Want to reduce your impact on the environment with simple, easy-to-implement eco tips that don't cost a lot of money? No action is too small. You've probably heard of hundreds of ways to go green, like recycling, taking reusable bags to the grocery store, buying EnergyStar appliances and turning off the water while you brush your teeth. But there are plenty of other ideas you might not have thought of. These eight ways to go green can help beginners and advanced eco-warriors alike cut back on waste, reduce energy consumption and avoid harmful chemicals.
1. Opt-out of pre-screened credit card offers, phone books and junk mail. According to DoNotMail.org, it takes more than 100 million trees to produce all the junk mail that gets stuffed into American mailboxes every year, and 44 percent of that mail is never opened. Phone books, another unwanted paper plague, are produced each year in enough quantities to circle the earth 4.28 times when laid end to end. You can turn down credit card offers at OptOutPrescreen.com and let advertisers know you don't want catalogs or direct mail sent to your address by filling out forms at CatalogChoice.org and DMAchoice.org. While phone books are harder to avoid, Yellow Pages does offer an opt-out service.
2. Carry your own to-go box, utensils and cloth napkins when getting take-out food. Not only does this cut back on unnecessary disposables, it also reduces demand for polystyrene packaging, a petroleum-based plastic material that is a major source of marine pollution. Reusable food containers are available in all shapes and sizes, and made of materials like recycled plastic, bamboo and stainless steel.
3. Install storm windows. While switching to new, highly energy-efficient windows is a great way to go green, it's not always economically feasible. If you simply can't make that investment, consider installing storm windows and doors instead. These cost-effective add-ons can help reduce air movement in and out of existing windows, reducing heat loss in cold weather.
4. Use a toaster oven for small baking jobs. Need to bake a few potatoes, reheat a single serving of last night's casserole or make a late-night nacho feast? A toaster oven can do the same job as a conventional oven for such uses, and unlike a full-sized oven, it won't heat up your home.
5. Wash your clothes in cold water. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top-loading washer is taken up by heating the water. For everyday loads that aren't heavily soiled, cold or warm water can be just as effective.
6. Avoid added fragrance. Fragrance may sound innocuous enough, but this word is often used to hide dozens of potentially toxic ingredients in everything from dish soap and laundry detergent to body lotion and sunscreen. Simply choosing products that don't list "fragrance" on the label can eliminate many of the dangerous chemicals you're exposed to on a daily basis.
7. Insulate your pipes. Use quality pipe insulation wrap such as neoprene pipe sleeves on all accessible hot water pipes, especially those within three feet of your water heater. Insulating hot water pipes reduces heat loss and raises water temperature by 2 to 4 degrees, allowing you to lower your water heater's temperature setting.
8. Choose rechargeable batteries. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium, and though they're recyclable, they're still a drain on the environment. Sure, rechargeable batteries need to draw energy from the grid to juice up, but according to a 2007 study, wearing out a single rechargeable battery has 28 times less impact on global warming than using disposables. That's because it takes a lot of energy to mine all those metals from the earth in the first place.
Know of other ways to go green? Leave us a note in the comments below.