go green tips

Simple shifts to greener versions of the products you already buy can save you as much as $5,000 a year. Oh, and you’ll reduce the amount of energy you use and how much trash you throw away, too. Here are 13 green tips I’ve personally made that have saved me a bundle of money while making me feel good about doing my part to protect the planet.

13 great green tips

Choose compact fluorescent light bulbs

Estimated Savings: $5 – $10/yr/bulb x 4 bulbs = $20 – $40/yr

CFLs use 66 percent less energy than a regular incandescent light bulb and last 10 times as long. Plus, each bulb you shift to will save you $5 to $10 per year in electricity costs. That’s as much as $100 over the lifetime of every bulb you buy. Start by switching out bulbs in the four lights you use the most: your kitchen ceiling light, your bathroom ceiling light, and two lamps in your living room or family room. Switch to LED lighting, and you’ll save even more on bulbs that last longer than CFLs.

Try a reusable water bottle

Estimated Savings: $250 – $500/yr

Bottled water can cost 10,000 times more than tap water! Why? Because you’re paying for all kinds of things besides water: the bottle, the water wasted during the bottling process, the energy used to bottle the water and transport the bottle to your store, the paper label on the bottle and the bottle cap. Purchase a reusable water bottle for less than $20 and fill it up at home or at work. With these savings, you can buy a water filter for your tap if it makes you feel better, or buy a reusable bottle that comes with its own filter.

Take lunch to work

Estimated Savings: $1,560/yr

This green tip is a big money saver, but you probably never thought it was a planet saver, too. Why is it so eco-friendly to take your own lunch to work? Because you’re not using all the throwaway plastic and paper packaging that a take-out lunch involves, especially if you use a reusable lunch bag and food containers.

Program your thermostat

Estimated Savings: $150/yr

Programmable thermostat
Programmable thermostat. Image courtesy of _vikram

Every time you adjust the thermostat to reduce your heating or cooling needs, you save money. But remembering to make the adjustment can be a challenge. The beauty of a programmable thermostat is that it does the adjusting for you. Set the controls to moderate temperatures, and enjoy watching your energy bills decrease.

Put in low-flow showerheads and toilets

Estimated Savings: $72/yr

Most conventional showerheads and toilets use an excessive amount of water, wasting a precious resource along with your hard-earned dollars. Replace your existing shower head with a high-impact low-flow model to enjoy the same quality but using far less water. Older-model toilets may use as much as six gallons of water per flush; newer models only need 1.6 gallons (or less) to get the job done.

Plug in to a smart power strip

Estimated Savings: $94/yr

Computers, fax machines, monitors, answering machines, televisions and other electronics are called “vampires” because they keep sucking energy out of the electrical sockets they’re plugged into even when they’re turned off. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, electric appliances use 40 percent of their energy when they’re turned off! You can cut that — and your energy bill — simply by plugging your electronics into an energy-saving power strip.

Insulate windows and doors with weather stripping

Estimated Savings: $129/yr

A lot of energy is wasted in winter and summer alike when cooled or heated air escapes through cracks around windows and doors. Caulking windows and weather-stripping doors reduces the losses to everything but your pocketbook.

Improve car fuel economy

Estimated Savings: $1,050/yr

With gas prices averaging around $2.50 a gallon, every gallon of gas you save puts real money back in your wallet. Burning less gas generates a lot less smog and air pollution, and reduces the impact driving has on climate change, too. If you replace a car that gets only 20 mpg with one that gets 40 mpg, you’ll save $750 a year at today’s gas prices. When prices rise, a fuel-efficient car saves you even more. Learn to drive “smart.” Following the speed limit, driving at a consistent speed, keeping the engine tuned up and making sure your tires are inflated will save an additional $300 to $500 a year.

Skip one driving trip each week

Estimated Savings: $225/yr

Gasoline costs for individual trips can really add up. Replace at least one trip a week with a carpool, or shop online, telecommute, bicycle or walk to save fuel and money. You can find many more ways to cut your fuel costs at BigGreenPurse.com.

Buy Energy Star appliances

Estimated Savings: $100/yr on energy, 7,000+ gallons of water

Energy Star Energy Guide
Energy Star Energy Guide. Image courtesy of Andy Melton.

All Energy Star appliances are designed to save energy, and clothes washers and dishwashers offer the added benefit of saving thousands of gallons of water over conventional models. Plus, many local utilities offer a $50 or $100 rebate when consumers trade in old refrigerators and air conditioners for new Energy Star models.

Make Home Cleansers

Estimated Savings: $360/yr

You can save a small fortune by skipping commercial cleaning products and using simple and nontoxic ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. You can clean almost any surface in your home with fragrance-free and biodegradable liquid soap, standard baking soda, hot water and a sponge. For windows, mirrors and other glass surfaces, use a mixture of vinegar and water, and you’ll pay mere pennies per window to get the shine you want. You can find many green cleaning recipes here.

Buy Gently Used, Swap or Get Free

Estimated Savings: $750/yr

Swap or trade what you already have for what you want. Use our recycling locator to find recycling opportunities, or check listings at Craigslist.com, freecycle.org or your own neighborhood listserv.

Sell Your Own Used Stuff

Estimated Savings: $350/yr

We all have more stuff than we can use. And we all throw away perfectly good items that someone else could use. From clothing and sports equipment to kitchenware, electronics and furniture, our trash can also generate some treasure. Take advantage of listservs, eBay and Craigslist to sell what you no longer need or use. And don’t forget that tried-and-true method of keeping your perfectly good stuff in circulation: the neighborhood yard sale!

Total Estimated Savings: $5,110

What green shifts have you made that have saved you money? Do you have other green tips you’d like to share with others? Leave your comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Ken Neoh

By Diane MacEachern

Diane MacEachern is a best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur and mother of two with a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources and the Environment. Glamour magazine calls her an “eco hero” and she recently won the “Image of the Future Prize” from the World Communications Forum, but she’d rather tell you about the passive solar house she helped design and build way back when most people thought “green” was the color a building was painted, not how it was built. She founded biggreenpurse.com because she’s passionate about inspiring consumers to shift their spending to greener products and services to protect themselves and their families while using their marketplace clout to get companies to clean up their act.