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If you’re an environmental advocate taking steps to reduce your greenhouse gas footprint, one common complaint you might hear is that it’s too expensive to go green. Solar panels, local produce, electric cars, organic pesticides—they may help the environment, but they can also hurt finances. Though it’s true some of those endeavors may incur an upfront cost, they can also save you money in the long run by cutting down on energy and gas bills, trips to the doctor and yet another tub of RoundUp. In short, there’s a common theme when it comes to being green that an upfront investment yields long-term returns. Here are tips you can take to lower your bills and your eco-footprint.
- Natural cooling: Set the thermostat to 78 degrees or turn off the air conditioning during hot summer days. Using fans and pulling down the shades during the day can also keep homes and office buildings cool during the height of extreme heat. Southern California Edison customers are no strangers to flex alerts, or when power use outstrips electricity supply and other challenging grid conditions during heat waves.
- Shut off appliances during the day: In addition to increasing the temperature on the thermostat, running other major home appliances before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m. is a commonplace practice to avoid flex alerts and high-cost energy bills. Insulating your home properly will also keep rooms cool during summer and warm during the winter. Unplug chargers and power strips as well. This may be a penny-pincher habit, but you’ll be surprised at the long-term savings.
- Plant Shade Trees. It’s one of the first (and only) environmental lessons we learn in school: Planting trees is healthy for the world. Trees also help consumers by reducing energy bills in hot months. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, planting large trees on the east, west and northwest sides of your property can reduce summer air conditioning costs by 35 percent.
- Lighting: Switch out old light bulbs with energy efficient ones and always turn off lamps when able. Opting for natural light versus fluorescent or artificial light is a healthy and cost-saving alternative. If you left an incandescent bulb on for 24 hours a day, it would cost you about $137 in energy bills, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Those eco-friendly high efficiency bulbs cost about $40 annually. The average house has 45 light bulbs. Just switching from incandescent to efficiency bulbs would cut your lighting bill by two-thirds.
- Appliances: Invest in energy-efficient appliances such as dishwashers, washers and dryers, aerators and more. Washing clothes in cool water as well as washing full loads of clothing will also cut costs. Powering down computers, televisions and game consoles are also recommended. Save the energy from microwaving or using the oven and heat up dinners on the grill. Visit sdge.com to view available rebates.
- Reusable Water Bottle: According to the EPA, bottled water is 600 times more expensive than tap water. If you bought a $1.50 bottle of water every day for a year ($547.50), that same amount out of the tap would cost less than a dime. Never mind the fact that making bottles uses 17 million barrels of oil annually, and Americans only end up recycling about 25 percent of water bottles. Ditch them and buy yourself a reusable bottle.
- Buy Second-Hand, Borrow or Just Don’t Buy: One of the easiest ways it pays to go green is by limiting your spending on new stuff. Buying consignment furniture or clothes repurposes items destined for the landfill. Borrowing everything from books to bikes reduces production of those items. And cutting out non-essential items reduces your contribution to the landfill and saves you some money.
- Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies: Not only can making cleaning supplies out of natural ingredients prevent toxins from entering your home and the environment, but you can save a buck too. Vinegar and baking soda, mixed into spray bottles, can clean just about anything in your home and reduce the need to buy toxic cleaners that literally just go down the drain.
- Prescription Disposals: Prevent chemicals found in unwanted medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter—from entering the waste stream. Instead of flushing unused or expired medications or throwing them in the garbage, dispose of them safely, anonymously and free of charge at the medication drop box at Dana Point Police Services, City Hall, 33282 Golden Lantern. No appointment necessary. San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano also periodically hold drug take-back days.
- Farm to Table: Grow at least a portion of your own food. A big yard is not necessary. Many vegetables and fruits thrive in small containers.
- Cloth Napkins: Replacing paper napkins with reusable and washable cloth napkins will save money and reduce trash output. Besides, they can be decorative and part of your place settings. Rid your kitchen drawers of other unnecessary plastics such as straws too.
- Sunscreen: Look to use lotion-based sunscreens as opposed to aerosol-based UV protection. The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, recommends sun bathers avoid spray-on sunscreens with ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which can be toxic to humans and the ocean.
Read more of the 2018 Green Issue HERE: