and for exterior lights, which tend to get left on during the day, says Crissy Trask, a green-living consultant in Spokane, Wash. Anyone with basic wiring skills can install them.
COOPERATE WITH MOTHER NATURE
- Raise the mower blades. Adjust your lawn mower to the 3-inch setting. Shaggy grass holds moisture longer, requiring less watering.
- Water early. Water your outdoor plants in the early morning, before the sun can burn off moisture.
- Don't over-water. Before starting your sprinkler, step on the grass. If the blades spring back, hold off on watering for a day or two. The average lawn needs only one hour of watering a week.
GIVE A LOCAL CAR WASH YOUR BUSINESS
- Let them give your car a shampoo and rinse. Commercial car washes save up to 100 gallons of water per wash over the do-it-yourself kind, and they often reuse the rinse water, according to The Green Book. If every American took the lazy way out just once, total savings would amount to 8.7 billion gallons of water.
SUPPORT WIND POWER AND SOLAR POWER
- Harness the wind. Once you've cleaned up your own act, help clean up the power grid by buying so-called green energy -- electricity generated by wind or solar power or a blend of renewable resources. You'll pay about a half-cent to a few cents more per kilowatt-hour for green-powered electricity compared with electricity generated from nonrenewable resources.
- If companies in your area haven't yet gone with the wind, you may still be able to pay a small premium on your utility bill to support green power elsewhere. Or you can subsidize it separately, with so-called green tags or renewable energy certificates.
- To find certified renewable-power sources in your state, as well as programs that sell green tags or renewable energy certificates, go to the Green Power Locator at www.epa.gov, or to www.green-e.org.