20 Ways to Support Earth Day This Year

Today of all days, take one step toward protecting the planet, and your monthly utility costs will benefit as well.

  1. End vampire madness

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    According to the government's Energy Star program, vampire power—the energy some electronics use when they are switched off but still plugged in—accounts for more than $10 billion per year in avoidable costs. Unplug devices when they are charged or not in use; alternatively, plug your appliances and gadgets into smart outlets.

  2. Repurpose

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    Why spend time, money, and natural resources to redecorate, when you can repurpose what you already own? Everything from shipping pallets, silverware, ladders, and old windows can live second lives in your home. And if you can't repurpose something, dispose of it responsibly!

  3. Make your own cleaners



    Combine common household ingredients into sweet-smelling mixtures that clean, disinfect, and freshen your home—naturally. Karyn Siegel-Maier, author of The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning, serves up easy, effective homemade cleaning solutions involving items you probably already have in your pantry.

  4. Lower the Temps

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    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% to 5% in energy costs.

  5. Seal it

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    If your attic is not properly insulated and ventilated, then your home may be losing heat in the winter and cool air in summer. As a result, it's possible that your furnace and air conditioning units are working harder (using more energy) than necessary to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

  6. Become a fan of fans

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    Air conditioning accounts for about 25% of a home’s electricity costs. Before you crank it up this summer, first try a little old-fashioned ventilation. Just keeping air moving can make your home feel much cooler. Consider circulating that air rather than chilling it with these low-cost, low-energy alternatives.

  7. Shop for Energy Star



    By now, most people are familiar with Energy Star. In addition to certifying consumer products, this government program also certifies homes—and you might be surprised to learn the number one way that most homes fail to meet its requirements.

  8. Try natural pesticides

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    Why pay an exterminator hundreds of dollars to douse dangerous poisons, when myriad natural, non-toxic, economically priced solutions are at our disposal? You can create your own natural pesticides solutions with everything from peppermint to Tabasco sauce. Check out The Complete Natural Guide to Pest Control and Prevention

  9. Get an Energy Audit

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    Before you consider changes to your home’s energy-consuming devices and systems, complete an energy audit. You might be able to get a free one from your local utility company. Otherwise, locate an accredited contractor through the Building Performance Institute.

  10. Vow to Bike



    Of course, you can turn that old bicycle into a garden planter (yes, it can be done), but where the environment is concerned, it would be better if you were to use that two-wheeler for transportation. Vow to ride your bike to work at least one day a month in 2013. (Or use the bike instead of your car to run errands over the weekend.) You’ll save gas, get a little exercise, and reduce your carbon footprint. 

  11. Water your lawn—LESS

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    Most lawns require about one inch of water per week. How long should you leave the sprinkler running? There’s an easy way to find out. Simply set out a small container and water until it’s holding one inch. If it takes 60 minutes, then that’s how long you need to water the lawn each week.

  12. Plant Something



    There's no better way to give back to Mother Earth than planting a tree. No room for a tree? Donate to the Arbor Day Foundation, and the organization will use that money to plant trees in a national forest. Indoors, improve air quality and your overall mood with one of these ten easy-care houseplants

  13. Go solar

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    There are so many ways you can go solar. Opting for solar-driven outdoor lighting is one that often gets overlooked. For more info on getting started, don't miss Solar Power Systems 101.

  14. Replace a light bulb

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    You've heard it before, but choosing compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs is an easy and cost-effective change, one that really makes a difference. According to Energy Star, if every American home swapped out just one bulb, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year. Enough said!

  15. Upgrade your thermostat

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    Still using a mercury thermostat? Replace it with a programmable model. After the initial $100 investment, you can see payback within a matter of a few months, and over the lifetime of the product, you're likely to save thousands.

  16. Compost



    Composting keeps organic waste out of landfills and helps your garden thrive in ways that even fertilizer cannot match. To get started, all you need is a cubic yard of space and one of these compost bins. For a happy and healthy garden, take note of what you can and cannot compost—learn all you need to know in Composting 101.

  17. Make a rain barrel



    Rain barrels are smart and efficient—they capture water that would normally go to waste and save it for you to deliver to your garden later, when you need it. They’re easy to install and maintain, and they don’t use any energy. In fact, you'd be amazed at how easy it is to make your own

  18. Go low-flow

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    Low-flow shower heads and pressure-compensating shower control valves and faucets are all fairly affordable options today. When shopping, look for the EPA's WaterSense seal, which certifies that products meet strict conservation standards. And don't overlook the benefit of installing a low-flush toilet.

  19. Stop the drip



    Leaks in American homes reportedly account for 1 trillion gallons of wasted water per year—an amount equivalent to that used annually by Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami combined! If you have a leaky faucet or running toilet, fix it on Earth Day! And remember always to turn off the bathroom faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving. For more ideas, see 5 Ways to Save H2O at Home.

  20. Support a cause



    It's important to remember that going green extends beyond the home. Whether you volunteer time or donate money, continued support for environmental groups is critically important. For more information on how you can help, consider the Arbor Day Foundation, National Audobon Society, Green Towns, World Wildlife Fund, and Sierra Club. Remember, every day is reason to celebrate Earth Day!

  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!