We all want to do our part to help the environment. Unfortunately, many of us tend to be put-off once we consider how much being environmentally friendly can potentially cost. You might be surprised to find out that there are actually dozens of inexpensive things that you can do to give Mother Nature a hand. Here are 20 simply smarter ideas on how to conserve nature, while also conserving cash.
1. Turn off the lights
A light left on in an empty room isn’t necessary, so turn it off. Draw your curtains and blinds, and use natural light where you can. Not only will this save you some money and help to conserve energy, but the natural energy and light from the sun will also help to heat the house when it’s cold outside.
2. Dress for the temperature
We can often spend far more energy than we need to, keeping the insides of our homes at a comfortable temperature. Rather than cranking up the heat or blasting the air conditioning, consider dressing for the temperature. Put on a jumper if you’re feeling a chill, or change into something breezier if you’re feeling too warm. If you are going to use air-conditioning, try to keep the temperature set between 18–20°C, because every degree outside of that range will end up costing you an additional 5–10% on your energy bill.
3. Buy locally
Buying locally will not only help to keep your money within your community, but it will also help the environment by reducing the impact from transportation. After all, food and other products from distant areas have to be shipped, and that generally means burning fossil fuels to do it.
4. Visit the local library
There’s nothing wrong with a little entertainment, and most of us are happy to spend a few dollars on a new book or DVD. But once we’ve finished the book and watched the film, how likely are we to read or watch it again? Instead of buying new and then discarding, check with the library to see what you could borrow. This will cut down on waste, and also save you money.
5. Recycle everything
OK, maybe not everything, but at least be sure to recycle everything that you possibly can. Old electronics are especially important to recycle, as the methods used to extract the rare metals that make up their various components can be very environmentally damaging. If you can’t recycle something, see if you can find another use for it around the home, or give it to charity to be used again by someone else.
6. Fix dripping Taps
In order for water to be safely usable, it has to be treated and purified. This process takes a lot of energy, so every drop of water that you waste is another jab at nature. Dripping taps can generally be fixed quickly and easily, if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t trust yourself with the task, then call a plumber to take care of it for you. You’ll be able to earn your money back through what you’ll save on your water bill.
7. Switch to LED lighting
Conventional light bulbs only convert 10–15% of their energy into visible light; the rest is burned off as heat. On the other hand, LED bulbs are able to convert 90% of their energy into light, thus making them substantially more efficient. At the same time, they also last much longer than a conventional bulb, which means you’ll have fewer burnt out bulbs to throw away.
8. Reuse bags
Plastic bags may be convenient, but they’re murder for the environment. They aren’t biodegradable, and they’re so lightweight that they are easily carried by winds and water currents. In 2007, Australians used 3.9 billion lightweight single use high density polyethylene bags, and in 2002, over 50 million bags ended up as litter. Invest in a cloth bag, or at least try to reuse your old plastic bags instead of throwing them away.
9. Wash laundry in cold water
Not all clothing needs to be washed in hot water. Set your cycle to “cold,” and save the energy that your machine would have wasted on heating the water.
10. Follow speed laws
It’s a simple fact that the faster you want something to move, the more energy you’ll need. As such, bringing a car up to its top speed wastes more petrol than driving slowly. Obey the speed laws, and you’ll also be able to help out the environment.
11. Collect rainwater
They say that rain falls on the just and the unjust, so why aren’t we taking better advantage of this resource? By installing a water tank, or simply placing a rain barrel outside, underneath a downspout, you can capture this free water for use in your garden or for washing your car.
12. Buy second hand
It takes energy and resources to create a new product. Help put those resources to better use by choosing to buy used items instead of new ones.
13. Make your own cleaning supplies
Many store-bought cleaning supplies are actually quite toxic, and can hurt the environment. Make your own natural cleaning products.
Petrol is a limited resource which requires a lot of energy to refine, and when it’s used as a fuel source, it releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Traffic congestion wastes 11.3 billion litres of petrol every year, so do the world a favour and get out of the car. Walk or ride a bike whenever you can. It will improve your health, save you money, and might even make the air a bit cleaner as well.
15. Unplug unused electronics
Did you know that when an electrical device is plugged into an outlet, it continues to drain electricity even when it’s not turned on? This phantom power drained can add substantial costs to your energy bill. Defeat this wastage by unplugging your appliances (or, if you have outlets with cut-off switches, be sure to make use of them). Also, when you’re not using your computer, turn it off rather than allow it to go into “sleep” mode; a few extra seconds spent booting it back up is worth the reduced energy use.
16. Avoid disposables
Disposable what? Disposable everything. Diapers, napkins, paper towels, utensils… if you can make the switch from disposable to reusable, you’ll be conserving resources and reducing waste.
17. Maintain your car
Not only will a well cared-for car serve you better and for longer, but it will also be more efficient when it comes to burning petrol. You might even consider reading up on alternative car fuel sources.
18. Opt out of paper post
How much of the post you receive is important? Probably only a very small percentage. The rest is generally advertising. Take an afternoon and ring the various suppliers of this “junk mail” and tell them that you would like to be removed from their mailing lists. You can also choose to hang a sign on your letterbox indicating that you only want to receive addressed mail. This will cut down on paper waste.
19. Avoid bottled water
Bottled water may taste good, but it is very damaging to the environment. Choose instead to invest in a water filter, and buy a reusable bottle that you can refill.
20. Spread the word
Once you’ve figured out how to be simply smarter about the environment, spread the news by telling your friends and family. And as each new individual starts to make changes in his or her life, we’ll be able to make a real difference.