It’s almost Earth Day!
OK, true, every day should be Earth Day — especially if you appreciate the existence of songbirds, redwood forests and clean drinking water.
But since we're a personal finance site, we couldn't help but wonder about the financial incentives.
With Loux's help, we decided to cobble together what an ideal day in the life of a financially savvy tree hugger might look like.
Think you're pretty eco-conscious?
Read on to see how your earth- (and money-) saving habits stack up.
Your alarm goes off, and you head to the bathroom. In solidarity with your water-conserving friends in California, you’ve submerged a full water bottle in the tank of your toilet to displace water and make it a low-flow model — saving you a half gallon with each flush. And the low-flow showerhead you installed conserves 10 gallons of water — per 10-minute shower.
Over the course of one month, that adds up to about 960 gallons of water saved in a two-person household, shaving more than $4 a month off the water bill.
Seem like quibbling? Just imagine if everyone in your town did this. “The devil is in the details,” Loux says. “All these little things that are seemingly inconsequential have a huge effect when you get into the large numbers.”
You open the doors to your closet, and behold — it’s neat, orderly and carefully curated because you’ve been thoughtful about buying fewer but higher-quality items.
Your wardrobe is composed of long-lasting, classic items, which makes getting dressed in the morning quick — and translates to less textile waste in landfills, not to mention fewer human rights violations connected to your closet.
For example, the shoes you put on cost you $150, but you’ve been wearing them nonstop for the past two years, bringing the cost per wear well below the cheap shoes you used to buy that you'd have to toss before the season was over.
You fill up your reusable, insulated water bottle with java from your coffee machine and add a splash of almond milk. You never got into Keurig, with its pricey, landfill-bound plastic cups. Instead, your single-origin, Fair Trade beans costs about $0.43 per cup to brew, compared to $2.50 for a single K-cup. That’s anywhere from $62 to $124 saved each month.
To keep emissions and gas guzzling in check, you avoid driving aggressively and stay near the speed limit, saving up to 25% on fuel costs.
You hop in your car for the drive to work. And, no, it’s not a hybrid. “The greenest product is the one you already have,” Loux says. “The durability of [any product] is one of the most important factors of how sustainable it’s going to be.”
To that point, your Honda Civic, which you specifically chose for its reliability, has many more years left to go. Hey, maybe someday you’ll have saved enough to invest in another car highly ranked for reliability: that sweet Lexus hybrid CT.
You swing by the Park and Ride to pick up your colleague. (You switch off driving, so he’ll pick you up tomorrow.) To keep emissions and gas guzzling in check, you avoid driving aggressively and stay near the speed limit, saving up to 33% on fuel costs.
You pull out your homemade salad for lunch, grab your bamboo fork from your desk drawer, and head to the break room. It’s cool that you aren’t generating waste with a plastic takeout container and fork. But, really, it’s about the money you’re saving by spending only $5 for a salad that would cost you $11+ at the lunch place next door.
You stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things, toting your reusable grocery bag that's stuffed with reusable vegetable bags.
Here’s where you’re voting with your dollar, Loux says: “I truly believe our food choices are some of the most powerful we make around sustainability.”
You consider getting a plastic bag of organic baby carrots ($3.66 per pound), but opt for a bunch of un-cut, unpackaged carrots ($2 per pound). You can handle a quick chop, plus you’ll feel better about not throwing more plastic in the trash. Then you head over to the bulk section to get popcorn, quinoa, dried beans and pasta.
At checkout, the cashier gives you 15 cents off for bringing reusable bags. But the real savings lie in what you saved buying bulk — anywhere from 14% to 56%.
You wave hello to your partner, who’s in the front yard, up to his elbows in dirt, planting a sapling. He’s putting it on the south side of that ugly air conditioning unit. That little tree is going to mean big savings down the road — a shaded air-conditioning unit uses up to 10% less energy than one sitting in the sun.
A shade tree also improves property value by 5% to 9%. And houses with trees use 20% to 50% less energy — thanks to that shade they provide. Plus, you know, trees are just pleasant things to have around, with their air-purifying properties and songbirds.
You open your mailbox and roll your eyes. The average American gets about 41 pounds of junk mail a year, requiring 100 million trees and 28 billion gallons of water to produce. That's a lot of resources for stuff you don’t even want or need; according to Loux, 44% of junk mail gets thrown away unopened.
You’ve already opted out of that endless stream of credit card offers via optoutprescreen.com. So you pull up the PaperKarma app on your phone, take a picture of the two catalogs that came today and — voilà! — no more catalogs. You've also nipped a temptation to make impulse purchases.
You’re almost out of clean underwear, so you throw a load of laundry in the washer and hit the cold button. Cold water actually gets your clothes just as clean as hot water, and saves you 85% to 90% in energy costs. So you’re saving $0.60 per load just by pushing a button!
It usually costs between $200 to $1,000 to do an energy audit, but with the rebates and money you’ll save over the next year, you could make that back in about a year — and keep saving.
You’ve given up beef at this point because not only have you never heard a cogent health argument for eating it, but it also requires 28 times more land, six times more fertilizer, and 11 times more water to raise than chicken or pork.
You might have some chicken tomorrow, but today, you quickly chop up and roast some vegetables to toss with quinoa for a filling, protein-rich, healthy dinner.
“The arena inside of our homes is the one we can control the most,” Loux says. “There are so many things that can be done that really add up to great change, and energy use is certainly one of them.”
After you’re done hanging most of your laundry on the drying rack in the laundry room (better for your clothes and your energy bill), you decide it’s time for an energy audit. In a nutshell, someone comes to your home to look for ways to increase energy efficiency and prevent air leaks, a move that could lower your energy bill by 5% to 30%.
You find a local auditor via the ENERGY STAR site, and when you call to make an appointment, they tell you about some rebates from the government and your electricity provider that can bring the price down. It usually costs somewhere between $200 to $1,000, but with the rebates and money you’ll save over the next year, you could make that back in about a year — and keep saving.
As you light a soy candle and settle into reading your library book (free, reusable), you ponder the day. Are you a perfect environmentalist? Erm, no. Who is?
But you’re pretty proud of all the steps you've taken to reduce the amount of resources you consume and waste you generate—while cutting some waste from your budget too.