Why do we instinctively think that going green means shelling out more money? Is it because the natural cleaners we like at the store cost much more than the bargain detergent? Maybe. But what you need to know before Earth Day on April 22 (and every day) is that going green is much more than just buying eco-friendly products: It’s about conserving energy and living a healthier lifestyle, among other things.
Going green is also linked to increased happiness, which makes being kinder to the environment even more tempting. A study by a group at Harvard found that people who worked in green buildings reported fewer headaches and eye strain, slept better, and actually had higher performance rates at their jobs.
Although it’s likely we can’t overhaul our office buildings alone, we can go green in our own way—and the good news is it doesn’t have to cost us a fortune. Below, we’ve rounded up the top eight easy ways to go green on a budget.
Use a low-flow showerhead.
Take public or shared transportation.
A reported 25% of the U.S.’s pollution comes from transportation. When we take public transportation, carpool with friends, or take shared rides, we’re seriously reducing the amount of emissions that go into the air. Plus, sharing a ride often saves us money because we’re splitting the costs with others, or our fares are subsidized.
Air-dry your laundry.
Clothes dryers are one of the biggest uses of energy in your home. If you invest in a sturdy drying rack, you'll be able to air-dry your clothes. Plus, you’ll save a ton of money on your energy bill (or your laundromat bill) and your clothes won’t shrink. It’s a win-win.
Make your own cleaning detergents.
Let vinegar, baking soda and lemon become your new best friends. DIYing your cleaning supplies will let you stop using cleaning products that emit toxins (but you won’t have to pay a fortune for organic supplies at the store).
Unplug appliances not in use.
A “phantom load” is when appliances or devices use energy even when they are turned off. Make it a habit to unplug the toaster, coffee maker and even your cell phone charger if you’re not currently using them. By doing this, you’ll also save yourself around $200 a year on your electric bill.
Use reusable shopping bags.
Not only do we often get charged a tax for plastic bags at the store, but they're rarely recycled and are often made from petroleum oil. If you need another reason to stop using plastic bags, they can actually take up to 1000 years to decompose.
Stop using plastic utensils.
It’s often convenient when we have guests to just use plastic utensils so we don’t have to do the dishes. However, it’s not so good for the environment. In 2008 alone, single-use plastics accounted for a whopping 13 million tons of waste. It’s time to switch over to reusable forks, knives, and spoons.
Read electronic books and newspapers.
By reading on your e-reader, tablet, or computer, you can do away with hard copies of books and newspapers that waste paper. If you’re dead set on reading physical copies of books, borrow from the library instead of buying your own.
Be sure to read about how to go trash-free for a week, and tell us how you’re planning to celebrate Earth Day in the comments.