Sunday, June 14, 2009

Easy Ways to Go Green: 13 Easy, Eco-Friendly House Tips

1.Save money in the bathroomBuy water-efficient showerheads. With low-flow models, a family of four can cut water usage by as much as 280 gallons a month — and yet not feel much difference in water pressure. Two we like: Kohler's Master Shower Eco (kohler.com) and Niagara Conservation's Earth Massage (niagaraconservation.com).

2.Bring home superhero plantsCertain greens can help remove indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene. Don't have the gardening gene? Golden pothos, English ivy, and peace lilies are all easy-to-grow toxin fighters.

3.Recycle rechargeables Cell phones, digital cameras, and camcorders have made these batteries more popular than ever, but in certain states — Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Vermont — it's illegal to throw them away. Wherever you live, you can find a nearby store that will recycle them for you; just go to rbrc.org.

4.Adjust fridge and freezer tempsRefrigerators eat up the most electricity in the household. Maximize efficiency by keeping the fridge at 37° F. and the freezer at 0° F.

5.Lighten up with energy savings Consider using compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). They cost a bit more than regular bulbs, but you'll lower your electric bill and pay less in the long run — CFLs last up to 10 times longer than traditional ones. (Worried that fluorescents will fill your house with a greenish glow? That's no longer a problem. When we compared a regular bulb with a GE Energy Star Qualified CFL, testers couldn't tell the difference.) You can buy CFLs at most hardware and home stores. To save more on lighting, install dimmer switches and use timers, indoors and out.

6.Recycle smart From furniture to electronics, one person's trash is another's treasure — so when you want to dispose of an old item, don't make the dump your first stop. Two sites with alternatives: freecycle.org and earth911.org.

7.Mow-ercise!Today's non-gasoline-powered reel lawn mowers are easier to push than the old models. Their eco-benefit: zero emissions (plus, you're getting great exercise). If you prefer a power mower, consider a quiet, battery-operated model from Black & Decker.

8.Warm up to solar energyYou may not be ready for a totally sun-powered home, but you can get a taste of the technology by using solar-powered lighting in your yard or on your patio. We like Malibu's Solar Floodlight (intermatic.com)

9.Go native Plant flowers and shrubs that are well suited to your climate (the staff at your local nursery can help). The benefit: You'll use less fertilizer and pesticides.

10.Buy a laptopIt uses considerably less power than a desktop computer.

11.Get off junk mail listsRegister with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service (dmaconsumers.org) and you'll see a significant reduction in mail after three months.

12.Double up on printingConfigure your printer so that it prints on both sides of the page. You know those extra pages you get when printing out one simple email? Turn them over and put them back in the printer for reuse.

13.Protect the earth while you picnic At your next outdoor party, ask people to write their names on disposable cups so they'll use only one (to make it easy, put out markers). If you use disposable dinnerware, buy the kind that won't clog landfills or kill trees. To try: EarthShell plates and bowls (earthshell.com). They're made from corn, potatoes, and limestone — and cost less than 6 cents per plate.

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