How Going Green Saves A Ton Of Money

JoanI admit to being an environmentalist, and a pretty “far out” one, too – I was raised with a Mother Earth News / Organic Gardening type of father who instilled a ton of basic environmentalism in me, and I try very hard to reduce my environmental footprint. Let me put it this way: one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to when having my own house is having a few giant compost bins in the backyard with potato peels and coffee grounds and yard clippings and earthworms and so on.

Today, Yahoo! launched their Yahoo! Green initiative, which lets you choose from an enormous list of minor lifestyle changes that can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions. It has a slick, cute interface that lets you drag and drop the options from the big list onto one that lists the items you’re willing to do, and it automatically calculates how many tons of carbon dioxide per year that you would save by doing those things.

So why write about this on a personal finance site? It’s because a lot of these items on the list not only reduces your personal carbon dioxide emissions, they also save money. I went through the entire list of items and selected the ones that were really simple to do and also clearly saved money in the long run (I didn’t include ones that were ambiguous to me about money savings). Here they are:

42 Ways to Save Money and the Environment

1. Switch 3 lights that you use for 4 hours a day with compact fluorescent bulbs.
2. Replace a porch light that’s always on with a compact fluorescent bulb.
3. Turn your heater thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in the summer.
4. Install a programmable thermostat to adjust your home’s heating and cooling automatically.
5. Make sure your walls and ceilings are well-insulated.
6. Air-dry your clothes in the spring and summer instead of using the dryer.
7. Set your water heater thermostat no higher than 120 F.
8. Replace bathroom and kitchen sink facets with low-flow models.
9. Install low-flow showerheads.
10. Go from 500 sheets of 0% recycled computer to 200 sheets of 100% recycled paper.
11. Drive less aggressively — don’t accelerate and brake rapidly.
12. Drive the speed limit.
13. Keep the tires on your car adequately inflated. Check them monthly.
14. Drive 10 miles less per week.
15. Carpool, take public transit, or telecommute one day per week instead of driving to work.
16. Replace your old refrigerator with a new Energy Star one.
17. Replace an old TV with a new Energy Star one.
18. Replace your old dishwasher with a new Energy Star one.
19. Replace an old computer, monitor, and printer with new Energy Star ones.
20. Replace your old washing machine with a new Energy Star one.
21. Recycle all steel (“tin”) cans, aluminum cans, and glass containers.
22. Take one less short domestic round-trip flight this year.
23. Take one less cross-country round-trip this year.
24. Use a washable mug for your morning coffee instead of a Styrofoam cup (assuming you can get a freebie coffee mug).
25. Get a reusable water bottle instead of disposables (again, assuming you can get a freebie water bottle).
26. Buy products in the largest size you can use to avoid excess packaging.
27. Use washable plates and utensils for takeout dinners and parties instead of paper and plastic goods.
28. Buy vintage clothes instead of new stuff at the mall.
29. Unplug electronics when you’re not using them.
30. Turn out the light when you leave the room.
31. Shut down your computer and peripherals each night.
32. Run the clothes washer with only full loads.
33. Wash your clothes in cold water.
34. Run the dishwasher with only full loads and let dishes air-dry.
35. Take showers instead of baths.
36. Take shorter showers.
37. Insulate your water heater.
38. Clean or replace dirty air-conditioner filters every three months.
39. Replace old windows with double-pane windows.
40. Use a push lawn mower instead of gas or electric.
41. Change your car’s air filter and check it monthly.
42. Turn off the car instead of idling.

Whew! All together, these options would save 7.38 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and all of them would save money in some fashion, either by reducing your energy bill, reducing your water bill, improving your gas mileage, cutting down on unnecessary things (like trips), reusing things more often, or by literally making money by recycling items. It’s very difficult to calculate exactly how much money you would save because of the variables, but these items will save money.

You could also use these items as the basis for your own 101 Goals in 1001 Days list. Just make sure to think about which of these items would work well in your life, and also be sure to quantify them so that the goal is clear, like “Move to taking five minute showers” and then using a wind-up timer to ensure that you’re doing this.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.