You don't have to buy a hybrid car or install solar panels to make changes that have a significant environmental benefit, save money and are easy to do. Here's a list of 9 Earth Day tips you probably won't find anywhere else. Altogether they could put several hundred dollars back in your pocket due to lower utility bills while preventing around a ton of climate change pollution per household annually. After all, cutting electricity waste means we don't need to run as many fossil fuel-burning power plants, which are America's largest source of climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions.
1. Buy LED light bulbs - On your way home from the local Earth Day celebration or from work, stop at your local big box store and pick up some LED light bulbs. Why use 60 watts for the everyday light bulb when an LED bulb only uses 10 to produce the same amount of light? Today's LED bulbs last up to 25 times longer and have really come down in price, with some costing only $8. Due to their long life and efficiency, LED bulbs will easily save you more than $100 over their lifetime.
2. Adjust your TV's settings (turn Auto Brightness Control on, and Quick Start off) - Many digital TVs come with a feature called Automatic Brightness Control (ABC), which if enabled causes your TV to automatically adjust the screen's brightness to the room's light levels. So if you're watching "Mad Men" or the ballgame at night in a dimly lit room, the screen doesn't need to be as bright and your TV will use less power. Also some smart (Internet-connected TVs) come with a Quick Start feature. While the TV will power up a few seconds faster when selected, this feature can be incredibly wasteful as some TVs chug away at more than 20 watts 24/7 rather than 0.3 watts without the feature enabled. So turn this feature off if you can wait the few extra seconds.
3. Wash clothes in cold water and use the fastest spin speed available - Today's clothes washers and detergents are designed to effectively clean clothes in cold water. This avoids having to heat the 15 or so gallons of water used per load. If you have a front-loading washer, select the machine's highest spin speed, which will remove more of the moisture from your clothes. That way your dryer won't have to work as hard and you'll cut dryer time and save money, too.
4. Turn off the Instant-on setting on the Xbox One - This game console is shipped with the Instant On feature enabled, which causes it to continuously use 12.5 watts even when turned off. Selecting the Energy-Saving mode instead can cut your Xbox's total annual energy use by more than a third.
5. Don't stream videos through your game console - Video game consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation can suck 25 to 50 times more power to stream a movie from the Internet compared to a dedicated device such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV or a Google Chromecast stick. If you have an Internet-connected TV, stream the movie directly from your TV and avoid using the game consoles interface, which is essentially an energy-wasting remote control in this case.
6. Upgrade the aerators on your kitchen and bathroom sinks - If you have an older faucet, install a new water efficient aerator for under $5 and you can cut its water use by up to 40 percent. Simply unscrew the current one on the tip of your faucet and replace it with one that uses no more than 1.8 gallons per minute for the kitchen faucet and 1.2 gallons per minute for the one on your bathroom sink. You probably won't notice the difference but your water bill will. Check with your local water agency as some provide efficient aerators free or at low cost.
7. Recycle your old consumer electronics properly - Millions of tons of electronic waste are generated each year and are still put into landfills in some states, or shipped to developing countries for recycling without proper safeguards for workers who are exposed to dangerous chemicals. Make sure you use recyclers who are certified E-Stewards and follow high standards. Best Buy accepts almost all used consumer electronics, including TVs, regardless of where they were purchased, and recycles them with E-Steward certified recyclers at no charge. Staples offers similar services but doesn't accept televisions.
8. Turn off your furnace when the cold weather ends - Like many other modern appliances, home central heating systems, also called furnaces, use electricity even when they're not operating. According to a Home Energy article, many furnaces draw 8 to 12 watts of standby power 24/7 when not in use. To eliminate this waste during the six or more months when you don't need heat, switch off the power to the furnace.
9. Buy a new toilet that uses no more than 1.28 gallons per flush - If you're remodeling or have an older toilet that uses 1.6 gallons per flush , or worse yet a 40-year-old avocado green one that might be using 5 gallons per flush, swap it out for a more water- efficient one. Look for models with a Water Sense label because they're not only efficient, they also meet various flushing performance requirements. A family of four can save six gallons of clean drinking water per DAY, simply by switching from a toilet that uses 1.6 to 1.28 gallons per flush.
Earth Day only comes once a year in April, but these tips can help our planet and your wallet year-round.