Not so long ago, environmentally friendly items cost quite a bit more than their energy-using peers. And their quality sometimes left something to be desired. Today, a larger market for “green” items has encouraged the development of high-quality, moderately priced products.
Here are some great examples of affordable options to incorporate into your household:
Compact fluorescent light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs have come a long way, and today's models offer bright, consistent light for just a fraction of the cost of incandescent bulbs. Don't let the purchase price fool you. Fluorescents will last up to 10 times longer and use 75% less energy. Go to energystar.gov to see all the sizes and shapes now available for virtually every fixture inside and outside your home.
Energy-efficient appliances. You may be saving a little money by not buying a new appliance to replace your old clunker, but you could be throwing money away each month when you pay your utility bill. Old appliances are notoriously inefficient, using excessive energy that drains our country's energy resources. If you're in the market for a new washer, dryer, dehumidifier, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer or air conditioner, make sure you get one that's earned the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star. The Energy Star label will show you how much that appliance costs to operate each year, and chances are it is far less than what you're paying now for an old appliance.
Electronics with a conscience. You probably already know to turn off computers (or put them to sleep) at night and unplug chargers for your phone and mp3 player. But even when electronics are turned off, they turn into “vampire electronics,” consuming energy to run clocks and remote controls. The average American household owns two TVs, a VCR, a DVD player and three telephones — all sucking up energy 24 hours a day. If you have old electronics that you don't use often, go ahead and unplug them. And make sure that any new electronics carry the Energy Star.
A gas-free lawn mower. Gas-powered lawn mowers not only use valuable fuel, they create harmful emissions too. Emissions-free electric mowers have been around a long time, but the new generation electrics have a rechargeable battery, so you don't have to worry about long, inconvenient cords.
If you're afraid that little changes won't make a difference, here's good news: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if every American home replaced their five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with ENERGY STAR-approved fixtures and fluorescent bulbs, we would save close to $8 billion each year in energy costs and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars. That's a powerful illustration of what Americans can do together to help the environment!
What environmentally friendly items have you added to your household?