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

For Earth Day, simple tips to save the planet's resources and your own.

ByABC News
April 21, 2009, 8:00 PM

April 22, 2009— -- 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

Unplugging even the appliances you rarely use, like refrigerators in the basement, could save you about $10 every month on your utility bill.

Using power strips to switch off televisions, home theaters and stereos when they're not in use could save the equivalent to that of a 75 or 100 watt light bulb running non-stop, according to the NRDC.

According to the company, each year consumer electronics companies churn out about 2.5 billion incompatible power supplies and dump another 700 million discarded products in landfills. Green Plug's one-size-fits-all approach attempts to reduce waste.

If you want to go one step farther, take a look at the nPower PEG, by Tremont Electric LLC. This futuristic device runs off of your own motion. With 15 minutes of walking you can charge your iPod just as much as it it was plugged in for 15 minutes -- with no plug needed.

5. Don't waste water.

Wasting water is an easy way to watch your money go down to drain. But there are several ways to fix this.

First off, take a minute and listen for the soft, "drip... drip," sound coming from your sinks or shower. The NRDC estimates that leaky faucets wastes about 3,000 gallons of water a year.

The organization recommends checking for a leaking toilet by placing food coloring in the tank and then waiting 30 minutes to see if it appears in the bowl. If it does, it's time to fix the leak.

You can also check for leaks by reading the water meter when no one is home and you know that no appliances are in use. If you check it a little later and the numbers have gone up, it could also indicate a leak.

Taking a four-minute shower instead of an eight-minute shower could also save almost 10 gallons of water. If you can't sacrifice that, replacing your water faucets with aerated ones will use less water without sacrificing pressure, and the cheap price of a low-flow shower head will repay itself in no time with the money it could save you in bills.

According to the EPA, more than 40 million computers alone became obsolete in 2007, and the numbers keep rising.

With those kind of stats, recycling electronics is only becoming more essential, especially because they're not particularly biodegradable.

If we recycle 1 million cell phones, we'll save enough energy to power 19,000 homes in the United States for one whole year, according to the EPA.

7. Change a light bulb.

Yes, you've heard it before. But the fact remains that the simple, cheap, and very easy act of replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs saves you about $30 over their lifetimes. In just six months, they pay for themselves.

Besides using about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, they also last about 10 times longer.