Go green and save money this year

Many commentators have said the economic downturn will mean people abandon their environmental good intentions as they worry about paying the bills.

We don’t agree in fact we believe that the downturn could give many green businesses and initiatives the boost they need as sustainability can often save people money.

So we were particularly pleased to see the following advice from Matt Malten, assistant vice chancellor for campus sustainability at Washington University in St. Louis.

Matt has recognised that many still want to reduce our carbon impact but can’t afford a hybrid car so he has developed 12 tips to help lessen your impact on the environment and they may even save you some money without cramping your lifestyle much.

So here are Matt’s tips. We hope you’ll make a New Year resolution to adopt some if not all of them.

“Focus on reducing your energy and water consumption and your waste generation, and you’ll be on your way to reducing your footprint on the planet,” says Matt.

1. Use low energy light bulbs. Yes, they’re more expensive than traditional light bulbs but if you switch all the bulbs in your house you could save up to 30 per cent on your energy bill. “According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, they use about 75 percent less energy last 10 times longer and save an average of $30 for the life of the bulb.”

2. Keep your car in excellent condition. Of course, it’s best to walk, cycle, car share or use public transport for your daily commuting, but for those who must use their own vehicles, improving even the most inefficient of car’s fuel mileage is as easy as keeping your tyres properly inflated and changing your oil and air filters regularly. And follow those traffic laws – your car burns less fuel when you drive slowly and obey the speed limit on highways.

3. Make sure your dishwasher and clothes washer and dryer are full before using them. These major appliances consume large amounts of energy, so reduce their use as much as possible by only running them with full loads.

4. Wash clothes in cold water and line dry. Using cold water rather than hot in the washer saves electricity and works just as well as hot with most clothes. Line drying not only is more environmentally friendly, but it also will keep clothes from shrinking and fading.

5. Shut down and unplug idle electronics. Your computer might be asleep, but if there’s a light on, it’s still using energy. Turn off and unplug your computer, printer, television, radio – any electronic device that you’re not using.

6. Skip the bottled water. Sure, water is good for you, but the process of harvesting the raw materials, processing and manufacturing the petroleum-based plastic water bottles and shipping them to market is extremely energy intensive. So filter your own water and fill up your own reusable bottles for water on-the-go.

7. Supply your own bags and leftover containers. If you’re headed to a restaurant that you know serves king-sized portions, bring a small piece of Tupperware along to take home the leftovers. Going to the supermarket? Opt out of the paper/plastic debate and bring your own canvas tote bags.

“Although many supermarkets recycle used plastic bags, the process still requires much energy to be used to transport and process the materials,” says Matt. “Not only are reusable bags more sustainable, they are also becoming more of the norm.

8. Buy items with less packaging, and with packaging that your council recycles. It’s convenient to buy individually wrapped tea bags but that creates much more waste packaging than just buying the full box.

9. Support local farmers. Food grown or produced halfway around the world didn’t just appear in the supermarket – it was shipped by plane, boat, truck or rail, and no matter which method of transportation it took, greenhouse gases were emitted along the way. Pick the apple grown in the UK instead of the banana grown in another country.

10. Plant a tree in your garden. It seems simple, but just one tree can offset tons of carbon over its lifetime. If planted appropriately, it also will provide shade on a sunny day, perhaps reducing the use of energy for air-conditioning in buildings and homes.

“While reducing energy will cut our carbon emissions, it also is important to restore more natural ‘sinks’ that capture carbon,” Matt says. “Planting trees and perennials are an easy place to start.”

11. Try used products first. Need a couch? Check newspaper classifieds or freecycle to see if you can find an acceptable used option before going to a showroom to buy a new one, which will have required both energy and materials to make and ship.

12. Ask about green power. Many utility companies offer renewable energy options, which is power generated by wind or solar energy.

We know it’s quite a long list but we’re confident we could all adopt the majority of these actions, so we’re all capable of supporting sustainability and saving money.

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.