13 Simple, Eco-Friendly Ways to Save Money
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The first thing we noticed when we moved into our new home was the hot water was burning us.
Fortunately, I fixed it by simply adjusting the temperature setting on the hot water heater. No more burns, and using less electricity or gas to heat the water is good for the environment.
But it was also good for our bank account.
Using House Logic's guide to reducing your hot water heater energy use, I figure we'll save $40 per year by keeping the temperature lower.
If the idea sounds good to you, here are a handful of other habits for saving money while going green.
1. Use the Sun to Save Money
You don't need expensive equipment to do a little solar heating.
Just open the curtains on the south side of the house during winter days to let the sun shine in. And open the drapes on east-facing windows in the morning (if they're not shaded).
Of course, the opposite is true when you need to keep the house cool.
Close drapes on the sunny side to keep out sunlight. And if you want to really go green — and save more money on heating and cooling — you can apply passive solar design to a new or existing home.
2. Drink Tap Water
I was so happy to taste the tap water when we recently moved back to Colorado from Florida. It’s delicious!
Immediately we ended our $250-per-year bottled water habit — and we’d been drinking the cheap bottled water.
What about the environmental impact? The Water Project says:
- It takes three liters of water to package one liter of bottled water.
- Water bottles can take 1,000 years to biodegrade, and if incinerated they produce toxic fumes.
- Making water bottles for U.S. demand alone takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil.
If you can, drink from the tap. We also keep a bottle of tap water in the fridge to take with us when we drive anywhere.
3. Open a Green Savings Account
While you’re saving money, consider opening an online bank account.
Aspiration’s Summit checking account is totally free to use, and you’ll do all your banking online. It's also completely paperless.
This account yields up to 1% interest on your balance — that’s 100 times more than typical checking accounts! Plus, it reimburses your ATM fees and lets you make automatic donations to causes you care about.
If you want to see your money grow even more, Aspiration’s Redwood Fund lets you invest in companies with sustainable and environmental practices, like battling climate change.
You can open an account with the Redwood Fund with a minimum $100. Like all of Aspiration’s services, its fee is on a pay-what’s-fair model — you choose!
4. Develop Green Laundry Habits
There are a number of ways to save money doing your laundry — and almost all of them are also environmentally friendly.
- Wash in cold water ($40)
- Use less detergent ($80)
- Line-dry your clothes ($85)
- Skip the fabric softener ($65)
- Replace the old washer ($55)
- Run full loads (savings vary)
- Keep the dryer lint trap clean (savings vary)
5. Hunt Down and Put an End to Energy Vampires
The U.S. Department of Energy says energy vampires — electronics and appliances that keep using power when turned off — can add 10% to your electrical bill.
For example, phone chargers keep sucking down power even when you're not charging, and a digital cable box can add more than $40 per year to your bill if you don't unplug it between uses.
But who wants to run around unplugging things all the time?
Instead, plug electronics into power strips that have an on/off button so you can easily cut the power to the TV and DVD player with a flip of a switch.
6. Walk and Bicycle More
If the store is nearby and you only need to carry a few things, just walk. Use a bicycle for slightly longer trips.
Depending on how many places are within reasonable walking and biking distance, you can significantly reduce your car-related expenses — and you'll put a lot less pollution into the air.
7. Use Public Transportation
When we lived in Tucson, Arizona, my wife and I bought unlimited bus passes for $40 per month, and we went without a car for a while.
A car certainly costs more than the $80 we spent for monthly transportation, and there are at least five ways public transit helps the environment.
Even if you own a car, you can save money using public transportation. Take the bus or train on longer cross-town trips that would eat up more gas, or to avoid paying for parking.
8. Get an Energy Audit
A home energy audit can identify easy-to-correct energy waste issues in your home, and many utility companies offer them for free or a small charge.
If the cost of a professional audit or assessment is too high for you, just do it yourself. The U.S. Department of Energy has a video to walk you through the process.
9. Change Your Diet
It seems eating healthier in general, especially eating fewer calories and less red meat, is the green way to go.
To make your new dietary habits green and frugal, base your meals on inexpensive healthy staples, like rice and beans. See my post on how to eat healthy on a budget for more tips.
10. Stop Those Water Leaks
Leaky faucets and showers are bad enough, but constantly running toilets can be really expensive.
A moderately leaky flapper can cost you $70 per month!
Given the potentially high cost of this wasted water, it's probably worth $5 or so to buy and install a new flapper if you ever hear the toilet running in the middle of the night.
11. Vacation Closer to Home
One poll shows 36% of people vacation closer to home to minimize their environmental impact.
Of course, this green habit can also save you a lot of money.
12. Dress Warmer
One of the easiest ways to save on your heating bill is to simply turn down the thermostat.
You can knock $10 per month off your winter heating bill for each degree you lower the setting.
To do so comfortably, you may have to start another new habit and wear warmer clothes around the house.
13. Have Fewer Kids
OK, some of you won't like this next suggestion, but according to many reports, kids are one of the biggest threats to our planet.
Well, having too many of them may be the problem. And in any case, the average cost to raise a child to the age of 18 is $245,000.
So, perhaps the biggest thing you can do differently to be “greener” and save a ton of money is to choose to have one child less than you’d originally planned.
Your Turn: Do you have some green money-saving habits you can add to this list?
Disclosure: Here’s a toast to the affiliate links in this post. May we all be just a little richer today.
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).