Eco-friendly tips that are totally free and totally easy? Sounds too good to be true, right? The truth is, there are so many habits you can build that will save the environment while saving you money that I doubt I could list them all here. But I’ll make you a deal, I’ll keep adding tips as I find them, and you can post yours in the comments to chip in!
I often read posts about tips that will save you money and the tip is something like, “Buy an eco-friendly car.” I don’t know about you, but spending tens of thousands of dollars just to save a few bucks on gas isn’t economical for me. Don’t get me wrong, if you can afford a new car, then, by all means, get a hybrid or an electric one.
But for those of us who are on a tight budget and want to save money right now, and also want to do our part for the environment and for climate change … well, those kinds of tips just aren’t helpful.
So I’ve compiled a list of eco-friendly habits that you can start today, for no cost at all. In fact. Most of them will save you money either immediately or within a month.
Lower your electric or gas bill.
Save money at the pump.
Reuse household items.
Cut the Electric or Gas Bill
Keep your thermostat clear.
Don’t put lamps, electronics, or other heat-generating objects near your thermostat. The heat they put off will trick your thermostat into thinking it is warmer in the room than it is, causing it to run more than it needs to, particularly during warm seasons. This can raise your energy bill costing you and the environment even more.
Conversely, keep insulating items away from any baseboard heating during cold months. Couches, bookcases, and other items will absorb and block the heat put out, causing you to crank it up a little more.
If you can, schedule your thermostat to adjust automatically while you’re not home.
Seal drafty doors and windows
Check for drafts, and don’t wait for winter. Drafts in any season can cause your air conditioner (a/c) or furnace to work overtime, costing you money and energy.
Keep that oven door shut!
Did you know that every time you open the door to check the progress of your food it can drop the temp by 150° F?!? Even just a quick open and shut peek at your food can cost you 25-30° F.
Depending on your oven this heat may return quickly, or it may cost you money and energy! Check out my blog for more money-saving tips for your oven.
Turn off the lights and electronics.
Do I really need to explain the part about turning off lights? If you’ve ever paid an electric bill, you probably started turning off lights pretty quickly thereafter. On the other hand, when you live in a small apartment, your electric bill may be small already. But if you only turn on lights when you’re using them, and then you turn them off when you’re done, it will be even less!
Another quick and free tip about lighting is to use task lights, aka lamps, instead of overhead lights. If you can light just the area you need with a lamp, you’ll use less electricity and save yourself some money.
The harder one is the electronics. Even of they’re off, they still pull energy as long as they are plugged in. Pulling the plug before you go to bed can decrease your carbon footprint and your electric bill. Check for things like TVs, video games, computers, stereo systems.
Make this an easier habit by using power strips so you can unplug a whole slew of electronics all at once. If you want to go next level, get a wi-fi controlled strip or outlet that you can set to turn on/off whenever you like. These will cost you a little cash of course, but it’s not a major investment and it’s really not even necessary.
If you do get a controlled strip or outlet, just make sure you don’t have your modem or router plugged into it or it won’t turn back on!
Save energy while doing laundry.
There are a couple tricks for laundry that could save energy and save you money.
Wash your clothes in cold water. The clothes will last longer, and the colors will stay brighter. You’ll also reduce the energy cost of heating the water. Personally, I use cold water for everything except towels and bedding – for those I use hot to kill bacteria and dust mites (which I’m allergic to).
Add a dry towel to your dryer cycle. I’m not sure of the science behind this one, but supposedly it will shorten your dry times. The impact here would be seen in auto-dry cycles where the dryer shuts off when it decides your laundry is fully dry. I mean, if you set the time to 60 minutes…it’ll still run 60 minutes, right?
Hang dry some (or all) laundry. Pull out the more delicate pieces of laundry, from undergarments to light weight t-shirts and fabrics. Having fewer garments in the dry cycle will speed it up, plus the life of these garments will be extended.
