Earth Day Tips: 7 Easy Ways to Conserve Energy and Save Money

Earth Day

So the saying goes, every day is Earth Day. But perhaps that's never more true than during a recession.

Turning out the lights when you leave a room, driving only when you need to and shutting off the faucet when you brush your teeth are all simple ways to help the planet. But those same tips are also plenty good for your pocketbook.

"A lot of the ways that people become environmentalists are just by following their common sense. For example, lots of companies are going green because it makes sense for their bottom line," said Kim Mickenberg, a spokeswoman for the Earth Day Network

"It's not only about saving the planet, it's about saving your money," she said. "There's a convergence in our economic and ecological interests."

In honor of Earth Day, we've compiled a few simple steps to help you conserve the planet's resources and your own. Here are the details.

1. Watch how you shop.

Whether you're shopping for a book or a new refrigerator, online or in the store, there's a way to consume with the environment and your bank account in mind.

For starters, look for appliances and items with the Energy Star label. Backed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy, this label indicates a model that has met minimum federal energy efficiency standards.

You may have to pay a bit more up front, but the savings will come. New refrigerators consume 75 percent less energy than those produced in the late 1970s, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). If you replace a 1980 model with one that meets today's standards, you could save more than $100 a year in utility costs. An Energy Star-certified model will save an additional 15 percent or more.

When you get ready to buy electronics, do a little research. For example, ink jet printers tend to be more energy-efficient than lasers, and LCD televisions and monitors usually pull less power than plasma screens.

It also matters where you do the shopping. BetterWorldBooks, for example, automatically offers customers free shipping in the United States for all book shipments. And to help customers shrink their carbon footprints (or the amount of greenhouse gas emissions for which each individual is responsible), every order is shipped carbon neutral with offsets from Carbonfund.org.

2. Measure Your Miles.

Gas prices may be down now but, even so, fuel costs can still eat up a large portion of the family budget. And, in the United States cars are responsible for about 25 percent of the greenhouse gases produced, the NRDC says.

Purchasing fuel-efficient, less polluting cars is an option. So is keeping your current car in good condition with regular tune-ups and properly inflated tires. Car pooling and biking when possible also save money and cut down on emissions.

But watching how you drive can also have an impact.

A tiny, easy-to-mount computer for the car, called the Fuel Efficiency Adviser, gives you real-time information about what's happening in your engine. It can tell you exactly how much each trip costs, which helps you find the least expensive route.

It even shows you the difference idling at one red light can make.

The device costs $159.99, but the company behind it says thousands of people have purchased it, even becoming "addicted" to it.

"They become addicted to observing the cash costs of their driving habits," said Karl Singer, president of Fuel Efficiency Centers.

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