- Save money without spending a dime
It’s easier than it sounds to save money while being green: unplug electronic equipment you aren’t using; turn off the lights; lower your heat and wear an extra sweater. Switching from chemical cleaners to homemade baking soda/vinegar combos can save you $600 a year, and taking public transportation saves countless money on gas. Ready for more? Try these six green tips and save $1,000.
- Save money by investing in efficiency
Sometimes you have to spend to save-but you still don’t have to spend much. Energy monitors—like Black & Decker‘s version for less than $100-show you where your home is wasting energy, while a programmable thermostat could have you saving as much as 15% on your energy bill. In other cases, you might have to invest just a bit more time-making your lunch ahead of time instead of ordering take-out, baking your own bread, or learn some simple home repair and skip that next call to the Maytag man.
- Cut clutter
We all have too much stuff—especially if your home just received an influx of gifts over the holidays. Unclutter and update your closet by hosting a clothing swap, and keep your foyer table clear by cutting junk mail. Getting rid of excess in your home by reusing it means less waste, fewer landfills, and—eventually—less energy spent on the production of a whole lot of unnecessary junk.
- Lose weight
Many classic weight loss tips—eat fresh vegetables, skip the processed food aisle, cut out red meat—line up perfectly with a green lifestyle. The bad-for-you foods that are so high in calories also pack a production wallop that uses lots of energy; the packaging just creates more waste. And trading even one meat-based meal each week for a vegetarian option can help curb the effects of global warming. If you’re going less than one mile, trade driving for walking; for longer distances, brush off your old 10-speed and hit the bike lane-then watch the pounds fall off.
- Quit smoking
Cigarettes are a huge source of litter—plus there’s nothing eco-friendly about the pesticides, deforestation, paper use, and waste output of cigarette production. If you’re ready to quit, replace the habit with exercise, or snacks of fresh organic veggies.
- Get involved
There’s a lot to be said for getting out of your house and focusing your energy on others-or on the environment. Join a community supported agriculture program and, in exchange for a few hours work, or a few bucks per week, you’ll have fresh vegetables all summer; volunteer at an animal shelter or for an environmental charity and you can feel good about making a difference. The key is matching your interests and talents with the right organization, and sometimes that could be as simple as starting at home and greening your community.
- Organize your office
Whether in your work or home office, this is the perfect chance to go paperless. Filing documents electronically and using a scanner and paper shredder in tandem means a huge drop in wasted paper—plus it’s easier to store and review important bills when you need them. Even better, convince your boss to let you work from home and save money, time, and carbon emissions by not having to commute, buy lunch, wrestle with your company’s recycling policies, etc.
- Learn to recycle something new
Sure, you’re a pro at putting glass, paper, and aluminum in the proper containers, and you never leave your newspaper on the subway—but what about all the other stuff you can recycle? Computers, DVD players, televisions, compact fluorescent light bulbs and cell phones all can and should be recycled, so the metals can be disposed of correctly or, even better, reused. If you’re already doing this, consider starting a compost bin for your organic food scraps, capturing rainwater for watering plants and flushing the toilet, or buying clothes made from recyclable fibers.
- Join a TreeHugger
Last year, an informal poll of a few TreeHugger writers resulted in green resolutions that ranged from the easy, like remembering to take a reusable bag to the grocery store, to the difficult, like not buying anything new for all of 2008. Other suggestions: using the car one less day each week; spreading the environmental gospel by going up against climate change critics, or giving out copies of An Inconvenient Truth; swearing off factory-farmed meat and eating local, organic meat; and eating one fully locally-sourced meal each week. The point is, no matter what your lifestyle is like, there are enough green resolutions out there for you to choose the one that works for you.
- Stick to it
The most popular advice for keeping resolutions is to keep them simple: look at small changes you can make to reach your long term goals, like adding 30 minutes of bike riding to your daily routine or going to the famer’s market twice a month. And don’t make too many—choose one, maybe two, goals and focus on those.