Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Contrary to popular belief, it is easy being green.

There are little steps each of us can take to conserve energy. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, here are five small changes that don't take much effort. And, if you've already gone green, there are five bigger steps you can take, too.

Five small steps
  1. Buy better bulbs. We all know to replace incandescent bulbs. But did you know that there is an even better bulb than the CFL? LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, have better light quality and last 25 times longer than incandescents. They also use less energy than CFLs.
  2. Start off cold. You don't need to preheat your oven. Just put the dish in and set the temperature. Your food will be ready in nearly the same amount of time.
  3. Air dry dishes. Use the dishwasher for cleaning, but turn off the heated dry cycle. Once the cleaning cycle finishes, crack open the door. Dishes will still dry and you'll save electricity.
  4. Slow down. Speeding and driving aggressively by rapidly accelerating and braking wastes gas. Most cars' efficiency drops 25% when their speed increases from 55 mph to 75 mph.
  5. Save paper. White space is nice, but you can save up to 50% on consumption by decreasing the size of margins, and headers and footers. You can also trim the page by decreasing line spacing. If single spacing is too hard to read, try 1.5 instead of double. Reuse all those wasted pages, too. Take them home for the kids to color on the blank sides. Or, turn those empty backs into notepads.

Five bigger steps
  1. If you're building, fit your roof with solar panels and site your house so that it takes advantage of the sun. Install windows and doors on the south-facing side to allow you to capture the most natural light all day.
  2. Change your heat source from oil heat to biofuels. These nontoxic, biodegradable and renewable fuels are derived from oils, wood or animal and vegetable fat. Most furnaces can run just fine on a blend of 20%-99% biodiesel and most need no additional parts to switch over. Have a trained technician inspect your furnace first to make sure the use of biofuels is possible.
  3. Cut out the use of gas-powered lawn equipment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, tools such as mowers, trimmers and chainsaws account for more than 5% of America's urban air pollution. Plug in instead with battery-powered or electric garden equipment.
  4. Get soaked. Drip irrigation systems deliver a gentle, steady supply of water directly where you need it. This can reduce your water bill by decreasing the amount used. In the eastern U.S., 30% of water consumption in urban areas is for watering the lawn. A gentle soaking via an irrigation system can also reduce the amount of soil eroding off your yard. This means less soil, fertilizer and pesticides leaching into the water supply.
  5. Swim with the sun. By using solar energy, you can cut the cost of heating your swimming pool or hot tub. And the price is nice. Most solar systems cost the same as electric or gas-powered systems but have very low operating costs. Solar pool heaters are the most cost-effective use of solar energy.