Taking small eco-friendly steps
Find an energy calculator to assess your current energy usage.
Many sites have calculators that will automatically tally up the energy efficiency of your house. It is also helpful if the site can also produce a graph or tally that can demonstrate what your house’s potential could be after making some minor changes.
Slay “energy vampires.”
Most electronic devices and appliances draw energy when they’re plugged in — even if they’re switched off. Most Americans own 25+ electronic devices. You can cut your energy consumption by unplugging your appliances and devices when they’re not in use.
Replace your old light bulbs.
Old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs waste up to 90% of their energy as heat. New types of light bulbs, such as compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs, can dramatically slash your house’s energy consumption for light. In most cases, you don’t have to do a thing to your existing light fixtures. Just buy different bulbs and swap them out!
- CFLs are like the fluorescent bulbs in supermarkets, but they’re shaped in a small coil and are about the same shape and size as incandescent bulbs. They last about ten times as long as an incandescent bulb. They’re usually a little bit more expensive, but they pay for themselves within a year.
- CFLs are a good choice for most home lighting situations. However, they usually cannot be dimmed, and they waste a lot of their energy when used in recessed or “can” lights. Because CFLs contain a small (but rarely dangerous) amount of mercury, they must be disposed of carefully. The Environmental Protection Agency has full instructions on their website.
- LEDs last up to 35 times longer than an incandescent bulb, and between 2-4 times longer than CFLs. LEDs are cool to the touch, so they don’t use much energy at all. However, they are usually still more expensive than either incandescent or CFL bulbs.
- LEDs are a good choice for most home lighting situations. Unlike incandescent and CFL bulbs, LEDs emit “directional” light, meaning the light is focused in a specific direction (like a spotlight). They are a great choice for recessed lighting. Only Energy Star-certified LED bulbs are specifically designed to replicate the omnidirectional light of a traditional light bulb. Look for the Energy Star label to make sure that the LED bulbs you buy give you the look you want.
- Even better, open curtains and windows during daylight hours to use natural light. This can really cut power costs and also save loads of energy.
Compost your kitchen scraps.
Many things we throw away on a daily basis can be composted instead. Coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, even napkins and paper towels can be recycled to produce compost, which is great for gardens.
Wash your laundry in cold water.
80-90% of the energy used when you run your washing machine comes from heating up the water for hot-water washes. Use the “cold water” or “eco” mode on your washing machine to save energy.