Apartment pro-tip: If you pay for laundry, run two wash cycles, and pull out all lightweight items to hang dry. Then, combine both loads of wash into one load of dry. This was my go-to move, especially when I could run multiple machines at once! You could do this even if you don’t have to pay for laundry, but if you do pay per load, you’ll see quick savings!
Save Money at the Pump
Don’t top off the gas tank.
Ever give that extra little squeeze at the pump?
Well, guess what? It wastes money and can even damage your vehicles vapor collection system. Which helps reduce harmful emissions.
So ultimately, it’s a waste of fossil fuels and environmentally damaging vapors.
Get gas in the morning.
Timing is everything! Well, in this case, temperature is everything. Cool temps cause gasoline to condense (think back to biology class and how molecules and atoms react to temperature: heat expands, cold contracts).
In the morning, the fuel is still cool from overnight temps, and a lack of sunshine hitting the pavement it’s stored under. This means the liquid is condensed, and you’ll get more as you pump. But the pump will measure less…actually, it will measure the same but since it’s all condensed, you’re getting more for the same amount…make sense?
Don’t pump at maximum speed.
Pumps at the gas station measure their output with a sensor. These sensors just measure the flow, not the amount (or the density as we mentioned above). When you’re manning the pump, it’s better not to do the full squeeze method.
The full squeeze increases the pressure behind the liquid, pushing it out faster and turning some of the gasoline into vapor. Guess what? That vapor is still measured as part of that flow rate, and you will be charged for it.
So squeeze easy, my friend.
Don’t let the tank go empty.
More room in your tanks is more room for evaporation. If you let your tank run down, the liquid that remains will evaporate more quickly. The recommendation is to fill up when you’re under half a tank. This is especially true if you’re vehicle sits idle for extended periods.
For those of us trying to achieve a sustainable lifestyle, our cars get used less and less, so make sure you’re not wasting fuel!
Clean your air filter.
Yes, you should buy a new one every now and then. But oftentimes a good whap against something hard, like the asphalt or concrete beneath your feet, will extend the life of your air filter.
This saves you money in two ways. One, you didn’t have to buy a new filter (less waste into the environment too!). Two, you’ll get better fuel efficiency out of your vehicle.
Check your tire pressure.
Hopefully, you already have a tire pressure gauge, but if you don’t, it’s a very minor investment, usually just a couple bucks. The harder part is finding a station that gives you free air. Most cost at least a few quarters these days.
So I guess this may not be a completely free tip, but for a matter of a few dollars, you could increase fuel efficiency in your vehicle by up to 3%.
You’ll also spend less on tires over time since they wear better when fully inflated.
Did you know there’s an ideal driving speed for fuel efficiency? Stop-and-go is the worst but speeding on the highway can also reduce fuel efficiency. Drive around 55-60 mph when possible to maximize your fuel usage and costs.
Bonus savings: no speeding tickets to pay if you stay a little slower.
Bonus tip: Use cruise control to maintain this speed. Constantly adjusting speed decreases fuel efficiency.
Turn off the a/c.
This one is a little tricky. It is more fuel-efficient to turn you’re a/c off and roll down your windows when in stop-and-go traffic or when driving in areas with frequent stops/intersections.
But once you’re at a consistent speed, it’s more efficient to roll up the windows to reduce drag. So crank that a/c up when you’re at a consistent speed.
Plan your trip.
Think about any errands you need to run and plan your drive for the most efficient route. Not your thing? No problem, use a GPS app like Maps or Google Maps to do it for you by adding multiple stops.
Bonus tip: make a list of what you need from the store so you don’t forget something and need to make a second trip.
Don’t let your car idle.
If your car is running but not moving, it’s a waste of fuel. PERIOD. Unless you need to warm the engine for some reason, shut off the car if you’re stopping for more than a few seconds, like at an intersection.
Don’t use your car for storage.
Extra weight in your car uses extra fuel. So clean out the trunk and the back seat. Don’t use your car as a closet or a second home. And if you can take off a roof rack, bike rack or other add-ons from the exterior of your vehicle, you can reduce weight and wind resistance, both of which will improve gas mileage.
Check your gas cap.