Today is Blog Action Day and the focus is Water. I live in Los Angeles, where water conservation is a big deal. California is in yet another drought, and Los Angeles has had our water supply drastically reduced due to court orders. Although reduced yard watering schedules, increased use of native plants, and low-flow appliances and fixtures have brought our water usage down to 1970s levels, we still have a ways to go. Here are my five tips for monitoring and improving your water footprint, even if you don’t live in a drought region.

Modify Your Outdoor Watering Schedule
Recently, DWP changed my watering schedule from Monday and Thursday to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We had a heat wave coming, so I reprogrammed the watering schedule. However, now that we’re heading fully into fall, I’m going to set it back to twice a week. Once I’ve pulled my tomato plants, I’ll set it to once a week. When we had heavy rain last winter, I turned off the timers for two months, but that sort of rain only happens every 5-7 years so I expect to water more this winter.

Regardless of where you live, you should readjust your watering schedule in the fall and winter. Most lawns and other plants go dormant. Those that survive are designed for the harsher winter conditions. And remember to turn off the timer when rain is coming, or buy a timer with a rain detector and automatic rain delay feature.

Install Low-Flow Appliances
Most areas now require low-flow showerheads and toilets. With advances in the technology, these really aren’t that different from regular showerheads and toilets, except that they save water. You can go further than that, though, and opt for a water-saving dishwasher or washing machine.

When we bought our washer, I looked at the water efficiency to find one that would save money. The washer I chose has a sensor that detects the load size and auto-fills to that point. It also lets me choose Cold, Tap, and Cool water temperatures to save on gas use. In addition, the washer I chose doesn’t have a central agitator, which helps the clothes move around more and get cleaner with less water. I didn’t opt for a front-load washer, which is the most water-efficient, because they’re too deep and I needed to be able to open the laundry room door!

Reduce Your Wash Loads
At risk of grossing people out, we only change our sheets once every two weeks. We also only wash towels once every two weeks (we change them once a week, but only have enough for a full load every two weeks.) It also takes us about two weeks to build up enough clothes for white, light, dark, and red loads. By amassing a large load every time, I’m able to reduce my water use significantly. Sure, occasionally I’ll have toss in a small load, such as when the cat vomited on the blanket, but most of the time I can get by less frequently.

Don’t Buy Bottled Water
Unless you live in an area where the water is contaminated, most tap water is safe. I used to not like LA water, but now that I live in a home with copper pipes, the water tastes fine. Before that we used a faucet water filter. We rarely buy bottled water because not only is it expensive, but it takes water to make the plastic for the bottles that hold the water! Why not just fill a glass from the tap and skip the wasteful middle man?

Opt for Native Plants
No, you don’t have to pull up your prized rose bushes, but try to plant some plants that are native to your region. These plants will be the most adapted to your local rainfall and groundwater levels, and will therefore thrive, whether you live in a desert or in a hurricane region. Try to avoid bringing in plants from other regions that require a lot of water to survive in yours. A big one for this is lawns. Many people in the west have lawns more suited for the rain-heavy northeast. Instead, opt for a California native lawn. It may not have that well-manicured expanse of green, but it will still look nice and reduce your water bill.

Interestingly, most of these water-saving tips aren’t expensive to implement, and most will actually save you money. Most of us pay for water, so every gallon you save is a few cents off your bill. It quickly adds up.

I noticed a disturbing trend yesterday: a flurry of emails in my inbox encouraging me to buy something in honor of Earth Day. To be fair, I may in fact go buy a ceramic compost pail, but I was already looking for one. I’m not, however, going to buy a discounted sweater or a marked down TV for Earth Day. At what point did Earth Day become a shopping holiday? I’m not sure, but it makes me stabby.

If Any Day Should Be Safe from Sales Pitches…
The whole purpose of Earth Day is to promote conservation of resources and being kind to the environment. Adding a trip to the shopping mall or buying new clothes online that will then need to be shipped are not ways to conserve resources or reduce your impact.

Want to let me know about a new green cleaning product? That’s more reasonable, but most of those items are greenwashed, not actually green. Save your fraudulent claims for some other day.

What Should We Do with Earth Day?
Earth Day used to be a more political movement. It saw marches, rallies, tree-planting events, beach clean-up events, etc. Now it’s just another day to get hit by more advertisements for CFL lightbulbs and recycled sweaters or attend a festival where performers offset their energy use with “carbon credits” and sponsors hawk their various recycled wares.

