chapter 1: REDUCE

The first step to going green is REDUCE. Reduce means making an effort to reduce the amount of energy you use and lower your impact on the environment. Read on to find out how you can reduce:

Use natural materials. Choose natural materials, such as wood (instead of plastic) and organic cotton (instead of artificial fabrics). Use wooden make-up brushes and eyeliners in wooden pencils instead of plastic ones, and buy organic cotton sheets. The cotton used for sheets requires petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, which run off into nearby waterways where they harm or kill aquatic life. But organic cotton is grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or insecticides.



Conserve. Conserve whenever possible: Unplug electronics and appliances when not in use, turn off lights in rooms you’re not using, or dim the lights when no full light isn’t necessary.

Let your computer sleep. Turn off your computer at night and turn it to sleep-mode when not in use. Download the CO2 Saver. CO2 Saver resides on the desktop and immediately adjusts user’s Windows Power Management settings to reduce their computer’s energy use when idle, saving energy and decreasing the demand on their power utility. CO2 Saver is available as a free download from

Turn off the television. When you use the remote to turn off the TV and stereo, they still use power in stand-by mode. Instead, turn them off at the plug, or use a power strip to easily turn off multiple devices and appliances. Between TV sets, DVD players, cable boxes and other home entertainment peripherals, you can spend up to 10 percent of your energy bill powering these appliances while they’re off because of clocks and easy-on features like “standby” mode. Some power strips even have “auto switching” that will shut down when the primary appliance is turned off.

Unplug things that glow. Anything that has an LED (light emitting diode) that glows even after you turn it off continues to draw power (that you pay for). Your TV, cell phone charger, and printer are likely culprits. Unplug the offenders from wall sockets and plug them into power strips instead. When you leave a room, flip the strip switch to cut the flow of electricity.

Use voicemail. Use your cell phone’s voicemail instead of electric answering machines. Answering machines are always turned on and using power, even when you are available to take calls. Get rid of the machine, and use voicemail instead.

Lose the dryer. Use a clothesline in the summer and a drying rack instead of your electrical dryer. It may seem inconvenient at first, but line drying clothes, or using a drying rack, is a wonderful earth-friendly method of drying laundry, and sunlight is the most least-toxic bleach alternative. If you must have the dryer, clean the dryer lint screen and only do full loads – but don’t overload the dryer.

Change your light bulbs. Dust light bulbs and replace them with compact fluorescents when they burn out. Compact fluorescents consume only a fifth of the electricity incandescents do. Installing a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is the quickest, easiest way to save energy -- and money. Unlike incandescents, CFLs convert most of the energy they use into light rather than heat. They consume about 75 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer (10,000 hours as opposed to 1,500). Even though CFLs cost more up front, they’ll spare you expense and effort in the long run. Since CFLs last up to 13 times longer than incandescents and use less electricity, you’ll end up spending twice as much on incandescents over the same time period. Pick warmer color CFLs (look for 2700 Kelvins on the package) where light quality is important, and avoid using CFLs in cold spots and where they’ll be frequently turned off and on.

Use green holiday lights. Light your home with environmentally friendly lights like Eco Lites from Eco Geek Living. The lights recharge during daylight hours and automatically turn on at night. They use as little as 1/50th the amount of the energy traditional lights use.

Utilize the microwave. Keep your microwave oven clean to maximize its energy, and microwave food whenever possible. A microwave is 3.5 – 4.8 times more energy efficient than an oven. Toaster ovens use about half the energy of an electric oven but almost three times that of a microwave, so use only when necessary. When you do cook in the oven, don’t preheat it for cooking times over an hour.

Get a laptop computer. Replace a desktop computer with a laptop (and recycle the desktop!). A laptop can be quickly turned off or set to stand-by when not in use, while desktops tend to stay turned on for several hours a day.

Switch your stove. A stove uses more energy compared to toaster ovens and microwave ovens. If you’re looking to upgrade, consider switching from an electric range to natural gas, which is more efficient and emits fewer greenhouse gases.

Cook efficiently. Match pots and pans to the right sized heating element, cook multiple dishes in the oven at once, and resist peaking! Opening the door can drop the oven temperature as much as 50 degrees.



Buy some blankets. Add some extra covers on your bed and turn your heat down a few degrees.

Use your curtains. When it’s cold, close curtains/blinds/shades as soon as it gets dark to block off cold surface from windows. Remember to open them again during the day to optimize daylight. Keep windows (especially south-facing windows) clean to let in more sunlight.

Optimize vents. Close vents in rooms where heat is not needed. Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed. Make sure they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes. Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.

