Earth Day serves as our annual reminder to be more conscious of the environmental impacts of our everyday habits. While some may resist going green because of the cost, others know being eco-minded actually saves a lot of green, too.
Switching to CFLs, line-drying our laundry and switching to reusable grocery bags are common tips this time of year. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, consider these 10 unique ideas for saving money and the environment.
1. Make Your Own Cooking Spray
Commercial cooking sprays are not only bad for your health — they contain additives and genetically-modified ingredients — they’re also bad for the environment. Many sprays contain nitrous oxide, the largest ozone-depleting substance emitted through human activity according to ScienceDaily.com. Create your own cooking spray using a refillable pump-spray bottle containing your preferred cooking oil. Not only will this save our planet and your health, but it will keep some extra dollars in your pocket as well.
2. Buy Refurbished Ink
On average, 375 million ink cartridges are tossed into landfills each year. This statistic is especially bothersome when 97 percent of materials contained in an ink cartridge can be reused or recycled. Instead of buying new printer ink, reduce your waste and find the best price on refurbished or remanufactured cartridges by using InkjetWilly.com.
3. Swap Plastic Bags for Reusable
The U.S. alone adds 20 million plastic baggies to landfills every single day. SnackTaxi is among several companies trying to combat this waste by offering reusable snack sacks and sandwich sacks. So far, their mission has helped keep over seven million plastic baggies out of water streams, which equates to about 430,000 pounds. In addition to keeping our waterways clean, these bags are dishwasher safe and can be used again and again.
4. Use Vinegar and Baking Soda to Clean Toilets
The toilet is one of the dirtiest surfaces in our homes, and killing bacteria with bleach and other harsh chemicals is typically the go-to solution. However, flushing these toxic substances into our waterways has grave environmental impacts. Consider swapping manufactured cleaner for natural household items to get the job done just as well. Pour a cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl and let sit for one hour. Dip the toilet brush into the bowl, sprinkle with one-half cup baking soda and scrub until clean.
5. Consider Alternative Uses for Lemons
Among the basic cooking ingredients, lemons are one of the most commonly used flavoring agents after salt and pepper. Additionally, lemons are a natural cleanser, helping to cut grease on dirty dishes and clean countertops when mixed with water. You can even use lemon juice to keep creepy crawlers from invading your house! Check out this complete list of green uses for yellow lemons, and stock up on one of nature’s most useful creations.
6. Repurpose Greeting Cards
From birthdays to holidays to other special occasions, Americans buy roughly 6.5 billion greeting cards annually. At between $2 and $4 a pop, this represents an enormous expenditure by consumers. In addition to sending evites and other digital well-wishes, you can reuse the paper greeting cards you receive during the year. Simply remove the personal message and retain the decorative part to be used as a postcard greeting.
7. Close Those Blinds
Warm weather has already arrived in some parts of the country, and is just around the corner for the rest. Since heating and cooling take up most of the energy use detailed on our utility bills, finding alternative ways to keep your home comfortable is paramount. Simply closing your blinds can help mitigate the warming effects of the sun, since 40 percent of unwanted heat comes through windows.
8. Try Cloth Instead of Paper
According to an article in Living Green Magazine, it takes 51,000 trees to produce the number of paper towels used in a 24-hour period. Since paper towels cannot be recycled or composted, they contribute heavily to the 40-percent ratio of paper products in our landfills. At an average of $1 per roll, you can save money and the environment by switching to cloth napkins, sponges and other reusable methods of cleanup.
9. Make Your Garden Native
It’s only April and yet several parts of the country are already putting restrictions on residential water use in anticipation of a record-setting drought. Instead of watching your plants wither in the hot sun, take this opportunity to revitalize your garden with native plants. Check with your local nursery about the best plants for your region and watch your garden thrive as your water bill plummets.
10. Recycle Your Cell Phone
On average, cell phone users upgrade their devices every 18 months. An estimated 140 million phones ended up in the landfill in 2012, and currently only 10 percent of all cell phones are recycled. This information is especially troubling since cell phones contain such toxic chemicals as lead, lithium and cadmium. Don’t toss your old device; instead, donate it to a charity like Cell Phones for Soldiers, which receives proceeds in exchange for recycling it.
This has been a guest post from Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoneyand many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.