Let’s go back to the core idea of Earth Day – take a step back from your stuff. Take a break from consumerism. Use this day to drive less, not more. Buy less, not more. Get together with people to plant trees or clean up a park, not enjoy a meal in a restaurant that will donate $1 to an environmental charity for every meal. Instead of buying a reusable water bottle, go pick up all the disposable bottles that are littering your local park. Instead of trying a new green laundry detergent, look at ways to reduce your detergent consumption.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that corporations are trying to be more responsible, but they’re not being responsible because they want to be. They’re being responsible because there is a profit motive to appearing green, and it impresses legislators considering restrictive new requirements.

So, let’s cut the corporations out again. Let’s make Earth Day a day to honor our earth and treat it kindly, not use the Earth Day coupon or snap up an Earth Day t-shirt.

I support environmental causes. I believe that some aspects of the frugal lifestyle are inherently good for the environment, but others can be wasteful. I shop at the farmer’s market and buy grass-fed beefc. But, I don’t pay more for most products labeled as being. There are, of course, exceptions. Products with really big price tags like energy-efficient windows and hybrid cars cost more to make and have a proven effect (they also may save you money in the long-run.) But “green” clothes and “green” cleaning products? No way. Here are ten products where being green doesn’t make it worth paying extra.

Anything Labeled “Natural”
Okay, this isn’t one specific product. Lately, manufacturers have gotten really loose with the “natural” label. They’ll slap that on the package, put on some green pictures, and then raise the price. But “natural” isn’t a regulated term. High-fructose corn syrup advertises itself as natural, and so do many canned products. Take a gander at the label instead. Are there any ingredients you don’t recognize? Does it contain “natural flavors”? Then it’s not all that natural. An apple is natural. A jar of artificially-sweetened applesauce isn’t.

Green Cleaning Products
It’s true that some major household products companies are producing more environmentally-sound products (hello Clorox Greenworks products), but they come with a higher price tag. Some companies then apply their “greener” chemicals to disposable cleaning wipes, which sort of defeats the purpose. And costs more. If you really want to clean green without the extra marketing costs built right in, first try Trader Joe’s, which has had green products for a while, and they’ve always been cheaper (although they’re not as effective in older, less-efficient dishwashers.) Or, go homemade. There’s nothing more natural than a lemon when it comes to cleaning.

Green Clothing
Eco-dyes, bamboo fabrics, recycled materials. Yes, it’s theoretically good for the environment, but is it worth the extra cost? At this point, I’m not ready to spend $60 for an environmentally-friendly T-shirt, especially if the bamboo isn’t organically grown and might actually be rayon! And those cheap shirts that claim to be made with organic cotton? What about the rest of the chemicals in them? Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Recycled Diapers
It’s great that diaper manufacturers want to do their part to make diapers more eco-friendly, but diapers are still going to wind up in a landfill. Rather than buying disposables, opt for cloth diapers. Once the kid is potty-trained, the diapers become cleaning rags. Call it upcycling at its finest. Yes, you have to wash them and that consumes energy, but it’s still cheaper and more ecologically sound than a mountain of plastic diapers.

Organic Feminine Hygiene Products
There’s no bandwagon feminine hygiene products won’t jump on. Organic is just the latest. But an organic all-cotton hygiene product still winds up in the trash along with the old-school regular cotton one. So go one better and get a Diva Cup. No more trash at all, and it’s only $30 for ten years of use. Beat that, Tampax!

Biodegradable Paper Plates and Plastic Utensils
Even disposable products like paper plates are getting into the green thing, by claiming to be biodegradable, except we all know that things don’t really break down in the trash. Plastic utensils claim to be made from recycled materials. Where do they wind up? The trash. Instead, use real plates and utensils.

Non-Hybrid Cars
If you saw the Superbowl, you probably saw the ad for the “greener” Audi A3 TDI. What does this amazing green car run on? Diesel. While Diesel isn’t quite as bad as it used to be, and diesel vehicles do get better gas mileage than traditional cars, it’s still a gas-powered car and it has a $28,000 price tag (plus the higher cost of diesel in the US). True, it gets 34 miles to the gallon, but that’s far less than a Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid.

Bottled Water
Bottled water manufacturers are touting their reduced packaging and commitment to the earth, but they’re still bottling water. Unless you’re traveling somewhere the water is unfit to drink, use a reusable glass and tap water (or filtered water). Going on a roadtrip? Fill your reusable bottle from the tap, and pack a thermos or two.

