Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Economics of Going Green

You don't have to go out and buy a brand new Toyota Prius in order to be environmentally friendly. I realize that big ticket items like hybrid cars, solar panels, windmills and green home building get alot of attention in the media as saving the environment. However, all of these things are pricey and not realistic goals for the average consumer.

So how can you go about being environmentally conscious in a way that is not only cheap, but might actually save you money? Here are some simple steps with economic motivation:

1. Stop using your clothes dryer. I realize it is easy to throw clothes into it and just turn it on. However, a clothes dryer is one of the biggest energy hogs in your whole house. The average electric dryer uses 5000 watts or more of power and can run $80-$200 in operating costs on a yearly basis. The easy alternatives is to use a clothesline outside in good weather and a drying rack inside in bad weather. It only takes a few minutes to hang a load of laundry, and your clothes will last longer when they are not continuously heated and tumbled dry.

2. Use reusable water bottles. Of course I am going to mention this idea as reusable bottles are one of our premier items in the store. However, there is a very legitimate case for the use of a non-disposable water bottle. The world market for bottled water is $50 billion + annually. When these bottles are emptied, they are discarded into landfills. In the US alone, we discard 22 billion water bottles per year. This accounts for the use of 17 million barrels of oil in the production of the plastic alone. On the consumer side, consider that you might spend $1.25 on a 500 mL bottle of water. If you do this three times a week, your yearly cost for bottled water is $195. In addition, you will be sending 156 bottles to the landfill or recycling center. A comparably sized reusable water bottle from our store would cost you only $16.15 + $5 shipping. This would leave you plenty of money to purchase a very nice water filtration system if you are concerned about the quality of your tap water.

3. Walk or ride a bike in lieu of a car where possible. 40% of urban travel is over a distance of 2 miles or less. By bike you can cover this distance in less than 15 minutes and save the assosciated gas. Imagine reducing your gas consumption by 40% each year. Not only would this greatly help the environment through emission reduction, but it would be a good step towards reducing our country's dependence on foreign oil. Also, consider how much money you would save if you paid 40% less to fill your car each year.

4. Inflate your car tires to the maunfacturer's recommended level. This idea actually gained some traction due to the presidential campaign this year. A softer tire means increased rolling resistance, and your car working harder to go the same speed. According to the US EPA, you lose 1% in efficency for each 2 psi your tires are under-inflated. Doing the math, this means under inflated tires are costing you hundreds of dollars each year.

5. Turn the lights off when you leave a room. This is probably the easiest thing you can do to save money and help the environment in your daily life. Reconsider how many lights you leave on outside at night. Use timers to turn lights off and on during vacation. The US Department of Energy has a very good consumer guide on this subject.

These are five easy steps to help the enviroment and save yourself money. Leave a comment or drop me an email if you have any other good ideas.

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