Saving Money and the Planet this Earth Day

Merry Earth Day, everyone! Here’s hoping everyone has a plan to make this Earth Day special. It’s definitely my favorite planet-based holiday; compared to Venus day, it’s simply the best. (Inhaling an atmosphere of gaseous sulfur and carbon dioxide is not nearly as fun as it might sound at first.)

But on this day when we try to focus on how to keep our planet in livable shape, it’s worth considering some of the ways that we can help to save our environment and cut down on our spending at the same time. Last Earth Day, I laid out some of the ways that you can apply the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle motto for saving the planet in ways that can help you save money. This year, let’s take a look at some other ways to keep your bills (and impact on the environment) to a minimum:

1) Unplug unneeded devices when not in use: There’s lots of ‘vampire’ devices out there that draw electricity even when you are not using them.  Any device that uses an internal clock, to cite one example, will draw electricity constantly to keep the clock running and accurate.  Now, there are some devices that you should keep plugged in to keep their clocks running (alarm clocks, for example), but others like TVs, microwaves, and ovens can easily be unplugged between uses to conserve electricity.

Look at it, shimmering there in space; don't you want to save it?

2) Get leaky faucets fixed: If you’ve ever had a dripping faucet in the next room, you know how a steady ‘drip…drip…drip…drip’ can slowly drive you insane.  (Not that some of us have too far to drive; but I am digressing.)  But not only is that dripping faucet wearing at your patience, but it can end up wasting a great deal of water over the course of a year.  (You can estimate just how much using the the calculator on the USGS website.)  As with many environmentally friendly maneuvers, getting your faucet fixed might cost some money up front (although, if you can do it yourself, you’ll save money there, as well), but it can end up paying for itself over time.  On that subject…

3) Improve the insulation in your house: If your house isn’t properly insulated, you will end up losing a lot of your heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.  You’ll end up using more electricity (or natural gas, if that’s how you keep your home heated) to keep your home at the ideal temperature, which will increase the amount that you pay.  Instead, making sure that your insulation is sufficient to minimize heat transfer between your house’s atmosphere at that outside can cut down the amount you spend, and the amount of you pay to keep your home comfortable.  While we’re on the subject of temperature…

4) Keep internal temperatures lower in the winter and higher in the summer: The further you try to alter the temperature of your residence from the temperature outside, the more it’s going to cost you.  You don’t need to keep the temperature at 70 degrees Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius).  Instead, setting the temperature to a higher value in the summer (to decrease the draw on your air conditioner) and a lower temperature in the winter (ditto for your heating system) will decrease the amount of money you need to spend in order to make your home livable.  In the winter, you can simply add another layer of clothing to help stay warm enough for your comfort.  (In the summer, though, you might have a harder time, unless your housemates don’t have a problem with you going naked…)

5) Keep your car tuned up: Your car can end up consuming a great deal of gas in the course of your day to day driving.  The worse shape your car is in, the more gasoline you’ll end up guzzling.  If you follow the common personal finance advice to buy a used car (which is good advice, don’t get me wrong, as most of cars lose a great deal of their value in the first few years of use, and you can buy one much cheaper if you let someone else drive it during its prime depreciation years), you can end up with a car that ends up drinking gas like water.  Getting it fixed up can, at least in theory, help you save money in the long run.  As with many methods of saving money, you’ll likely end up paying up front (possibly quite a bit, depending on the age and general condition of your car), but in the end, you can (hopefully) save more money than you spend getting the car in shape.  While we’re on the subject of cars…

6) Watch your driving habits: Even the best, most well-maintained car needs to be driven properly if you hope to keep from filling it up constantly with gas.  There are plenty of ways to cut down the amount of gas your car uses: drive the speed limit (or, wacky thought, consider driving BELOW the speed limit), don’t let your car idle too much as you drive, and keep your acceleration under control (no re-enacting The Fast and the Furious) to help keep from burning too much gasoline.  You should also consider not using your car air conditioner quite so much, as it will burn quite a bit of gasoline as well.

7) Opt out of junk mail: Here’s a three-fer: you can reduce the amount of waste paper used, cut down the amount of time you need to spend opening mail (and shredding pages with personal information on them), AND help yourself save money by avoiding temptations, all at once!  Simply opt out of receiving pre-screened offers, and all that junk mail will stop arriving.  If there’s a better (and easier) way to save the planet and your mind, I haven’t seen it.

There you have it, seven ways to help save the planet, while keeping more money in your wallet.  Happy Earth Day, everyone!

What do you have planned to celebrate Earth Day?

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