Make sure your house is properly insulated. Check attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors and crawl spaces to make sure the insulation meets “R” level recommendations for your area. Caulk and seal all the potential air leaks in your home (doors, windows).

Check furnace filters monthly. Be sure furnace filters are clean to improve the efficiency of your heating A/C system.

Install low-E windows. Low-emissivity (low-E) glass for windows has a thin metallic coating that reflects heat back to its source, keeping heat inside the house in the winter and out of it in the summer. Low-E coatings also reduce energy costs and block UV rays while allowing 95 percent of natural light to pass through.

Use energy efficient appliances. When replacing appliances, check for an energy efficiency label. Many new appliances come with an Energy Efficiency Rating (EER). The higher the EER, the less it will cost you to operate the appliance.

Use your ceiling fan. Fans help keep you comfortable, but also let you adjust your thermostat for more energy savings. When buying a new one, select an energy-efficient model.

Optimize your HVAC. HVAC systems (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) account for 40 to 60 percent of the energy used in US commercial and residential buildings. Be sure to change or clean your HVAC filters monthly during peak cooling or heating seasons. Dirty filters cost more to use, overwork the equipment and result in lower indoor air quality. Install programmable thermostats and avoid heating or cooling the house when you’re sleeping or at work.



Drink tap water. When dining out, ask for tap water or bring your own filtered water in a reusable bottle. Tap water must meet stricter federal and local standards for chemical contaminants, and drinking tap water helps eliminate the waste associated with single-use plastic bottles. If you’re concerned about water quality, buy a carbon filter.

Avoid water from store bought bottles. Only 10 percent of single-use plastic bottles are recycled each year, which means that 90 percent end up in landfill or in the environment. Make your own filtered water in your own reusable bottle.

Use your dishwasher. Hand washing dishes under running water can actually take up to 50 percent more water than a water-saving, energy-efficient dishwasher. If you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, look for Energy Star-rated appliances. They require at least 41 percent less energy than federal standards mandate and less water than conventional models. Run only a full dishwasher. Manually pre-rinse/scrap off to avoid too many leftovers in machine and don’t pre-rinse in machine.

Wash full loads. Whenever you wash just a few clothes or dishes at a time rather than waiting for a full load to accumulate, you’re wasting water, power, and money. Combining half-loads, choosing short cycles, and using cold or warm rather than hot water in the clothes washer racks up savings.

Use cold water when doing laundry. Only about 10 percent of the electricity a washing machine consumes goes to run the motor, while the remainder is used to heat up the hot water. However, it is okay to use hot water once in a while, especially when washing bedding to kill dust mites.

Use laundry detergent in concentration. This saves lots of containers, and you don’t have to carry home (or pay for) the water part.

Use green detergent. Use green alternatives to Chlorine such as non-chlorine bleaches made from hydrogen peroxide or oxygen. Chlorine poses a serious health threat, even after it disappears down the drain. In the environment, chlorine bleach combines with leaves and other carbon-containing matter to create harmful byproducts, including the carcinogen dioxin, which can re-enter groundwater supplies.

Use a green showerhead. Use showerheads that are water-saving and energy efficient. Be sure to maintain the showerhead. Mineral deposits can hamper a showerhead’s flow and lead to longer shower times. You can also get showerheads that will take out an amount of chemicals in the water, which will be better for your skin and hair.

Take shorter showers. Also, shower instead of taking a bath, which uses more water. This saves water and keeps down the greenhouse gases emitted to produce the energy for your water heater.

Install aerators on your bathroom faucets. Aerators are inexpensive ways to save lots of money, because they cost as little as $.75 and cut water consumption by up to 6 percent. The most efficient models use only 1 gallon per minute.

Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and shaving.

Upgrade to low-flushing toilets. Toilets account for nearly 30 percent of a home’s water use, and a 1.6-GPF low-flow model can reduce your water usage and water bill by up to 46 percent. You may have heard the trick of putting a brick in your toilet’s water tank, and it’s partially correct. A brick can disintegrate in the toilet water over time and lead to damaged a plumbing, so use a plastic bottle instead. Put some pebbles or sand in a bottle and fill it with water, then place it in your tank, making sure not to disturb the other parts. A bottle in the tank will displace enough water to save a little under a gallon each use.

Get commercial car washes instead of at doing it yourself at home. Car washes use up to 100 gallons less water than doing it yourself, and commercial car wash facilities safely recycle the water used to wash your car.

Lower your water temperature. Lowering the temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees shaves 14 percent off your water-heating bill, prevents scalds, and reduces carbon emissions by almost 480 pounds.

Fix drips and leaks. Fixing leaks eliminates water waste.



