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Save the Earth (Plus a Few Bucks)

LIFE & PERSPECTIVE:

Most of us would like to help the environment and save energy.  And if we could save some money in the process, we would enthusiastically do so.  If you want to accumulate some extra money for your down payment or gather some cash to pay down your existing mortgage, read on.

Most people would like to help the environment and save money but believe doing so would require a lot of time and energy on their part.

While this might be the case in some instances, there are many quick and easy environmentally friendly steps you can take.  Here are 10 things that take less than a minute each that you can do to help the Earth — while saving money at the same time.

1. Use half (0 seconds): Commercials for products such as washing detergent, shampoo, hair conditioner, toothpaste and cleaning supplies aim to make you believe that you need to use much more than you actually do.  The reason for this is simple: If you use more of the product, you will have to buy it again more quickly, meaning the company makes more money.

The truth is that you can probably use half the amount that you are currently using and still get the results you want.  You might have to adjust a small bit up or down, but you will use much less than you have been.  That effectively cuts the price you pay for certain products in half, which equates to several hundred dollars in your pocket.  This also means fewer chemicals being released into the air and water supply, plus less packaging going into landfills.

Couldn’t we also use less sugar in our foods and fertilizer for our lawns.  And if we use less, the amount of energy used for transporting the product is reduced.

2. Switch from hot to cold (under 5 seconds): Simply switch the setting on your washing machine so that it will wash your clothes in a cold/cold cycle (both the wash and rinse are in cold water).  This simple turn of a knob will save you about $100 a year, since most energy — and cost — for each wash comes from heating the water.  Even in cold, your clothes should get plenty clean due to the improved qualities of washing detergents.

And if you have a water softener this fact becomes more important.  Soft water allows soap to create suds more easily, reduces energy consumption in the hot water heater and allows easier kitchen and bathroom cleanup because soap rinses right off.

3. Throw in a towel (15 seconds): Keep a big fluffy towel (the more absorbent, the better) somewhere convenient to the dryer.  When you are about to dry a load of laundry, throw the towel into the dryer with the wet clothes.  The towel will help absorb the water in the other clothes as the dryer tumbles, reducing the time needed to dry all the clothes by about 10%.  This means you can run your dryer 10% less and save 10% of the cost of drying your clothes.

With an electric dryer one of the biggest drains on energy usage is powering the heating coil.

4. Not so hot (5 seconds for gas water heaters): Most water heaters are preset at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.  This is warmer than most people need.  You can adjust your water heater down to 130 degrees (while a lower temperature will still be warm enough in most cases, you don’t want to go below 125 degrees, since this will help ensure that common bacteria don’t survive in your water tank) and you should remain comfortable.  For each 10-degree reduction in water temperature, you’ll save 3% to 5% on your energy bill.

5. Reset thermostat (10 seconds): The higher you set your thermostat in the summer, the less your air conditioner has to work (shoot for 78 degrees or higher).  For every degree you increase the temperature on your thermostat, you save approximately 3% to 4% on your cooling bill.  You should be able to keep your inside temperature 2 degrees higher without noticing much of a difference, and you might be able to set it even higher.

6. Turn off the water (5 seconds): Turning off the water while brushing your teeth and washing your hands is simply a matter of changing a habit.  The average bathroom faucet flows at a rate of 2 gallons per minute.  If you turn off the tap while brushing your teeth and washing your hands, you can save approximately four gallons of water each time.  If you brush your teeth in the morning and at bedtime and wash your hands a few times a day, you can save up to 20 gallons of water per day — which equals 600 gallons a month.  For a family of four, this can save 2,400 gallons a month.

Water is fast becoming our next precious resource.

7. No idling (5 seconds): If you are waiting for someone while in the car, stuck in traffic or at a drive-through and it’s going to take more than 45 seconds before you start moving, you will use less gas turning off the engine and restarting than letting the car idle.  It’s also not necessary to let your car idle more than a minute in the morning — even in cold weather — as newer cars generally run fine even without warming them up.

8. Close vents (5 seconds for each vent): Close the cooling vents in all the rooms in your house where you don’t spend much time.  There is no reason to cool these areas if nobody is there.  This will make it easier for your air conditioner to cool your home and save money.  The one exception to this is if you have a cooling sensor (thermostat) in a room you don’t use often.  You’d want to leave this vent open so your air conditioner doesn’t work harder.

9. Replace light bulbs (30 seconds per light bulb): Compact fluorescent light, or CFL, bulbs use approximately one-fourth the electricity of incandescent bulbs, while lasting as much as 10 times as long.  Each regular bulb replaced with a CFL bulb will save about $40 over the life of the bulb.  Be sure to check with your local utility company to see if they offer a rebate or discount on these energy-efficient light bulbs to save even more.

10. Turn off lights (5 seconds): This is an obvious one, but it’s one that people often fail to do through carelessness.  Lighting can account for up to 30% of the electricity bill in a home.  All it takes is a flip of a switch to turn off a light in any room you are no longer going to be using.

Another item to turn off when you leave the room is the ceiling fan. The cooling sensation that it creates by moving air across your skin only works if you are there.

For anyone who believes that saving money and helping the environment is time-consuming, you can see that in well under 10 minutes you can make a significant impact on the Earth while placing money back into your pocket. Make the commitment to take the few seconds to do each of these tasks, and not only will you feel good about doing your part to reduce waste, but you will also be rewarded with more money in your bank account.

Doing any of these items can be just plain smart. Doing them all in a consistent manner will save you money, funds that can be used to advance your financial goals.

This article was written by Jeffrey Strain on TheStreet.com. The original is in black and MetFund’s comments are in blue.

 

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