Recycled Paper Towels
They can make them out of recycled fibers, they can use natural dyes, they can do whatever they want, paper towels are fundamentally ungreen. (So is toilet paper, but I have to draw a line somewhere.) Instead, use towels. We’ve nearly eliminated paper towels in our house. I believe our current roll has been on the counter for over a month and we’ve used half of it. Pretty much the only time I use a paper towel at home is to pat dry raw chicken because I haven’t come up with a place to store wet, potentially-contaminated towels and I don’t want to run the washing machine for one towel.

Green Cosmetics
Some makeup claims to be environmentally friendly because it uses less chemicals, but it’s still usually comes in plastic packaging that is meant to be disposable. Sometimes they claim it’s green because it’s powder minerals, but those same minerals are found in most pressed powder products. So why pay more for something that’s pretty much the same? If you want a mineral makeup because you like the way it feels, go for it, but don’t do it to be green.

It’s that time once again. Time to recognize the effects of light pollution and experience just one hour of darkness. Even though the Earth Hour organizers ask that you turn off the lights at 8:30PM on March 27, 2010,  usually go a step further.

Turn Off All Lights and Electronic Devices for One Hour
We can do this for one hour. It’s really not that hard. Turn off the lights, the TV, the computers, the printers, the DVD player, the game consoles, the cell phones, anything electronic that you can effectively turn off for an hour. Maybe even take the step of flipping off the power strips to block any ghost power consumption. Obviously, I’m not asking you to reach behind the cabinets to unplug the microwave or the timer on the oven – that might be difficult and potentially dangerous. But there’s no harm to be done by switching off for one hour.

What to Do During the Hour
I can think of lots of things to do in the dark. If you’re part of a couple and don’t have kids who are up at that time, do the thing you usually do in the dark. Or, have a romantic candlelight dinner. If you have a family, make it a family game night by candlelight. Throw a party to celebrate the occasion and turn off the lights at 8:30.

Surely at some point you’ve suffered a power outage. My family had them regularly when I was growing up due to a problem with our street’s power pole. We survived just fine for the hours, and once nearly 24 hours, without power. This is no different, except you’re doing it voluntarily.

Just in case you’re tempted to leave the lights or power on so you can see what other people are doing on the news, here’s a video of last year’s festivities so you don’t have to.

Mmm, candy. But I must focus.

First, the Carnival of Personal Finance #229 hostedy by The Centsible Life.  In addition to my post about my financial frights, I also recommend Chief Family Officer’s advise to not pay bills that aren’t yours. It seems obvious, but I guess some people just pay their bills without looking at them.

Second, the Festival of Frugality #202 hosted by  Frugal Homemaker Plus. In addition to my post about reducing packaging, I also recommend Pragmatic Environmentalists discussion of a birth control method with minimal packaging (and no hormones).

First, let me say I don’t drink coffee. Can’t stand the stuff. Not even coffee ice cream. I will buy an iced latte once every few months, but it took me nine months to use the last coffee gift card I received. (That leads me to another question: why do my friends, who know my husband and I don’t drink coffee, give us coffee gift cards?) Anyway, I’ve been seeing a coffee commercial for the last two days that makes me stabby: the Keurig K-Cups.

Cheaper than the Coffee Shop, but Still Expensive
One person in my office campaigned for us to buy a Keurig and the single-serve cups to go with them, but was overruled by HR when they discovered that these K-cups cost at least 50 cents each. Fifty cents to brew coffee yourself using an expensive machine.

The High Price of Convenience
True, fifty cents could be more economical than brewing a whole pot if you only drink one cup of coffee a day, but there are cheaper options. If you’re that person, just pour yourself a cup at the office. In most offices, coffee is free. If you drink 2-4 cups and coffee isn’t free at work, invest in a cheap French press and brew it yourself for less than ten cents a cup. It takes slightly more work than popping the K-cup into the brewer, but a French press is a lot cheaper.

Oh My Goodness, the Waste!
This is the part that really got me stabby: the waste. Each of those single-serve cups is also a single-use cup. When you’re done brewing your one cup of coffee, you throw it out. That cup is made of plastic with a plastic and foil lid. Then the cup also contains a filter. So, you throw out a filter and plastic. According to various sources, that plastic isn’t recyclable. Coffee filters are at least a natural fiber.

