Focus: Personal Finance – Home Savings
• The combined efforts of many individuals doing small things to help the environment can have a huge impact.
• If you switch to a fuel-efficient car, keep it maintained and become cautious about how much you use it. You will save money and shrink your carbon footprint.
• In 2006, Americans saved $14 billion dollars by using Energy Star appliances.
• To preserve fresh water, go “low flow” and rethink how much your lawn needs.
• To make your home less toxic, use organic cleaners.
• Green grocery shoppers bring bags, buy in bulk and purchase less meat.
• Extend your recycling efforts. Buy and sell used goods online.
• Teach your family to follow environmentally friendly methods and values.
• To keep your office green, bring your lunch, print fewer pages and turn off your
computer and other machines. Look for a solid green business idea that can help others and make you rich.
What You Will Learn
You will learn: 1) What you can do to green up your home and make money; 2) Why changing what and how you drive matters; 3) How conserving fresh water makes an impact; and 4) How your family’s environmental values lead to happiness, savings and a healthier planet.
How Big Is Your Carbon Footprint?
Be assured that your individual efforts do matter. You can take personal action
and save money at the same time. If you cherish the environment, you also can increase the quality of your life by living in alignment with your values, including going green. Doing just one green thing will get you started and give you a foundation you can build on to lead a more environmentally-aware life. People in most industrialized nations have come to believe that their societies must reduce the carbon dioxide emissions generated by their factories, their modes of transportation and the way their citizens live. You can help by calculating your carbon footprint and taking steps to reduce it. Another factor is the tons and tons of waste people produce. For instance, refilling a reusable bottle with tap water is far cheaper than buying bottled water. Look at other aspects of your life and think about the simple changes you can make to reduce what you discard.
You can have a tremendous impact on your finances and the environment by rethinking your means of transportation. The 2007 UN Human Development Report claimed that 30% of greenhouse gas emissions came from the automotive sector in developed countries. Improving what and how you drive will save money and make a difference to the planet. First, increase your fuel economy. Hybrid vehicles have low emissions and higher mileage. Using bio-diesel is another way to lower your emissions. It may cost more, but supporters contend that its environmental benefits justify the expense. You can realize sure-fire savings by maintaining your vehicles. Keep the tires properly inflated and don’t carry around extra weight. Make sure the engine is tuned and change your filters regularly. Avoid quick starts and stops. For fuel economy, don’t drive faster than necessary. Consider adapting your family’s lifestyle so you can live without one of your cars. Use public transportation, your bicycle and your feet whenever you can.
Your Energy Use
After vehicles, your home’s energy use gives you the largest potential target for
saving money and lowering your environmental impact. Have an energy use specialist perform an audit on your home. Unless you own a new home that meets the latest energy use standards, your house will provide many opportunities for getting greener. Improve the insulation, patch your ductwork, and seal any drafts or air leaks. When you replace your furnace and water heater, consider the greenest options available. See if you can use a passive-solar system to heat your water, or learn what you would need to do technologically to provide your home with as much of its electricity as possible from solar panels. If your utility is adding green energy options, consider those alternatives. Install an intelligent thermostat that lets you adjust the temperature of your home a few degrees when you are at work or asleep. This modest one-time expense will pay for itself in energy savings. Many appliances have a standby mode that makes the machine seem to be off, but it could still be consuming 5%-15% of the energy it uses when operating. To start saving money, change from incandescent bulbs to LED or compact fluorescent bulbs, and turn off the lights when you leave a room. Plant more trees near your house to reduce your heating and cooling costs.
If your home is typical, it leaks about 90 gallons of water a day, which costs about $500 a year. Energy Star appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, are designed to be water-efficient as well as energy-efficient. Old-fashioned toilets can use as much as seven gallons per flush, but the most efficient new models use 1.6 gallons or less. Low-flow shower heads can save even more water. Fresh water is a finite resource. If you water plants in the heat of the day, you lose water to evaporation. If water falls on your driveway or sidewalk, it just runs off and soaks into the ground. Even worse, fertilizer and insecticides run into storm drains, and flow from there to rivers and streams. Your lawn mower is likely to be more polluting than your car. The typical gas-powered lawnmower emits as much carbon dioxide in an hour than a car does driving 100 miles. Consider an electric mower or get a little exercise by using a push mower. If you learn to compost, you can reuse your yard waste as fertilizer and keep it out of landfills.
