Seems like all the green talk today is about buying things: buy Energy Star, buy solar panels, buy tankless water heaters, buy new sustainable building products. Buy, buy, buy.
What’s a budget-minded home owner to do? Follow these five easy, cheap green nuggets of advice, of course.
1. Resist the temptation to buy.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably already on board the no-buy boat. This first piece of advice is simply to provide validation (replacing something that isn’t broken isn’t green, and it’s not too budget-savvy either, and so on) and to encourage you to stay on board.
So give yourself a pat on the back every time you tell temptation to take a hike.
2. When you do need to buy, buy wisely.
Read product labels. You might need reading glasses to accomplish this, but it’s worth it.
Don’t try to figure out each ingredient — it’s much too hard to do that. Besides, a great many product-makers don’t even bother to list every ingredient.
Instead, train your eye to spot terms such as non-toxic, biodegradable, and petroleum-free, all of which give you the all-clear signal to go ahead and buy.
That helpful tidbit comes from WebMd, as well as this one: Beware of products that list a few specific terms, and then use non-specific terms such as “inactive ingredients” for the rest. And be leery of any products that list “fragrance” without telling you what ingredients make up the fragrance.
Be careful, though — label-reading can be addictive. Before you know it, you’ll be perusing the National Library of Medicine’s Household Product Database.
3. Dust off your Crock-Pot.
Yep, your Crock-Pot is an energy saver.
An electric oven at 350 degrees burns 2.0 kWh in just one hour. But a slow cooker at 200 degrees uses only 0.70 kWh over seven hours. And, besides, it’s nice to come home to delicious aromas and a meal that’s ready to eat.
4. Go crazy for power strips.
The most pragmatic way to save electricity is to turn off electronics when you’re not using them. But seriously, who does that?
Smart strips, which sense when a device is idle and shut off its power supply, are a good compromise. And they’re not that pricey. You can get one for about $25, although there are some pricier models.
If you do make the effort to hook up your computer and media equipment to a smart strip, it will pay for itself eventually.
How long will that take?
Depends on how much of a bad dog you were pre-smart strip, and how religious you become about using the smart strip, which is a perfect segue to the final piece of advice:
5. Just use less.
Turn off your lights, turn down your heat, turn off the water when brushing your teeth. Obvious? Yes. But it’s really one of the simplest, easiest, cheapest things you can do to be green.
Ask yourself (and answer honestly): Are you really paying attention to your electric and water consumption? Awareness is half the battle. Maybe you need an energy monitor to goose up your efforts.
Make yourself think about it day in and day out. That’s the hard part.
Bonus tip: How to be a better recycler.
Courtney Craig and Kathryn Hawkins contributed to this piece.