10 Ways to Save the Earth and Save Cash – and 3 Dumb Ideas That Won’t Save Either

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Earth Day is tomorrow, and you’re sure to hear a lot of good advice that you’ve been pummeled with before: Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, buy recycled napkins and paper towels, and adjust the thermostat a degree or two.

But there other ideas you might not know about that could be a quick and easy way to put the eco in economize…

1. Use a desktop computer? Go into “preferences” and turn off the screen saver – and program it to go into “sleep” mode when you’re not using it. That can lower your power bill by about $50 a year.

2. Same concept, different screen: TVs that aren’t even turned on cost the average American household $5 a year. So plug your TV, cable box, DVD player, etc. into a single power strip – then use the power strip as an on/off switch.

3. The big chill: According to the Alliance to Save Energy, using only cold water in your clothes washer can save up to $63 a year – and it can be just as effective as hot water, especially if you have a newer washing machine, many of which do a better job of cleaning.

4. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. You can save up to five gallons of water per day, per person – which means a family of four can save 7,500 gallons of water each year.

5. Save a tree while saving yourself. If fears of identity theft have kept you from embracing online banking, know this: Having statements mailed to home is still a major source of identity theft. Most banks offer excellent online security, and by paying your bills and viewing your statements online, you’ll save on checks and postage – and you’ll save lots of paper in the process.

6. Save gas in your front yard. If you own a lawn mower, you’ve probably never bothered to sharpen the blades or even check its spark plugs and other moving parts. But according to Consumer Reports, a well-maintained mower combined with a sharp blade can shave 25 percent from fuel costs – and give you a nicer looking lawn with less effort.

7. Use less fertilizer. Speaking of your lawn, spend $10 to save even more. Have your soil tested by your local cooperative extension service, which can tell you how to use less fertilizer: cheaper for you, better for Mother Earth. Find the nearest one with this neat search tool.

8. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. If we all did that, we’d collectively save $8 billion a year – and 60 million tons of plastic bottles. Now,I know what you’re thinking: Bottled water tastes better. Actually, it’s often the temperature that makes the difference. Try this: Fill an empty bottle of water with tap water, put it in the refrigerator next to an unopened bottle. A couple hours later, ask someone to pour you a glass from each bottle. Bet you can’t tell the difference. (I couldn’t, and now I drink tap.) If you’re tap water is worse, try a water filter and repeat the experiment.

9. Reduce your wedding footprint. An eco-friendly wedding? Isn’t that going just a bit too far? Not really. Check out our video on Environmental Weddings.

10. Grow your own. A home garden doesn’t require a lot of land to return a lot of investment. Plant lettuce, cherry tomatoes, peas, spinach, and herbs. One packet of mixed lettuce seeds costs less than $4 but generates an entire month’s worth of daily salads. However, some foods – like potatoes and onions – are cheaper to buy than grow. For more tips on what not to do, see below…

Logical but not economical

And here are some myths that will cost both you and the planet…

1. Let go of your old appliances. Keeping a sputtering old refrigerator because you don’t clog up a landfill? Modern appliances can use up to 70 percent less power.

2. Spend to save. Same goes for your shower head, toilet, and even garden hose. Whatever space they occupy in a landfill is offset by the savings of the latest and greatest devices: a low-flow shower-head costs about $12 at a home improvement store but can save up to 25 gallons of water during just a 10-minute shower… A low-flow toilet won’t use more than 1.6 gallons per flush compared to older models that suck 3.5-7 gallons a flush… Even a low-flow nozzle for your garden hose will cost less than $20 and will save about 5 gallons a minute.

3. Open your vents. Do you close the vents in rooms that you’re not using? Well, don’t. Closing more than 10 percent of your vents can create an air pressure imbalance that will actually reduce your air conditioner’s efficiency. So if you’ve got central air, let it flow.

For more tips on going green while saving green, see our story Going Green While Saving Green: Some of Our Best Tips

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