Be a semi-vegetarian. Try to eat at least one vegetarian meal a day. Grow your own window garden of fresh herbs, or consider planting native fruit bushes or trees outside.

Eat out smart. When taking home leftovers from dining out, ask for as little packaging as possible. Styrofoam is not recyclable (it doesn’t decompose at all), so bring your own reusable container.

Use glass and porcelain containers instead of plastic, Styrofoam or aluminum containers. Use regular plates and silverware instead of paper or plastic plates and cutlery.

Don’t use shopping bags from supermarkets – neither plastic nor paper. Instead, use reusable canvas bags or ones made from recycled plastic. Many stores sell these for less than a dollar per bag, and subtract a couple cents off your bill. Buy a few bags and keep them in the car - remember to bring them when shopping! This saves you money and has a significant impact on the earth. In the United States, petroleum-based plastic bags consume about 12 million barrels of oil annually, and many are not recycled, meaning that they end up in trees and waterways where animals mistake them for food. Paper bags take four times as much energy to produce as plastic bags and they generate 70 percent more air pollution during manufacture.

Avoid buying items that are extra or overly wrapped. If you’re feeling radical, make a statement and leave extra wrapping in the store.

Skip gift-wrapping in fancy, glittered paper. Use reusable gift bags, and reuse gift-wrapping paper and ribbons from previous gifts.

Prefer glass containers in your kitchen/fridge instead of plastics or aluminum.

Only use “good” plastic. If you use plastic, use only those numbered 1, 2, 4 and 5. 1 and 2 are usually municipality recyclables. Avoid plastic dishware, bottles and utensils marked with #7 polycarbonate (PC). They contain bisphenol A (BPA) that is potentially harmful and linked to possible risks of diabetes and heart disease in humans. To avoid PC do not microwave food in polycarbonate plastic food containers, reduce use of canned foods, opt for BPA-free baby bottles and use glass or stainless steel food and drink containers. Ask your dentist for a BPA-free dental sealant.

Share popcorn at the movies. Instead of buying several small containers, use the “buy bulk” philosophy to reduce waste. Or, bring your own popcorn in a reusable container.



Use homemade or non-toxic cleaning products. Replace harsh chemicals with vinegar or baking soda, or buy organic products. Eco-friendly, non-toxic products not only improve your health but also eliminate deadly chemicals from getting into the environment. Use washable microfiber cloths instead of paper towels.

Use washable cloth napkins. Water use to clean them is less polluting than paper waste. Using reusable diapers will also greatly reduce waste.


paper and business

Print on both sides of the paper. Set the options on your printer, if possible, to print back-to-back and use both sides of the paper.

Use recycled paper. Instead of using paper that contains chlorine, use recycled paper. This also includes paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues.

Be smart about promotional items. If your company uses promotional items, pick ones that have a function or multiple uses, not just a gadget (for example, use pens, pencils, matches, etc).

Use pens and pencils that can be refilled. Invest in a high quality mechanical pencil and refillable pen, instead of using disposable plastic pens or pencils.

Use cotton towels or anti-bacterial cloths in the kitchen instead of paper towels. If you insist on paper towels, buy rolls with smaller sheet sizes. Use recycled paper napkins or fabric napkins, and use fewer when possible.

Use online banking. Request automatic deposits and pay bills online. Ask for paperless statements via e-mail, and opt out of receipts from ATMs and gas stations.

Unsubscribe to magazines and catalogues you don’t read. If your friends read the same magazines, consider sharing with them instead of having separate subscriptions.

Send back unwanted mail. If you’re a student preparing for college, send back large envelopes with prospects from schools you don’t want to go to anyway. Return to sender with a label marked, “I care about the planet: please re-distribute to other prospective student.”

Stop sending holiday greeting cards. Or send greeting cards that can be re-purposed.



Walk! Instead of driving everywhere, walk, take public transportation, or bike.

Drive hybrids and smaller cars. When buying a new car, consider a hybrid or energy efficient car, and choose a smaller car (no Hummers or SUVs).

Check your tires. Regularly check your car tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Making sure tires are adequately inflated could improve your gas mileage by 3%.

Use the recommended grade of motor oil. It can improve gas mileage by 2%.

Turn off the engine. If you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in line, turn the engine off – don’t let it run stand-by for more than two minutes.

Turn off the AC. If you’re hot, roll down all the windows to get a breeze of fresh air. Park your car with the sun away from seats, and use a heat rejecter for the window to prevent direct sun.

Carpool. Carpool for work, picking up your kids, or meeting up with friends. Take advantage of high occupancy vehicle lanes.

Plan shopping wisely. Write shopping lists and combine several errands into one trip and plan route wisely. Several short trips can use twice as much fuel as one longer.