Look in the mirror. Repeat this mantra: The fight to conserve energy and natural resources starts at home.
Following are some Conservation 101-type classroom tips that will help you reduce your carbon footprint and save money, many of the common-sense variety courtesy of John Schaefer, director of public works in the Village of Homewood:
1. Replace standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). The CFLs produce the same amount light, but use about one-quarter of the electricity and they last longer. This is simple and effective. How much difference will you notice?
According to studies, electric lighting consumes up to 25 percent of the average home energy budget. If you’re going to be out of the room for more than 5 minutes, turn off the lights. Turn off appliances and the TV, too, when no one is watching. And don’t forget about your phone charger.
“Even though they may not have anything hooked to it, that little transformer or charger—whatever is plugged into the wall—it is still drawing electric current,” Schaefer said. “You need to unplug it when you’re not using it.”
2. Plant a tree. This will add beauty to your property, provide shade and help cut down on cooling costs during the warmer months. Regulate your thermostat and don’t be afraid to adjust the settings. Let your home cool more during the winter months. Throw an extra blanket on your bed. Install an extra layer of insulation in the attic.
3. Switch to reduce-flow showerheads, take shorter showers and lower the temperature on your hot water heater. Consider replacing your old toilet with a new, low-flush model. Studies show older toilets use about 5-7 gallons of water with every flush. Check for leaks, too.
“The other thing about toilets and why they’re known for increasing water bills is a lot of times the inside mechanics of the toilet—values, things like that—get old,” Schaefer said. “You’ll see them running. You just don’t notice it until it gets pretty bad. You need to keep after things like that and watch to make sure everything is working properly.”
4. Purchase a rain barrel and collect water to use on your plants and in your garden. Sweep the driveway clean instead of hosing it down.
5. If you have a small lawn, consider using a push mower to cut the grass instead of a gasoline mower. And, in the fall, exercise your mind and your body when picking up leaves by reaching for a rake instead of an electric- or gas-powered leaf blower.