A cleaner way to clean
If your washing machine has a setting for the amount of clothing you're washing, choose a low setting—you'll use less water and your clothes will get just as clean. Using cold water can save up to 80% of the energy required to wash clothes.
Use less hot water. Washing your clothes in cold or warm instead of hot water can save as much as 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load, whereas newer, high-efficiency models use less than 28 gallons of water per load.
A bright idea
Replacing one incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent light can save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. CFLs produce the same amount of light, use 1/3 of the electricity and last up to 10 times as long.
Artificial lighting accounts for 44% of electricity use in office buildings. Make it a habit to turn off the lights when you're leaving any room for 15 minutes or more and utilize natural light when you can.
The US uses 100 billion plastic bags annually, consuming about 12 million barrels of oil. Less than 1% of plastic bags are ever recycled. Reusable bags can help reduce the number of plastic bags you use.
A home run
Improperly sealed or caulked windows can account for up to 25% of total heat loss from a house.
Choose low-toxic paints that are low in volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which can irritate the lungs and cause allergic reactions. Zero-VOC paints also are available.
If using solid wood for a project, select products with the Forest Stewardship Council label, certifying the wood was responsibly grown and harvested. Or find salvaged wood products at local used-building materials retailers.
Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space and 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
Reuse containers and reduce waste. The average child's school lunch generates 67 pounds of waste over a year.
Batteries can cause serious harm to human health and the environment when disposed of with municipal solid waste. Many companies and retailers will take your old batteries and properly dispose of them or have them recycled.
According to US EPA, about 40% of heavy metals including lead, mercury and cadmium in landfills comes from electronic equipment and discards.
Now you're cooking!
Use a microwave instead of the stove to save energy. Microwave ovens use around 50% less energy than conventional ovens do.
Today's dishwashers are about 95% more energy-efficient than those bought in 1972—your old dishwasher may be costing you more in energy bills than it would take to buy a new one.
Down the drain
Older showerheads can use 3 gallons per minute or more. New, efficient models use 2 gallons per minute or less. A family of four using low-flow showerheads instead of full-flow models can save about 20,000 gallons of water per year.
Letting your faucet run for 5 minutes uses about as much energy as a 60-watt lightbulb consumes in 14 hours.
A full bathtub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a 5-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons.
See the forest for the trees
Consider switching to e-billing. In the US, paper products make up the largest percentage of municipal solid waste, and hard copy bills alone generate almost 2 million tons of CO2.
Plant a tree. An average tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
The average US office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year. Print on both sides and in draft mode whenever feasible.
Refrigerators account for 1/6 of a home's energy use. Opening the door accounts for between $30 and $60 of a typical family's electricity bill each year. Select energy-efficient models when buying replacements.
Many idle electronics—TVs, DVD players, stereos, microwaves—use energy even when switched off to keep display clocks lit and remote controls working. Switch off power strips and unplug electrical devices when you're not using them.