One easy switch is to stop using bottled water at home. Last year, Americans spent $11billion dollars on bottled water. Instead of spending money on all those plastic bottles, invest in a good water filter. By switching to a water filter or drinking from the tap, someone who drank a $1.50 bottle of water a day could save about $550 - a little less once you factor in the cost of the filter. "The savings are really very big," says AuWerter.
Also, try switching to compact florescent lightbulbs. The average household uses about 20 bulbs. "If you replaced those, you'd save about $250 a year," says AuWerter. While these lightbulbs are a little more expensive up front, they last about 10 times longer than traditional light bulbs and can reduce your energy bills by as much as 30 percent. If every American replaced just one bulb, that small change would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.
Not only will making your home more energy efficient slash your heating and cooling bills, it can help you out at tax time as well. For this year only, an energy efficient home entitles you to some really nice tax credits. Just how much you'll save and earn depends on what you're upgrading. "For example, adding insulation to your home can get you a tax credit of up to $500," says AuWerter. You'll also be reducing your energy bill, both during the summer and winter months.
It's become a given to look for the Energy Star label on big appliances like refrigerators, where the distinction means one model is at least 15% more energy-efficient than the federal standard. But you'll also find the Energy Star label on smaller purchases, including DVD players, dehumidifiers, battery chargers and cordless phones. You'd pay the same for a cordless phone whether it had the Energy Star label or not. "A cordless phone would be, say, 40 bucks either way," says AuWerter. But, according to Energy Star estimates, the energy-efficient version would save you $84 in energy costs each year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 578 pounds.
Another way to help the environment? Save some trees! The average American receives 11 pieces of unsolicited junk mail each week, accounting for 100 million trees cut down annually. Reducing your junk mail is easy. It's simply a matter of filling out a few forms. Cut the amount of junk mail you receive, and each year you'll save two trees and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 92 pounds. "I've done it myself and it really does work," says AuWerter. "It takes a few months for it to kick in, but you can arrange it so that you stop getting those catalogs and credit card offers." For information on stopping your junk mail, click here.
By Stephanie AuWerter