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Easy Ways to Go Green

Easy Ways to Go Green

Turn it down. Turn it off. And for the love of God, lose the plastic bags. We're constantly hearing about all the things we should be doing—or not doing—to go green and keep the planet from bursting into flames. We know you care about the birds and the trees, but let's be honest: We'd all get a wee bit busier if we knew there was a little more environmental payback to pocket. That's why we found the eleven green commandments that do the most good—for the mother ship and you.

What bulbs to use: Replace the five most frequently used lights in your home with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Yes, we know you've heard that a million times. But quit yawning—this move is guaranteed to pad your pockets and waste way less energy. You'll save $30 or more in electricity costs over the bulb's lifetime and shell out less at the register, because CFLs labeled "Energy Star-approved" last at least two years, guaranteed (if one blows before then, the manufacturer will replace it). If every American replaced just one light, we would save enough juice to illuminate more than three million homes per year.

Let's make this very clear: You don't have to boil your unmentionables to get them clean. Wash your threads in cold water. Hot water costs up to nine times as much per load as cold; warm costs up to five times as much. Three ingredients—water, soap, and agitation—are all you need for your duds and your conscience to come out clean. Oily stains may still need hot water; pre­treat and soak first. And you should turn up the heat if poison ivy gets on your clothes. But in general, chill out; you'll cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by 320 pounds.

There's no need to scald yourself in the shower. Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. You'll save your skin, trim your electric bill by up to 10 percent (if you've had it set at the typical 140 degrees), extend the life of your water heater and pipes by reducing mineral build-up and corrosion, and keep the climate out of hot water, too, by eliminating 200 pounds of emissions per year. Phew.

Lower your thermostat by two degrees in the winter and you'll shave about five percent off your heating bill. Having just a slight chill in the air in a single home spares the planet about 353 pounds of emissions per year.

Go veg one day per week. The little red thumper in your chest will thank you. Skipping meat is also like eliminating 1,000 miles of driving when you factor in all the resources required to produce animal protein, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say. And Wilbur gets another day on the farm.

Use a clothesline or drying rack. No, you will not reek of domesticity. But you will keep your shorts on and your socks up. Literally. The elastic in that stuff lasts longer if it air dries. Plus, you'll save about $43 per year, and silencing your machine will wring out nearly 800 pounds of emissions annually. (Sucker for fluffy towels? When they're almost just barely damp, throw them in the dryer for five minutes to puff up the fibers.)

Install a low-flow shower­head and save while you sing, shower, and shave. Installing products like the Oxygenics TriSpa showerhead ($55, oxygenics.com) can net a family of four (each taking 10-minute showers every day) up to $415 per year in utility-bill savings. Switching from a conventional, 2.5-gallon-per-minute showerhead to a 1.5 gpm TriSpa will save 3,650 gallons per person annually.
Drop the sponge. Surrender the dishpan. You're free to dine and dash. Compared with hand washing, dishwashers usually clean better and use less water. And if you already use a dishwasher, you can lose the pre-wash rinse—newer models don't need it. (Just wait until you have a full load to run it.) Overall, going hands-free with pots and pans uses a fraction of the water, and if Americans traded their old workhorses for Energy Star–approved dishwashers, they'd save as much water as the entire U.S. population uses to shower once a day for about 11 days.

If you haven't figured it out already, when your appliances start to kick it, replace them with Energy Star-approved products. Certified items use 20 to 30 percent less energy. Depending on how many major appliances, home elec­tronics, and lights you upgrade, you could save up to $600 per year on your power bill and reduce your annual emissions by 30 percent.

It may feel like treason, but ditch your beer fridge—and that ancient basement freezer. Depending on its age, size, and efficiency, retiring your energy hog could save $100 or more annually. Get the exact number with Energy Star's Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator (energystar.gov; click on "appliances"). If 1,000 people scrapped their units (many can be recycled), the savings would equal taking about 97 cars off the road.

This one hurts a little, but your independent side will heal: Carpool once a week. We hate waiting around and sharing tunes too, but gas prices are already putting a serious dent in our good times. Try the ride-sharing site goloco.org; modeled after Facebook, it helps you find carpool companions and calculates each rider's fare share. According to one government estimate, if every solo driver in the U.S. took on one carpooler during rush hour, we would save 40 million gallons of gasoline per day. Spend your savings on pimping another ride—like your bike.

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