With Earth Day just behind us, there’s no better time to sit down with your family and pop in the Discovery Channel’s breathtaking documentary Planet Earth. It follows fascinating, breathtaking and intimate views of animals and the natural beauty that our earth has to offer. While watching is probably the best part, these documentaries should also motivate you to do your part to help the planet and save some money. From free and simple ways to save some energy to making larger investments to go green in the long run, getting your family to go green is easy to do.
Free and Simple Ways to Go Green
There are many things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment that don’t cost a dime.
- One of the simplest ways to help the environment is to simply turn off the water when you’re not using it. According to The Daily Green, you can save up to 8 gallons of water per day just by turning off the water while brushing your teeth in the morning and at night.
- On a similar vein, teach your kids the habit of turning off all unused lights and electronics and yes, that means chargers. Chargers that are plugged in and not used still consume power, known as “vampire power:” if it’s warm, then it’s using power. As much as your kids may love Twilight, vampire power eats up your money, about $3 million of it per year across the country.
- Save paper! Print on both sides of paper or print homework and other household items on recycled scrap paper. It’s an easy and free way to reuse and recycle.
- Minimize your waste with recycling and composting. Teach your kids to use products to the end of the tube and buy products that use minimal and sustainable packaging. Then set up color-coded bins in your laundry room to separate glass, cardboard and plastic and when the bins are full, reward your kids with a special treat. And compost your food scraps, which can then be turned into fertilizer for your garden.
- The production of meat uses tons of water, grains and fuel: the animals have to be fed, watered, processed, packaged and transported. A simple way to help the planet is to go vegetarian. If you’re not ready to give up meat totally, your family should consider adopting Meatless Mondays to cut out meat one day at week. Make a weekly trip with your kids to the local farmer’s market for locally grown produce and try out some of these vegetarian dinner dishes from Meatless Monday.
- Directly help the environment and bond with your family by signing up for a local beach or roadside clean-up. It’s a great way to get your kids outside and teach them about giving back.
- Participate in Earth Hour as a family. It’s an hour once a year (March 30, 2013), where people across the globe pledge to turn off all of their lights and power for an hour to do something positive for the environment.
Low-Cost Options to Be More Eco-Friendly
For just a little output, you can save even more green.
- One of the biggest wastes are plastic grocery bags. In fact, it takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of plastic bags we use each year. You can easily pick up cloth bags at any grocery store, Chico Bag or Etsy.com
- Change your household light bulbs from standard light bulbs to CFL light bulbs, which can last 10 times longer than standard light bulbs and are 50% to 80% more efficient.
- Buy and install a low-flow showerhead, which can inject air into the water being let out so it feels like the same water pressure but actually uses significantly less. You can find these at your local hardware store.
Long-Term Investments to Save Even More
These are going to cost you more upfront, but over the course of a couple of years you’ll be saving a significant amount of energy and money.
- Did you know that most errand trips and work commutes are less than 12 miles? Do you really need to rev up the SUV for that one? You could supplement your full-size car with a low-speed electric vehicle and save up to 44 cents per mile. Gas prices are rising every year and cutting your use of gas will reduce your monthly spending and carbon emissions. For short trips around the city, picking up the kids from school, running errands and commuting to and from work, a low-speed electric vehicle can be super convenient.
- Install solar panels on your house to heat your hot water. Many states and provinces offer tax breaks and rebates if you purchase solar panels to power parts of your home. It’s a big investment up front — range is typically $4,000-$10,000 depending on how many you install — but in the long run you can save as much as 50-90% of your current electric bill.
- You can make a smaller investment with solar power with a Solio solar charger to power your small electronics on the go. These will cost you about $70 but can power everything from your smartphone and camera to your GPS and rechargeable batteries.
So break out that popcorn, organize a family movie night and get inspired to do your part to help the earth. What are some other ways that you and your family can go green?
This post was contributed by Aubrey Siegel, a self-proclaimed energy-saving maven. She’s constantly looking for new ways to help save energy and money around her apartment. In addition to being as green as possible, she’s also a writer for 352 Media Group.