Small, incremental changes can have a big impact over time. We know this to be true about our health-related behaviors, such as walking more steps each day or avoiding sugary drinks. Well, the same holds true when it comes to saving energy or conserving water – really! Here are seven easy, eco-friendly habits you can follow that will help make a difference:
#1: Scrape food off your plate rather than rinsing it before loading the dishwasher.
Did you know that rinsing those dirty dishes can waste up to 6,000 gallons of water per household annually? So says Consumer Reports, which has tested many different models of dishwashers without pre-rinsing. They found that the dishwashers performed just fine, even on plates still caked with egg yolks, peanut butter, and other tough-to-remove residue. Extra points if you don’t have a whole lot to scrape off, since agriculture requires a lot of resources!
#2: Set your computer to sleep mode.
You may love your Star Wars screen saver, but you’ll save energy if you set your laptop or desktop computer to sleep mode – a low-power state – when you’re not using it. According to ENERGY STAR®, you could save up to $30 on your annual electric bill using your computer’s power-saving features. Not a techie? Use this Energy Star guide for help configuring your computer’s sleep mode. And if you don’t mind waiting while your computer reboots, shutting down and unplugging your computer overnight will save even more money and energy.
#3: Use the right-sized pan for your burners on your electric stove.
This is a super easy habit: small pan, small burner; large pan, large burner. What if the pan is just slightly smaller than the burner? Well, the Department of Energy offers this example: If you put a pan that’s 6 inches wide on a burner that’s 8 inches wide, 40% of the burner’s heat is wasted. Investing in appropriately sized pans will pay off!
#4: Sweep the driveway.
Using a garden hose to clean your driveway can waste a lot of water. You can geek out and use the Garden Hose Flow Rate calculator from Washington State University if you enjoy that sort of thing, or you can just take our word for it! Try sweeping instead.
#5: Leave the oven door alone.
We know it can be hard to resist sneaking a peek to see how your latest culinary masterpiece is shaping up, but according to the Department of Energy, the temperature of your oven drops about 25⁰ F every time you open the oven door. This means your oven will use more energy to get back to the desired temperature. Instead, use the oven light and peek through the glass.
#6: Wash your laundry in cold water.
According to the New York Times, about 75 percent of the energy required to do a load of laundry goes toward heating the water. Instead, wash your clothes in cold water with a detergent formulated for doing so. Unless the load is really stinky or consists of cloth diapers, it will come out just as clean – and the life of the clothing will likely be extended as well.
#7: Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
Okay, so you’ve probably heard this one before. But perhaps what you didn’t know is that, per the EPA, you’ll save an average of 8 gallons a day if you make this a habit both morning and night – and that’s almost 3,000 gallons a year!
Of course, you could take bigger steps in energy and water conservation by installing upgrades like programmable thermostats, water catchment systems, or attic insulation – and the HERO Program can help. But as you can see, making small, eco-friendly habits part of your daily routine is a great place to start.