Earth Day 2010 - Green Tips for Energy and Electronics
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. While we only celebrate the official day only once a year, there are many things we can change in our lives to make every day Earth Day. I’m sure there aren’t many of us that can afford to go out and buy a hybrid car or put solar panels on our roof, but there are things you can do right now, with things you probably already have in your home, that can make a huge difference, not only for the planet, but even for your wallet. Why not go green to save some green? From now through Earth Day, I’ll share some easy tips to help you be just a bit greener every day.
Let’s talk energy first. We all have electronics. Lots of them. Take a look around you. Heck. Take a look in front of you. You’re obviously using a computer. And I’m sure somewhere in your house you’ve got a TV, or several. You’ve got video game systems, DVD or BluRay players, DVRs, stereos, toasters, coffee makers, microwaves, printers, clocks, lamps, chargers for cell phones and iPods..... and the list goes on. You’ve got electronics, and they’re all plugged in. Even if you’re not using them at the moment, they’re sucking up energy. Seriously--Stop for a minute and take a good look around. How much energy is being wasted in your house right now? Probably a whole lot more than there needs to be. So what can you do about it?
• Unplug - If you don’t need it, unplug it. Do things like toasters and coffee pots really need to be plugged in all the time? If not, pull the plug.
• Use a power strip – For those hard to reach places, or bundles of cord confusion (like behind your TV or your desk) use a power strip to turn everything off at once when you’re not using it. Do you really need to keep your cell phone charger ready when you’re not charging anything? Or your video game systems hooked up when you’re not home? Plug them into power strips and just flip the switch when you need it.
• Turn it off -We all know to turn the lights off when we leave the room. But how many of us leave our computers turned on even when we're not near them? How often do we leave fans running in rooms no one's in? A good rule of thumb--if you're going to be away for more than 15-20 minutes, turn it off.
For things that take batteries, get the rechargeable kind. It’ll take a bit of an investment at first, but in the long run, you’ll use fewer batteries, meaning you’ll spend less money! Plus that means fewer batteries ending up in the trash.
Not all of the energy being wasted in your house is coming from your outlets. Heating and cooling are a big factor too, but with a few adjustments, it’s an easy fix!
• Your thermostat – Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer. This will keep the heat or air from kicking on quite as much, saving not only energy, but money on your utility bills! Also, set it a bit higher or lower (depending on the season) before you leave for the day to save energy while no one’s home. Want to go even greener? Install a programmable thermostat and let it do all the work for you!
• Your water heater – Turn your water heater temperature down by a few degrees. If it doesn’t have to heat as high, it won’t use as much energy! A greener option? Put an insulator around your water heater to keep the heat in. It’s kind of like a sweater for your tank.
Looking to save some money while you’re saving the world? Try renting or borrowing things instead of buying.
• Sign up for Netflix – For a set price per month, you can rent all the DVDs you want! With none of the plastic packaging that comes with buying them. And no more spending an arm and a leg at the movie theater. Plus, for the $20 you’d spend on just the popcorn and a drink at the theater, you could have an entire meal at home! Plus dessert! And with video game systems like Xbox360, Wii, and PS3, you can get the movies delivered directly to your TV, so you don’t even have to worry about wasting all that mail packaging!
• GameFly – Like video games? You can rent them through GameFly just like you would rent movies through Netflix. This way, when you beat the game in 2 days, you don’t have it just hanging out on your shelf, taking up space and wasting plastic for years.
• Check out your local library – Libraries aren’t just for books anymore. Now they’re stocking all the latest DVDs as well. Free movie night! Most libraries have the option to reserve things online, so all you have to do is sit back and wait for the movies to come in! Just a word of warning though. If you're hoping for a new release, you may have to be patient. The request lists for those can be quite long. And while you’re at the library picking up your DVDs, you can pick up the latest bestselling book to read as well, saving money on that new hardcover you'll only read once!
• Holding an entire digital library in your hands will save TONS of paper, and it’s so much easier to store! No more bookshelves overflowing with books you’ll probably never read again. You can even get your daily newspapers on some of them!
• Worried about your eyes hurting from reading a screen? Don’t be. Most of the e-readers out there now have a special e-ink technology that makes reading with an electronic device almost exactly like reading from an actual printed book.
• Wirelessly downloading the books directly to your device means you don’t even have to head out to the bookstore to grab that new release! Finish your book while you’re waiting on the doctor? Just download a new one! Think of the savings in gas! A win for both the environment and your wallet!
• Some libraries are even getting in on the digital action, letting you check out e-books just like you would any other book, so not only are you saving a ton of trees, but you’re getting books for free too! Also, there’s a huge selection of free e-books out there already. All those classics like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice? Their copyrights have expired, meaning they’re public domain now, which translates into free digital versions for you!
• Don’t have the money to invest in an e-reader? No problem. Barnes and Noble has a free e-reader application for your computer (PC or Mac), your smartphone, and even your iPod touch, with an application for the new iPad coming soon! It won’t have that cool e-ink technology the actual devices have, but you’ll still be a tree saving superhero!
See? It's totally easy to be just a little bit greener! So take a look around your house today and unplug things that you're not using. Adjust the thermostat a few degrees. Turn off your computer when you head out to the kitchen to make dinner. Take just 5 minutes to help the Earth! Tomorrow's green tips? How to Green Clean!
Danae writes about her baking adventures on The Busty Baker.