20 Ways to Go Green Today

Simple, do-it-today ideas for saving the planet—and a little money, too.

  1. Seal Things Up

    Seal Things Up

    Air leaks equal wasted energy. Fortunately, those leaks around windows, doors, electrical outlets, and elsewhere are cheap and easy to fix with weatherstripping and caulk. Sometimes the hardest part is locating the leaks in the first place. Consider hiring a certified home energy rater to perform an energy audit on your home.


  2. Go Low-Flow

    Go Low-Flow

    Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators allow you to save resources without sacrificing water pressure. An efficient low-flow showerhead, which can cost less than $15 and is easily installed, will save a family of four up to $285 per year.


  3. Buy the Right Bulb

    Buy the Right Bulb

    An Energy Star-rated compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb will save consumers about $1 a month over its lifetime. LED bulbs are even more efficient, and last even longer, but can be expensive. By comparison, halogen bulbs are more efficient than incandescents and cheaper than LEDs.


  4. Clean Green

    Clean Green

    Some household cleaners are actually toxic to you and the environment. Look for cleaning agents made from grain alcohol, coconut or other plant oils, and plant-oil disinfectants like eucalptus, rosemary or sage. Avoid butyl cellosolve, petroleum and triclosan. You could also make your own cleaner from soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, washing soda, lemon juice and borax.


  5. Compost to Grow

    Compost to Grow

    In your garden, always opt for compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost contains a full range of beneficial soil organisms and boasts the right nutrient balance for optimal plant growth, without added chemicals.


  6. Pull the Plug

    Pull the Plug

    Even if you turn off your electronics whenever you're not using them, they continue to use energy until you unplug them. So-called "vampire power" is sucked from powered-off devices and appliances—laptops, cell phone chargers, countertop microwaves—so take a moment to unplug.


  7. Turn Down the Temperature

    Turn Down the Temperature

    Lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater is an easy way to save money; for each 10ºF you decrease the temperature, you can save 3%–5% in energy costs. Some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140ºF, but most households only require them set at 120ºF. Check yours today.


  8. Consider Your Furnace Filter

    Consider Your Furnace Filter

    A dirty filter compromises your furnace's efficiency, with the result that you could end up paying inflated heating costs. Different filters require different actions; fiberglass filters should be replaced monthly throughout the heating season, while permanent filters should be cleaned regularly.


  9. Lights and Motion

    Lights and Motion

    Save energy while making your home more secure—install motion sensor lighting fixtures in key locations. Always-on or timer-controlled outdoor lighting wastes money, disrupts wildlife, and contributes to "light pollution."


  10. Pay Attention to Plastics

    Pay Attention to Plastics

    Reuse and recycle your plastics! Americans throw away about 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags annually, which takes a big toll on the environment. According to the EPA, the processing and burning of petroleum (which plastics are made from) contributes to global warming and sending plastics to the landfill increases greenhouse gases. So opt for paper instead of plastic when shopping, and invest in a stainless steel waterbottle you can easily reuse. 


  11. Choose the Cold Cycle

    Choose the Cold Cycle

    Since about 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes toward heating the water in a hot- or warm-water cycle, the eco- and budget-friendly play is sticking to the cold cycle. With the advances in washers and laundry detergents, it's possible to get both white and colored clothes perfectly clean in cold water anyway.


  12. Reduce Paper Use

    Reduce Paper Use

    Junk mail, phone books and paper catalogs continuously land in our mailboxes, then usually go right in the bin. On the web, it's easy to help save paper and energy; opt out of phone book and catalog delivery and sign up for a Do Not Mail list.


  13. Filter Your Water

    Filter Your Water

    Though the U.S. water supply is considered one of the safest in the world, it's still wise to use a water filter. A filter goes a long way toward removing the remaining contaminants and disinfection byproducts, and some filters can even take away lead that enters the tap water from pipes in older homes.


  14. Check the Temperature

    Check the Temperature

    Refrigerators and freezers use about 1/6th of the average home's electricity, so make sure to keep their temperatures in check. In general, the EPA recommends refrigerators be kept at 37º F and freezers at 3º F—any colder is likely to be a waste of energy. If you don't trust your appliance's gauge, put a weather thermometer inside the appliance and adjust its dial accordingly. 


  15. Unbleached Is Best

    Unbleached Is Best

    Many paper products (even if they're made from recycled fibers) are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process can create harmful byproducts like diotoxins, which accumulate in our air, water and soil over time. A better alternative: buy unbleached paper. 


  16. Pay Online

    Pay Online

    Save paper and avoid late fees by signing up for online bill-paying with your bank, credit agency, cable company, and utilities provider. Aside from saving trees, you'll save money on stamps. 


  17. Program Your Thermostat

    Program Your Thermostat

    Programmable thermostats are great energy-savers by virtue of enabling you to do one simple, valuable thing: heat or cool your home when heating or cooling is necessary, not when you're away from home. Programmable thermostats have become more affordable, but even if you don't want to invest, try to turn off or lower the heat or air conditioning when you'll be out of the house for a while.


  18. Fix Leaks ASAP

    Fix Leaks ASAP

    A dripping faucet may not seem like it's wasting that much water, but those tiny drops can add up to gallons over time. Regularly check all of your faucets for leaks, and when you discover them, get them fixed as quickly as possible.


  19. Say No to VOCs

    Say No to VOCs

    According to the EPA, conventional paints containing solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems. These toxic ingredients are released into the air as you're painting, while it's drying and even once it's completely dry. A better choice: use zero or low-VOC paint .


  20. Know Your Lights

    Know Your Lights

    Most of us were taught to turn off the lights when leaving a room, but if you have fluorescent bulbs, think again. It takes a lot of energy for them to turn back on. In fact, it's most efficient to only off fluorescent lights if you’re leaving a room for more than 15 minutes. Incandescent lights, on the other hand, should be turned off whenever not in use—doing so saves energy. It also keeps the room cooler, since only 10% of the energy fluorescent bulbs uses actually results in light; the rest is turned into heat.


  21. See the House of the Week


    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!