You’ve probably heard about the small changes that you can make around your household that will save energy and money on your utility costs. But how well do these changes really work?

They work so well, in fact, that you can find the same energy-saving ideas in practice in your local Home Depot store every day.

Twenty years ago, the Home Depot began a “sustainability trek” that resulted in more eco-friendly practices throughout its stores, as well as a program that recognizes its eco-friendly suppliers – ­all overseen by a full-time environmental-issues staff.

Among the energy-saving improvements you’ll see at the Home Depot: light-colored roofs that minimize heat island effects, landscaping with hardy local species, LED building signs, and automated heating and cooling systems. In the lighting departments of Home Depot stores, energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) replaced incandescent light bulbs ­– about 800 bulbs per store. (The displays aren’t turned even turned on until store traffic picks up.) The energy savings translated to about 13,000 watts annually per store, or about 138 megawatt hours annually. That’s enough energy to power 50 Home Depot stores for an entire year!

Home Depot encourages homeowners to pursue similar savings. Vice President of Environmental Innovation Ron Jarvis recommends replacing all the incandescent light bulbs in your home – 37 CFLs will cost around $58 but will eventually save a homeowner $125 a year on utility bills, and CFLs tend to last much longer than regular bulbs.

When you’re greening your home, Home Depot also accepts your old, recyclable items that really shouldn’t end up in landfills, such as light bulbs and batteries. Customers may return their old items to the store, and Home Depot will recycle the mercury, glass and metal contained in them.

Home Depot also encourages its suppliers to be equally conscious of their energy usage, water consumption and environmental impact, so that customers feel confident in the products they buy. More than 4,000 of Home Depot’s products – like Georgia-Pacific plywood, which is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative –are labeled as Eco Options, which have less environmental impact than similar products in the same category. Several third-party certifications make up the Eco Options designation, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star; Home Depot requires those products that make environmental claims to carry one of the accepted certifications.

“We also know that if we’re going to ask this [of our suppliers], then we have to walk the talk ourselves … and that’s the reason we put so much emphasis on making sure that our stores are a beacon for other retailers to use,” Jarvis says. 

Home Depot: Sustainability Trek