Earth Day tips that save the planet (and your money)

April 08, 2021

By Claire Hegstrom

Earth Day tips that save the planet (and your money)

Mature couple washes and dries the dishes in their kitchen together. One man dries plates as he smiles, while the other man talks as he hand washes a cup over the sink.

April 22 is Earth Day, a yearly celebration of the beauty that Mother Earth gifts her residents every year. With the holiday often comes a reminder that we need to be doing more to preserve our land, water and precious resources. In fact, Americans create 4.5 pounds of waste every single day—1,643 pounds a year—and three times more than the global citizen’s average.

If you’re easily overwhelmed by the climate crisis, but feel the pressure on your pockets when choosing sustainable, earth-friendly alternatives, we have a few tips to help offset the costs of saving the planet.

Green tips that will save you some green

We all understand the need to phase out bottled water and take public transportation when possible to reduce carbon emissions. Here are some unconventional ways you can make a huge impact in preserving Earth’s natural resources, while also saving some serious cash!

1. Save the planet when you skip pre-rinsing the dishes

Contrary to mom's popular opinion, you can skip the scrubbing after dinner, and load those dishes straight into the dishwasher.

On average, you’ll save about 20 gallons of water per load, as the average energy-efficient dishwasher only uses about 4 gallons of water per use. Energy Star says that this equates to an average savings of $111 per year! Who said being a little lazy doesn’t pay off?

2. Go green by washing clothes on cold

Did you know that 90% of the energy your washing machine uses goes toward heating the water in warm or hot cycles? If every person in the United States switched to washing clothes on cold, we'd save an average of 100,000 barrels of oil per day!

Washing your laundry on the cold-water cycle benefits the planet, your pocket and the longevity of your favorite garments. Cold cycles often preserve the color and sizing of your clothing, and costs less! In a study conducted by Smithsonian Magazine, the average household saves $60 a year when they opt out of warm washing.

3. Save money and the environment by purchasing a travel mug

This one is for all our coffee lovers out there. Want to decrease waste while still enjoying your designer coffee runs? Purchase an eco-friendly travel mug!

According to Clean Water Action, a total of 1.6 million trees are cut down every year for the single-use cups distributed by Starbucks. The designer coffee brand uses more than 8,000 paper cups per minute, which adds up to more than four billion a year!

Luckily for coffee connoisseurs, many java joints offer a sweet discount for those who bring in their reusable cups for their morning pick-me-up. While you’re out grabbing your new drinking vessel, why not pick up some reusable straws as well? More than 500 million plastic straws are used every day just in the United States! (And unfortunately, those aren’t recyclable either.)

4. Reduce your carbon footprint by turning off your camera during zoom calls

Go ahead, tell your boss you’re leaving the camera off today…you’re simply saving the world by doing so. In a mid-pandemic study by Yale and Purdue, we’ve learned that one hour of video conferencing emits 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide into the environment, and uses up to 12 liters of water. But, turning your camera off during a meeting can reduce the negative impacts by 96%!

While turning off your video during meetings doesn’t impact your utility bills, it does eliminate the need for extra prep to make yourself presentable, when you’d rather be tackling the day in sweats.

5. Eliminate paper waste by signing up for eStatements

If your financial institution is taking steps toward reducing their environmental impact, they may have a monetary perk for those who choose to enroll in eStatements. Electronic statements offer a convenient, secure and quick way for you to reference your finances, no filing cabinet required. At Alliant, high-rate savings and high-rate checking accountholders who sign up for eStatements avoid a $1 paper statement fee.  

Aside from keeping more money in your wallet, you’re also saving the beloved trees and all the animals that inhabit them. One ton of paper requires the deforestation of 24 trees. A popular big bank recently reported that they use 114,000 tons of paper for statements per year. Ditching paper statements is one of the easiest ways to save a little money every month and keep the planet healthy.

6. Save water by being mindful in the bathroom

Bathroom use accounts for up to 75% of water consumption in the average American home. Next time you review your water bill, take a look at how your usage compares to those around you in the neighborhood. Make it a friendly competition to beat the Joneses and use less H2O.

Start by shortening your showers. A ten-minute shower uses about 25 gallons of water. Can you shorten it to 7 minutes per person? Much like washing your clothes on cold, turning the water a tad bit colder can also save you money. Here’s an added bonus, taking slightly colder showers can also benefit your skin, as hot showers tend to be drying.

Pro tip: Air dry your hair after your shower. National Geographic estimates that hair dryers emit 75 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air every year, which is the same amount that a microwave or electric radiant heater creates. Save energy and let those naturals curls come to life!

Claire Hegstrom is an advocate of the credit union movement through and through. Passionate about financial education, she approaches money conversations from a candid and inclusive space focused on growth and awareness. As our credit union founding father, Ed Filene, once said, “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.” Claire hopes reading Money Mentor will help transform your life from the best to even better.

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