Are We Really that Lazy?
Frankly, these K-cups make me sad for us as a country. Are we really so lazy that we can’t brew a pot of coffee the old-fashioned way? Is it too much effort to find a solution that will let you brew a small pot without a lot of plastic waste? Here, I’ve solved it for you. Buy one of these small French presses. I do actually own one of these. It was a gift from my mom because she likes to drink coffee when she visits. It’s easy to use and pretty quick. If I, a non-coffee drinker, can go to this slight effort to save money and the planet, surely those of you who consume a lot of coffee can do the same.

Let’s end the madness of the single-serve packets of coffee of anything else. Stop buying 100-calorie packs – make your own with zipper bags. Stop buying travel sizes unless you’re planning to travel. These small steps toward reducing packaging are the start of saving the planet, and it will be pretty nice to your wallet, too.

The other day, someone commented on my blog that she didn’t worry about customer service when making a computer purchase, because she replaced it every two years. I have to say, my jaw hit the floor on that one. A new computer every two years? Unless she’s running uber-powerful programs, that seems excessive. So just how often should you replace your stuff?

Right now my car is nearly 12 years old. I prefer to replace them every 10 years, but it wasn’t in the budget and the car is still running fine. It does have some annoyances – like the jammed passenger side lock vandals broke years ago. It opens; I just can’t unlock it from the outside. The other locks are also starting to get temperamental in the cold. Still, a lot worse could happen to a 12-year-old car.

I’ve heard the advice that you should replace your computer every two years, but really, that seems excessive. Even my work laptop is older than that. My home computer was replaced in the last two years, but it was built by our friend and it was replacing the computer he built for me five years ago. It needs a new motherboard now, but that’s still cheaper than a whole new computer, and much fewer parts to recycle. We’re also looking at replacing my husband’s laptop, which is seven years old. Yes, after seven years, a laptop really does show its age! Rather than every two years, I’d say you should replace a computer every five years or so, which is about when you’ll start to notice significantly reduced performance and more frequent issues.

This one depends on the shoe. If the soles of your good shoes wear out, then get the soles fixed and keep the shoes. If your kids outgrow their shoes, obviously they need new ones. If you wear gym shoes for exercise regularly (several times a week), then replace them every six months to ensure you don’t get injured.

Major Appliances and Electronics
I’m taking about laundry machines, refrigerators, etc. I’d say these can usually last at least 15 years, sometimes longer. You know it’s time to replace the fridge when it starts making bad sounds and doesn’t properly chill anymore. At that point, you may get more bang for your buck by replacing it instead of repairing it because energy efficiency may have significantly improved. TVs can usually last at least ten years. I usually replace them when I start to see weird effects on the screen, like shadows or missing pixels. I don’t replace it just because a new technology was replaced. Shows still display fine on my old one.

Replace it when it wears out or doesn’t fit anymore. By buying classic items, I don’t have to worry about staying on-trend. There is one exception: bras. Daily-use bras (not the fancy special occasion ones) should be replaced every six months because that’s about how long it takes for the elastic to wear out if you wear it a couple times a week.

Yes, they have longer warranties, but mattresses tend to sag after ten years. Your body will thank you for continuing to provide it with proper support.

Pillows, on the other hand, should be replaced annually, or at least every couple of years. They tend to go flat pretty quickly, and they also fill up with dust mites and other icky stuff. You can wash them, but once they stop fluffing up, it’s time to get a new pillow.

Sheets and Towels
I pretty much keep my sheets until they rip, which takes about three years of daily use. I keep my towels until they stop fluffing and I can’t get the smell out, no matter how many times I wash them in vinegar and baking soda. It’s taken me four years to reach that point.

At risk of sounding like a raging environmental wacko, we Americans replace our stuff altogether too often and our landfills are overflowing because of it. It’s time to slow the replacement cycle. Make your stuff last a little longer. Take better care of it. When you do need to replace something, find a way to recycle it if possible. Contact your city to find out how to recycle electronics – they’ll help you, they might even pay you for it!

I’ve been having an internal battle with my goal to be frugal and my goal to avoid excessive packaging. I made my own produce bags. I carry canvas bags to stores with me, and not just grocery stores. I don’t buy a lot of packaged food and try to keep the packaging for the rest of my products to a minimum. But it’s not always easy. I’m currently faced with an opportunity to save a lot of money, at the risk of buying more packaging. What to do? Where do I draw the line?

Buy Big or Buy Cheap
I usually buy my personal care items like saline solution at Costco where I can get two 16-ounce bottles for $15. This seemed like a great deal, and a way to save a little packaging, until I discovered Renu coupons. MoneySavingMom posted that I could buy 2 ounce bottles of Renu at Target for $1.54, or 54 cents after the coupon. In some cases, it could even be free.