Building a new home presents the opportunity to use the latest in green technologies. Consider how much insulation you will need, how to add solar cells and passive solar technologies, the materials you build with, the kind of paint you use and the building’s size. All these factors can make a difference in your quality of life, your health, your environmental impact and your home’s future value. Buyers are increasingly looking for green homes. Consider using sustainably grown wood or wood alternatives, but be careful that these substitutes aren’t treated with toxic chemicals or harvested from environmentally sensitive areas.
By supporting organic, locally grown, sustainably farmed food, you encourage more organic, sustainable farming. You can enjoy better tasting food that is better for you while supporting your local economy. Buying in bulk doesn’t mean getting goods in huge lots. It means buying planet-friendly goods without a lot of unnecessary packaging. Many stores offer grains, dried fruits, spices and other products in bulk. Avoid using either paper or plastic sacks by bringing reusable bags with you to the grocery store. Paper and plastic bags generate real environmental concerns, from how they are made to how they should be recycled or discarded. The meat you eat also has an environmental impact. The land it takes to grow food for animals could have been used to feed people directly. Animals and their waste pollute the air, land and water. Eating a lot of meat has an expensive impact on your health and may lower your quality of life. Try to grow some of your vegetables and do it organically. Then your food won’t have to be trucked, packaged, or sprayed with insecticides or petroleum-based fertilizers. The cleaners you use in your home also make a difference. Companies also now sell environmentally friendly cosmetics. As much as possible, use recycled paper products to lessen the demand for cutting down trees. If you opt out of most junk mail and catalog lists, you’ll save paper, and the fuel it takes to transport mail and the landfill space it ends up occupying. Celebrate the holidays with cards and gift-wrap made from recycled paper and printed with non-petroleum-based ink. Use e-cards instead of paper cards.
Consumers typically throw away reusable and recyclable containers. Aluminum, glass and steel can be recycled, and even plastic can have an extended life cycle. You also can recycle by selling unwanted household goods rather than sending them to a landfill. eBay is a great resource for buying used items and for earning cash by selling things you no longer want. More communities are creating recycling centers with facilities for collecting and selling used things. Some experts say that more than 70% of
the material in landfills could have been recycled.
Your commitment to helping the environment and fighting global warming will be more effective if your family acts together. Creating environmentally oriented family traditions reinforces your values. Focus on connecting with nature. Growing some of your own food and making environmentally conscious decisions together will help you stay focused and teach your children green values. You can make green decisions about your children from their birth. Buy used clothes and toys, and sell or donate old or outgrown items. Your pet offers another opportunity to help the environment. You can make healthy food for pets economically. Recycle old tennis balls as fun pet toys. To connect your family to the environment, take bike rides or go camping. Consider taking a vacation as an environmental volunteer. Many organizations offer a wide variety of service opportunities and participation is usually inexpensive.
Surveys show that young people want to work for environmentally conscious companies. To attract the best employees and save money, take small steps to go green. Turn off lights, computers, copiers and other electronic devices when you leave the office. Use coffee mugs, not disposable cups. Make it easy for people to bring and enjoy their lunches at work. Encourage employees to read and share documents online. Most documents don’t need to be printed. Use direct deposit and electronic transfers instead of paper checks. Work from home some of the time to save commuting trips. If you can do without an office away from home, you’ll save the energy needed to build, heat, cool and light an office. Make fewer business trips. Select hotels that have low-flow shower heads and toilets, and use the towels and linens for more than one night. As you think about how to make your life greener, pay attention to any positive step you notice that could be done better and is not getting enough attention. You may make some money and create your dream job while helping others. To make a real difference, consider the environment when you shop, work and have a good time. Consider it when you decide how to live and what to teach your children. Think of the environment when you invest. By putting your retirement money in companies and funds with sound environmental values you can make a large contribution. You can also donate money to green causes, purchase carbon offsets, join green organizations and vote for candidates who demonstrate a commitment to environmental issues.