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Go Green (and Save Some Green, Too)

Lily Bosworth - April 18, 2013

We all have a responsibility to take care of the earth (see D&C 59:18, 20). And as it turns out, being environmentally responsible not only helps the planet but our wallets as well.

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President Spencer W. Kimball once said, “We recommend to all people that there be no undue pollution, that the land be taken care of and kept clean to be productive and to be beautiful” (Ensign, May 1975). It was an important charge then, and surely even more important now. Perhaps not every family is environmentally conscious yet, but far more of us are money conscious. Luckily, there are many instances where the two mindsets are complimentary. These ideas will help your family save not only a few watts (or gas gallons, or trees, etc.), but a few dollars while you’re at it.

In the Car

Ease off the pedal. Sudden acceleration, braking, and speeding wastes gas, lowering your gas mileage by approximately 33 percent.

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Fill up the tank in the morning or evening. When it's cool outside you will reduce gas evaporation from the tank and get more bang for your buck.

Less junk in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds of cargo can decrease fuel efficiency by two percent.

Idle cars are just as bad as idle hands. Idling gets zero miles per gallon, so if you are idling for more than 30 seconds or so, restarting your engine will actually burn less gas than running the engine while parked (think: picking kids up from school, waiting at the airport, traffic jam, etc.).

Moderation in all things—including with the AC and heat. Gas usage increases between five and 25 percent when these are turned on (though be sure your windows are up when on the highway, so as to decrease drag).

Keep your tires properly inflated. According to fueleconomy.gov, you can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. (The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver's side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner's manual.)

At Home

Turn it off. Lighting is responsible for about eleven percent of your energy bill, and while a compact fluorescent bulb uses about 75 percent less energy than an incandescent and lasts 10 times longer (which means a savings of about $30 over each bulb’s lifetime), it still doesn't save as much as a bulb that's simply off.

Unplug. Your computer (including connected printers and scanners), the DVD player, the answering machine, your cell phone, and other electronics continue to suck power even when turned off or not in use, if they're still plugged in. In fact, Microsoft estimates that it costs $55 to $70 per year to allow one computer to sit idle. One solution (apart from manually unplugging items) is to use a power strips. Some of them allow you to connect appliances together, so, for example, when you turn on (or off) your computer, the scanner and printer will follow suit, but other electronics (like a lamp) can remain on.

Slow the flow. Be conscious of when you may be mindlessly running water, such as when you're brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your hands, rinsing vegetables, or waiting for water to warm. Save a few gallons by keeping a pitcher of water in the fridge, turning off the tap while brushing or shaving, or scraping your dishes well so that they don't need a rinse.

Shoot for the stars. If you're in the market for a new appliance like a washer or fridge (or even a light bulb for that matter), look for one with an energy star label. Some of these will be more costly initially than less-efficient appliances, but over the years you'll see the savings begin to add up in your electric bill. For example, front-loading washers use up to 60 percent less water than regular washing machines.

Cold is cool. An astounding 85 to 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines goes toward heating the water. Not only could you save energy, but you could also save about 60 to 70 dollars a year by washing in cold water. Companies like Tide and Purex produce detergents specifically for cold water.

Recycle. Newspapers, junk mail, magazines, phone books, glass, aluminum cans, and plastic grocery bags can all be recycled. If your city doesn’t have a recycling program, look around and you might find a recycling bin near a school or shopping center. Or visit earth911.org to locate your nearest recycling center.

Plant a garden. There are so many advantages: Your family will be able to enjoy delicious, fresh food; you'll be able to incorporate another activity into your family fun; and you will control what goes into their mouths. You'll have a means of cutting out some or all of the harmful pesticides you may be getting at the grocery store, and you'll save money at the same time. Collect your peelings, cores, and scraps into a compost pile and just incorporate it right back into the soil! No room for a garden plot? Even a pot or two on your porch with a tomato or cucumber plant will make an impact.

Shop at the farmer's market. Typical grocery store produce travels nearly 1,500 miles before it reaches your plate, meaning lots of gas emissions for food that is less fresh than what you'll find at your local produce stand. To find local farmers visit localharvest.org.

Put on a sweater. Lowering your water heater temperature and setting your thermostat no higher than 70 degrees in the winter and no lower than 78 degrees in the summer will make an impact. Additionally, you could opt to invest in a programmable thermostat, which will allow you to lower the temperature (or increase it in warm months) when everyone is at work or the kids are at school.

Kick the plastic habit. Get used to reaching for a glass when at home, instead of a water bottle out of the fridge, and tote along a reusable container when away from home. If your water bottle use is based more on a desire for cleaner water than it is on convenience, then simply investing in a tap-mounted purifier will be a solid investment that will cut out your bottle bill as well as all the plastic in the trash (and later in the landfills).

© LDS Living 2013; Image credit: Thinkstock.
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