That put me into a quandary. Do I save $8 by buying more of the small bottles, but that also use more packaging, or do I spend more to reduce the packaging? The travel distance is the same, so no money/planet savings there.

I decided to focus on it from a convenience and packaging standpoint. Yes, $8 is a lot, but I’d need 16 small bottles to make up the same quantity as those two large bottle. The bulk of the plastic is in the base and the nozzle. Those big bottles have a slightly larger nozzle than the 2-ounce bottles, but I’m still using at least 12 times more packaging just in the nozzle if I buy a lot of the small ones. Each small bottle is in a box, as are the two big bottles. But 16 small boxes is way more packaging than one large box. No matter how I calculate it, I can’t choose $8 over the planet.

Buy Packaged or Fresh Food
Some of the mega coupon moms manage to buy mostly fresh food, but I usually see a lot of packaged food in there. It’s not always unhealthy, but it is always packaged. Stores don’t generally offer coupons for apples. I can’t eat most of that packaged food anyway, but even if I have a coupon for a gluten-free item, I’m more likely to make it myself from scratch, again because of the packaging issue. I’m not perfect when it comes to buying packaged food, but I try to make choices with minimal packaging.

For example, rather than buying 4 jars of pasta sauce with a coupon, I buy two cans of crushed tomatoes and make my own sauce. Once I have a garden, I won’t even need to buy the crushed tomatoes. I can make it all fresh. Rather than buying 3 cans of beans with a coupon, I buy a pound of dried beans and make my own beans.

Yes, it costs me more to buy fresh, but it’s worth it to me.

Free Diapers or Cloth Diapers
I don’t have a baby yet, but when I do, I plan to use cloth diapers. I will have to spend a decent sum of money to get those diapers. If you have to pay for disposable diapers, then cloth is cheaper. However, hardcore CVSers know how to get free diapers. Even if I could get free disposables, I wouldn’t. We currently dispose of 27.4 billion diapers a year in the US alone. Those diapers do not biodegrade. Our landfills are filled with them. I can’t in good conscience add to that, even if they’re free.

We each have to make our own decisions about what’s more important. For some people, saving money is the most important factor. I respect that choice, and I understand that for some families it truly is the only choice. My husband and I have decided to make the other choice. What about you? What are you environmental conundrums? Where do you choose frugality over the environment and vice versa?

Earth Day is here again. It happens every April 22, so it should come as no surprise this year. We’ve been a bit distracted recently, what with the global economic meltdown and all, but none of that will matter if the entire Earth has a meltdown because we’ll be too busy learning to make boats to worry about our 401K balances (or lack thereof.) You may not believe it, but little things can help. I started with five simple ways to go green earlier in the week, and now here are ten more in honor of Earth Day.

Stop Using Paper Towels Today
I haven’t yet amassed enough dish towels to completely replace my paper towels, but I am trying to significantly cut back. For today, just avoid using paper towels. If it goes well, try again tomorrow. To make sure the effort continues, look for sales on dishtowels and start stockpiling them in different shapes and sizes. You can also use old t-shirts for some jobs.

Replace Air Filters
You should actually change the air filters on your heater/air conditioner every six months or so, but many homeowners forget. These puppies collect a lot of dust and pet dander. If you replace them regularly, they won’t have to work as hard to regulate the temperature in your home, thus saving you money and reducing your energy use.

Eat Dinner without Electric Lights
If it’s warm enough where you live (I write this in the midst of a heat wave), then have dinner outside tonight. If it’s cold/rainy/windy, then turn off the electric lights and eat by candlelight. Bonus points for eating cold food or using a reduced energy cooking method.

Turn off the TV
I know that we’re approaching the season finales, but turn off the TV just for tonight. If you’re feeling really daring, turn off the DVR and don’t download the shows off the internet, either. You probably won’t miss much. Now think about how much energy you saved with that one simple act for one night. (As a side note, this also happens to be TV Turnoff Week.)

Find a Local Farmer’s Market
Yeah, I know, here I go again with the farmer’s markets, but I can’t tell you how much I love them. The season when markets across the country will open is fast upon us. Start by simply searching Google for a local market. If one is open today, then pop by. If it’s not, promise yourself you will check it out when it is open.

Bring Your Lunch and Your Own Utensils to Work
If you can swing it, consider bringing your own plate, too. This should be a homemade lunch, not a packaged meal. Bringing your lunch and reusable utensils reduces the amount of trash you create, and the amount of energy used to create what will eventually become trash.

