In recognition of Earth Day, here are 5 simple things for the novice greenie to do that not only help save the environment but put money back into your pocket too.
1. Use reusable water bottles
Americans buy more than half a billion bottles of water each week. The issues with bottled water are numerous:
* Petroleum is used to make the bottles;
* About 27% of the bottles are recycled, the other 73% go into the landfills;
* Water, which is available from a tap, is transported from the bottling site to the store and ultimately to our houses causing greenhouse gases along the way;
* The FDA only requires that bottled water is as good as tap water. An NRDC study estimates that 25% of bottled water is really just tap water.
To save money and help the environment, buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up with good old tap water. If you do not trust the tap water, using a filter is still much better than buying bottled water.
2. Use reusable plastic bags
Single use bags in particular, plastic, are very bad for the environment. Not only are they made out from petroleum but the recycling rates are low. WorldWatch Inst. estimates that about 100 Billion are used and discarded in the US alone, at the cost of 12 million barrels of oil. Many of those plastic bags end up in landfills and some flow into the ocean and probably join the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which a floating island of trash estimated at twice the size of Texas where plastic particles are more abundant than plankton.
You can find reusable bags at most retail stores these days. Invest in a couple and you can save 300-700 plastic bags a year.
3. Unplug the Vampires
Many power cords suck up energy even if they are switched off, either because the appliance remains on stand-by waiting to be switched on with a remote control or an adapter, disconnected from the device they are supposed to be charging such as a cell phone or lap top, continues to suck up energy. This is known as vampire or phantom energy and can account for about 10% of your residential energy bill. The EPA estimates that the average US household spends $100 a year powering devices that are off. On a national basis, this standby power accounts for more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.
By using a power strip or unplugging unused appliances or power cords can reduce your energy bill as well as save the environment.
4. Eat like a vegetarian once a week
Farming requires fossil fuels to make fertilizer, run tractors, process and transport food. It takes many calories of grains to make one calorie of meat; animals and manure produce greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide. As a result, producing meat emits more greenhouse gases than growing crops. A 2006 United Nation report revealed that the "livestock sector" generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes in the world combined.
Environmental Defense estimates that, "If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted a vegetarian meal, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.
5. Buy smart
Consumerism, the constant buying and disposing of stuff, leads to a lot of environmental issues, including extraction, manufacture, packaging, transportation and disposal of goods. Limit purchases to what you really need, after all, Reduce is the first of the 3R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
When you do need to buy something invoke the second R, Reuse, and save money by buying through thrift stores, online through Craigslist or eBay, or have fun visiting yard sales.
Have fun celebrating Earth Day 2010, and with these easy tips, save money and help save the planet too.
Marlene Zobayan is the founder and CEO of Consumer Change LLC, a green advocacy website. For more information or to provide a review of a business' environmental practices, visit http://www.consumerchange.com.