It’s an old complaint that environmentally friendly products cost more. Plus, it can be hard to tell the difference between green products and greenwashing. Research usually reveals complex tradeoffs that make it hard to determine the greenest choice. Add to that the limits of your budget that require you to prioritize some changes over others, and suddenly living green can start to feel like calculus. But some environmental choices are not complex at all. Here are some changes you can make that always make sense – environmentally and economically.
On average, Americans drive 13,474 miles per year in cars that average 25 mpg. Everyone would like the dual joys of a shiny new car and a smaller carbon footprint that a new Tesla would bring. But new cars are expensive. And, unless you’re driving a real gas guzzler or really putting the miles on your car, the amount of carbon you don’t emit from that efficient new car may not justify the energy and resources used to manufacture it.
But no matter what kind of car you drive, proper maintenance will save you money and cut your carbon footprint. The efficiency boost you get from taking good care of your car may surprise you. Regular tune-ups can boost your fuel efficiency by 4 percent. If everyone drove with properly inflated tires, the United States would save four million gallons of gas every day. A dirty engine air filter can reduce fuel efficiency by 5 percent. If your car needs major repairs, your fuel efficiency could be reduced by up to 40 percent until you get it fixed.
A home is a complicated system, and each one is different. Figuring out where to put your money to improve your own home’s efficiency can require a home energy audit. When does it make sense to buy new, efficient appliances? Are triple glazed windows worth the additional cost? Is my R30 insulation good enough?
Deciding whether to upgrade insulation and choosing the best type of insulation for your purpose might be tricky questions. But adding insulation where there is none is always a good idea. Many older houses have some insulation in the attic, but not in the walls. Some houses have insulated walls, but exposed water pipes in the basement or garage that could benefit from pipe wrap.
Weatherizing can be practically free and will nearly always save money and energy. Small steps like sealing gaps around leaky air ducts can save up to 30 percent of your heating energy. Sealing doors and windows – or even opening and closing curtains at the right times – can add up to another 20 percent. Speaking of windows, replacing single-pane windows with new Energy Star rated windows could save you up to $465 per year and increase your home’s energy efficiency by 10 percent.
Eat More Vegetables
The impact of growing, producing, transporting, and storing food is immense. Food production accounts for 26 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 70 percent of global freshwater…