Free and Easy Habit Changes
SAVINGS: About $1,000,000 for the City of Denver from revenue gained by selling collected recyclables; 614 pounds of CO2 emissions a year per person for paper, cans, plastic and cardboard; 223 pounds of CO2 emissions a year per person for compostable materials.
WHY: Making consumer goods from recycled material is much more energy and water efficient: recycled paper requires 60-70% less energy and 55% less water; the energy saved by recycling steel is equal to the electrical power used by 18 million homes; and, recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to operate a TV for 3 hours. Plus, ~25% of global landfill methane emissions are emitted from U.S. landfills ― because it is 20 times more potent than CO2, reducing methane emissions could be an effective means to reduce climate warming in the short-term.
HOW: Sign up for residential recycling pick-up in Denver on the City’s website, www.denvergov.org. CFL bulbs can be dropped off at Home Depot or Ace Hardware. For other items, search earth911.org, or look on the Denver Recycles website. Organic waste, such as vegetables, grass and leaves, can be simply piled in the backyard.
SAVINGS: $60 a year by lowering the heating 3 degrees for 9 hours a day in an older home; 690 pounds of CO2 emissions a year. OR $23 a year by raising the cooling 2 degrees; 464 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
WHY: Almost half of a home’s yearly energy goes to heat and air conditioning, which often are not used efficiently. For example, although it takes less energy to bring a home back to a desired temperature than it does to leave the heat or AC on for extended periods of time, many people believe the opposite, so heat and AC gets left on unnecessarily.
HOW: Program the thermostat so that the temperature is set back when people are sleeping or not at home; for non-programmable thermostats, set it back manually when leaving home and going to bed.
SAVINGS: $45 a year; 500 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
WHY: Most hot water heaters are set at higher temperatures than the recommended setting. If you have to mix cold water with the hot water in order to use it, you’re wasting money to heat water to a temperature that’s too hot. Also, if there are children around, scalding is a concern.
HOW: Temperature is set by a small dial at the base of the tank with little lines labeled with numbers, letters or words, such as A, B, C, or High, Medium, Low. Try turning the dial several lines towards the lower temperatures; mark where the current setting is before adjusting the dial so you can go back to the original setting if needed. If you have to increase the temperature again, turn to the next line up every 24 hours until finding the right setting.
SAVINGS: $42 a year for 3 loads a week switched to cold water; 488 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
WHY: Almost all of the energy used to wash laundry comes from heating water. Since laundry has no feelings, it won’t notice the difference between warm and cold water.
HOW: Select the cold water wash cycle instead of warm or hot. There are detergents marketed for cold-water washing, or just use less soap when washing in cold; pre-soak or pre-soap stains.
SAVINGS: $22 a year; 371 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
WHY: Dishwashers use the same amount of water and energy regardless of how full they are, and dishwashers use a lot less water than humans washing by hand.
HOW: Fill the dishwasher completely before running it, even if it doesn’t get run for a couple of days. Include everything that’s dishwasher safe like pots and pans. Scrape off dishes instead of rinsing before putting them in the dishwasher. Use the “air dry,” “heat off” or “energy saver” feature instead of a heated dry to save even more energy and money.
SAVINGS: $20 a year air drying just 20% of all laundry — the more air-dried, the more saved; 357 pounds of CO2 emissions a year if using an electric dryer and 183 pounds with a gas dryer.
WHY: Line drying or a drying rack takes advantage of Colorado’s dry climate, which, on a sunny day, can mean the laundry’s dry before you’ve finished hanging it up.
HOW: Air dry as much laundry as possible. Hang a clothesline in the backyard or basement, set-up a drying rack anywhere, or hang damp clothes in closets if there’s room. Shake out and pull shirts and pants to smooth out wrinkles. To reduce stiffness, add a half-cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle, and for towels and bed linens, five minutes in the dryer and then air dry.
SAVINGS: $12 a year per computer; 230 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
WHY: It is a popular misconception that turning a computer on and off creates wear and tear; the truth is the hardware will be obsolete before turning it on and off breaks it, if ever. Some workplace computers are left on for nightly IT maintenance, but, unless you’re lucky enough to have your own IT department, home computers should be shut down regularly.
HOW: Change the power settings so the computer enters “Sleep” mode after 15 minutes of being idle. Turn off your computer when you are done using it at the end of the day.
SAVINGS: $8 a year for each light turned off for 4 hours a day; 455 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
WHY: Lighting is the single biggest inefficiency of all wasted energy. An incandescent “light” bulb is really a “heat” bulb that happens to give off a little light: 90-95% of its energy used goes to heat.
HOW: Don’t leave lights on that are not being actively used. The exception is CFLs or fluorescent lights, which can be left on if they’ll be used again within 10 minutes.
SAVINGS: $3.50 a year for each device moved to a power strip; 115 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
WHY: Many devices use energy even when turned off or not in use; anything with a clock or indicator light, or a plug with a power adaptor (such as for phone chargers) is always sucking energy.
HOW: Plug vampire devices into a power strip, and place the power strip where it’s easily accessible; then turn off the power strip when the devices are not in use. For computers or entertainment centers, consider a “Smart Power Strip” that automatically turns off supporting devices (monitors, printers, DVD players, etc.) when the main unit (TV or computer) is turned off; “Smart Power Strip” costs range from $12 to $100, the high end sometimes including surge protection. But for most TV and computer uses, a $25 one will do the trick.