Eat Vegetarian for One Day
You can also do this for just one day. Try a beans-based dish, or a rice-based dish. (You could cheat and add an egg for fried rice.) How about a big bowl of pasta? No, you can’t eat a big dish of pasta daily, but just one day a week won’t ruin your health. Or, make a nice big salad with a loaf of crusty bread and delicious wine. Add toasted nuts to the salad for protein, or cheese (sort of cheating, but it’s not meat).

Avoid All Packaged Foods
You can do this for Earth Day. By “packaged” I mean frozen foods, pre-packaged meals, convenience meals, fast food, carry-out, etc. Obviously, most raw materials like beans, pasta, and rice will have to come in some sort of container, but the closer you can get to the natural form, the better. If you’re feeling bold, you could even try to make your own fresh pasta with flour, eggs, and water. To dry it, lay it out on kitchen towels or suspend it from clean hangers. Whatever you do, try to eat food you cooked or prepared yourself, from scratch, all day.

Plant Herbs or Buy an Indoor Plant
It can be difficult to grow herbs and other plants from seed unless you’re very attentive, but you can stop by a nursery, or even a grocery store, to buy an herb plant. Put it in a sunny window, on the balcony, or plant it in your garden to have fresh herbs that are nearly free.

Ask Your Landlord to Start a Recycling Program
It took years for our building to get recycling bins, but they immediately filled once we had them. If your building doesn’t recycle, then it’s time to start lobbying the landlord. It probably won’t cost extra, since trash collection is already required and many cities are beginning to require recycling programs for apartment complexes.

Of course, if you like some of these Earth Day ideas, you could make them more regular occurrences, for example a weekly Veggie dinner, or a concerted effort to eat less packaged food. The point is to do something. Doing nothing only makes things worse. Want still more ideas? Check out last year’s Earth Day post or my exhaustive list of 100 frugal ways to go green.

When people talk about “going green,” they’re usually talking about buying new environmentally friendly appliances, products, and clothes. All of those things cost big bucks, or at least a lot more than they should. Is that eco detergent really worth an extra $3? I doubt it, especially if you have an older dishwasher or washing machine that isn’t strong enough to make up for the difference. But there are simple ways you can have a green lifestyle without spending more green.

Buy Less Stuff
Boom, you’ve just reduced your impact on the environment, and it didn’t cost you a thing. In fact, it saved you money. Buying less stuff means buying less packaging. It also means less stuff is transported to stores, and less stuff is manufactured. The simple act of not buying has a major impact on the environment.

Switch to Fabric Grocery Bags
Just about everyone I know has a variety of fabric tote bags stuffed into various corners of their homes. Trade shows, parties, charities, everyone is flinging these things at us. Dig them out, wash them, and then tote them to the store with you. When they ask: “Paper or plastic?” Say, “I brought my own.” Some stores will even give you a few cents back for each bag you bring.

Unplug Unused Appliances
If your Wii, Xbox, or Playstation is unused for large chunks of the week, plug it into an accessible power strip and then unplug it when you’re not using it. The same goes for your cellphone charger, as well as any appliance with a standby mode. If you can’t directly flip an off-switch that actually turns the device off, then it’s sucking up energy even when it’s dormant. The biggest clue you have such a device is the “standby” light. If there’s a light on, the machine is always on, even when it’s off. Unplug it between uses. If it has a digital clock, it’s also always on, even when it’s off. Not only will you reduce your energy impact, you’ll save a lot of money on electricity over the course of the year.

Switch to CFL Lightbulbs
Many cities are running promotions to try to get people to switch to CFL lightbulbs. I came home the other day to find that DWP had left two lightbulbs in a recycled tote bag on my front door. I’ve also received bulbs at community events, electronics recycling drops, and Christmas tree recycling drops. Watch your city’s website for eco events, then go claim your free lightbulbs.

Eat Local Produce This Summer
You don’t have to eat everything local. Unless However, you can save money and eat local produce simply by shopping at a summer produce stand or farmer’s market. By buying direct, you’ll reduce the environmental impact of shipping produce thousands of miles. It will also be cheaper, fresher, taste better, and support local farmers. Even better, most of the market farmers use organic methods, even if they legally can’t say they’re organic. Just ask. They’ll be happy to explain.

There are also expensive, complicated things you can do to help the environment. If you have the money, you should certainly consider them. Many, like installing energy-efficient windows, will save you money on the long run. In the meantime, being short on cash doesn’t mean you can’t do your part.

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