Earth Day turns 45 on April 22, and the event started by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 continues to grow in popularity and impact. In fact, the event has gained such widespread acceptance that it’s become much more than a fringe celebration. In fact, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries participate in Earth Day. That makes it the largest civic observance in the world.
But not everyone’s involved or committed. A new survey by the online coupon site RetailMeNot shows that females are more likely than males (22 percent vs. 15 percent) to say they don’t live completely green because they don’t know how. And males are more likely than females to say they don’t live completely green because they don’t think it’s worth it (11 percent vs. 7 percent of females) or because they don’t care (11 percent vs. 4 percent).
And the top reason Americans have for not living a completely “green” lifestyle? It’s too expensive: 42 percent.
Sez who? In the spirit of Earth Day, it’s a good time to look at some of the ways we waste resources and energy, and consider alternatives that would allow us to cut down on the carbon footprint. What’s more, these moves will save you money, the kind of green conservation we like at Money Under 30.
1. Get a low-flow showerhead
The allure of a low-flow showerhead is that you can save lots of money on your utility bills by installing one. But not all such heads are made equal, so there’s something to be said for sacrificing the quality of your shower for the quantity of your savings.
One showerhead that earns solid reviews is the Evolve Roadrunner II, which costs $39.95 in chrome and $44.95 in brushed nickel. This head allows you to warm up the shower, then cuts the flow to a trickle once the water hits 95 degrees. Then, you pull a cord on the head to resume the normal flow of water, thus saving on hot water costs.
2. Limit (or eliminate) paper towel use
It’s true that paper towels make for an easy reach when you spill something. Yet paper towels as an absolute waste. Many sources, including maintain that paper towels create 3000 tons of landfill waste a day. Obvious cheaper alternatives include cotton hand towels and rags, which, while they’ll create more laundry, certainly won’t impact the environment the way throwaway towels do. And while we’re not endorsing you wipe your hands on your pants, remember this: To make one ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water consumed.
3. Use smart power strips to save electricity
Smart power strips like the Smart Strip LCG3 block power to plugs that aren’t in use.
The vampire effect accounts for 5 percent of energy use in the U.S.; assuming you could cut your electric bill by half that amount by using one of these strips on your chargers and computer equipment—there are 10 outlets—this device will pay for itself in a year, if your electric bill averages $100 a month. Plus, you’ll get the benefit of surge protection.
4. Go with refurbished electronics where possible
Make no mistake: Buying refurbished electronics saves you cash—usually at least 15 percent, and often much more—while keeping tons of goods out of our nation’s landfills.
Never buy a refurbished item without a warranty that equals the coverage a new item would get. Otherwise, you’re buying a used item—and while used might still work out, you have to wonder about a retailer who’d pass off refurbished items without a warranty.
5. Avoid nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries
Sometimes, we make bad choices trying to do good things. Such is the case with rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries (NiCd), which represent the spawn of all electronic evil. They not only drain easily, they’re subject to the dreaded “memory effect,” which means they can wear out fast if you recharge them before they drain out completely. But what’s worse, they’re also banned in Europe because cadmium is so hazardous.
Instead, stick with the newfangled Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries (NiMH), which come close to alkaline batteries for shelf life.
6. Change over to LED lightbulbs
Even in a home where fluorescents get used, an overwhelming majority of consumers replace their incandescent bulbs one at a time, only as they burn out. Yet it’s much more efficient to replace all the bulbs at once, as you’ll notice a dramatic drop in energy consumption per bulbs changed.
Though most people resist LED bulbs because of their high price tag (usually $20-$40), they’ll also last from 25,000 to 50,000 hours. At the low end of that range, that’s the equivalent of about 25 incandescents.
7. Properly inflate your car tires
Of course, you save the most gas when you walk, bike or use public transit. But if you must drive, consider this: Countless studies have shown that cars with properly inflated and balanced tires get better gas mileage—around 3.3 percent, according to U.S. Department of Energy stats.
If you’re really in a miserly mood, look for those rare gas stations that still offer free air; it might run you 75 cents or so otherwise.
We’ve given you enough food for thought; now it’s time for a few food-related Earth Day freebies.
Caribou Coffee: Unlimited coffee refills
For the entirety of April, Caribou Coffee is offering an incredible deal when you purchase one of their stylish forest-green Earth Day tumblers. They’ll give you free coffee refills for the entire month. The mug is emblazoned with the slogan “Life is celebrating Earth Day every day.” This certainly beats celebrating other April occasions every day, such as Tax Day.
Free shakes from EVOS
If free coffee isn’t, uhm, your cup of tea, perhaps a free organic shake will do the trick. EVOS is offering up free shakes for Earth Day, and here’s a chain that devotes itself to serving All-American fare like burgers and fries in a way that’s healthy and sustainable. Around since 1994, EVOS has locations in the Southeast.
Free glass straws from Glass Dharma
Milkshakes … coffee … how about special straw to go with ’em? There’s a whole lot of plastic going into landfills, and the folks at Glass Dharma have a better idea: glass straws that replace thousands of plastic straws, and leach less toxins into your drinks. They’re made of super-strong borosilicate tubing; an initial giveaway of 1,000 Earth Day straws went fast, but Glass Dharma is still giving them away for Earth Day if you take this quiz on their website. If you pass (it takes about 15 minutes), you’ll receive a confirmation email with a coupon code for the straw.