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Make Every Day Earth Day and Save Two Kinds of Green

Earth DayWhere I live in Queens, New York, recycling is mandatory. My husband and I keep a plastic sorting bin with two compartments—one for glass and plastic, the other for paper and cardboard—right next to our garbage can to make things easy…and messy, since our almost 20-month-old son thinks that the cardboard recycling is there for his entertainment. But a little mess in our living room is a small price to pay to help the planet. While recycling has become common practice in many parts of the United States, there are so many other things you can do that will help both the earth and your bottom line, and, in some cases, offer a tax break.

Water Conservation

  • Shut off the tap when brushing your teeth. Doing this twice a day saves up to 8 gallons of water.
  • Install low-flow shower heads in bathrooms.
  • If remodeling, consider low-flow toilets. These give the user the option of how much water will be used to flush based on the amount of waste.
  • Don’t buy disposable water bottles. Instead fill reusable water bottles.
  • Be sure sprinkler systems won’t go off when it has rained or during the sunniest times of the day and be mindful of drought conditions.
  • When running water to wash dishes, collect the initial cool water to water houseplants.

Potential cost savings: A family of four that upgrades and optimizes their water usage can save nearly $300 a year in utility bills and 32,000 gallons of water.  For more tips on water conservation and to calculate how much you might save, visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Energy Efficiency

There are a number of ways to be more energy efficient at every price point.

Inexpensive solutions:

  • Install energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Unplug appliances that aren’t in use.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.

Potential cost savings: Several hundred dollars per year.

Moderately priced solutions:

  • When the time comes to replace old appliances, purchase those that are the most energy efficient, including washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and air conditioners. Look for the Energy Star label which indicates the highest level of energy efficiency, and may offer tax savings.
  • Check home insulation. If your home is poorly insulated, you will spend more money to both heat and cool it, which is bad for the earth and your wallet.

Potential cost savings: Several hundred to several thousand dollars per year. 

Expensive, but offers long-term savings:

  • Investigate solar energy. In addition to solar panels, there are options for solar water heaters. There is often a substantial expense to initially installing solar energy options, but there are tax breaks and long-term savings as a result.

Potential cost savings: hundreds to thousands of dollars per year.

Day-to-Day Ways to Conserve and Save

  • Carpool. This saves on emissions and gas.
  • Learn to compost.
  • Think before you hit print. Do you really need something printed out or will an electronic document suffice? Considering some ink costs more than perfume these days, you will save money, not to mention trees.
  • Use the library or share books with friends.
  • Borrow things you might only need to use periodically (specialized power tools) or for a short period of time (baby gear).

Recycling cans, bottles and catalogs are just some of the most well-known ways you can help preserve our planet and save money. With a little effort, you can make green activities a regular part of your life and see more green in your wallet.

Lauren J. Sternberg, Communications Manager-American Institute of CPAs.

Recycling symbol courtesy of Shutterstock.

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