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The Lazy Cheapskate’s Guide to Saving the Planet

Written by Nickel - 9 Comments

The extent to which frugality and Earth-friendliness intersect has always been interesting to me. Thus, I read with great interest an article call “Conserve Your Energy” in the most recent issue of Reader’s Digest. In short, this article was pitched as a “guide to effortless environmentalism,” essnetially targeting the well meaning but lazy amongst us.

I’ve written about simple ways to save money and the planet in the past, and this article is a great followup. So what do they recommend?

1. Skip a trip. Did you know that forgoing a single international trip just might offset all of the carbon emmissions produced by running your car and your home over the course of a year? On top of that, you’ll save a decent chunk of money by sitting tight (unless, of course, it’s a business trip that you’re skipping).

2. Hire someone to seal up your house. Simply sealing leaks around windows and dooers and insulating ducts could save you upwards of $100/year and reduce your carbon emmissions by at least 1,000 pounds per year. If you’re too lazy to do this yourself, hire someone.

3. Work from home. Instead of carpooling or taking mass transit, a much easier and more effective way of reducing your time in transit (and the resulting cost and environmental impact) is to telecommute. While this isn’t always possible (consider blue collar jobs, or those in the service industry) doing this just once a week cuts you commuting costs by 20% straightaway. Moreover, companies like American Express have apparently found that telecommuting actually increases worker productivity.

4. Drive a fuel-efficient car. Spend a bit of extra time picking out a fuel-efficient car and you’ll automatically save a decent chunk of gas money, and pollute considerably less, over the life of your car.

5. Use cruise control. With the possible exception of driving in hilly terrain, cruise control is a great way to save gas. Indeed, tests have found that using cruise control can improve mileage by as much as 7%. I’ve seen this myself in real life, as I’m a big fan of cruise control and my wife isn’t. Guess who gets better mileage on long roadtrips? Me. By a long shot. Even better: adaptive cruise control, which automatically adjust speed to keep you at a safe distance from cars around you.

6. Cool your water heating bills. Check the temperature on your water heater and, if necessary, lower it to 120 degrees. Beyond this, whenever possible you should wash your clothes in cold instead of hot water.

7. Don’t wash the dishes. While it’s possible to wash your dishes by hand using a relatively small amount of water, most people keep the faucet running while they do this chore. Instead, load up the dishwasher and run it. Assuming that it’s full, you’ll save about 30% of the water that you would’ve otherwise used. Moreover, you should skip the pre-rinse (take that, Mom!) and just let the dishwasher do its thing.

8. Use a laptop, and let it nap. Repalcing a desktop computer and display with an energy-efficient laptop, and setting it to go to sleep when not in use, can save a substantial chunk of money — and reduce carbon emmissions by as much as 500 pounds per year.

9. Drink tap water. Why lug bottles of what is essentially tap water home from the store with you when you can just open the spigot and pour a glass? You’ll not only save a ton of money, but you’ll also save the carbon emissions associated with bottling that water and hauling it to its ultimate destination.

10. Stay married. Converting one household into two means bigger utility bill and more greenhouse gases. Not to mention mountains of legal bills. A recent study out of Michigan State University estimated that divorced families consumed and extra 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, corresponding to an extra 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per household.

11. Consider carbon offsets, but be careful. If you’re too lazy to do any of these things yourself, you can always pay someone to offset your emissions for you. Just be sure to work with an entity that actually does what it says. Here’s a nice summary.

12. Support carbon taxes. A variety of experts on both sides of the aisle have argued that imposing a carbon tax on gasoline, coal, and other fuel sources would be the simplest and most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. In essence, this would be a surcharge that’s based on the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a given amount of fuel. Because this will place yet another burden on businesses and consumers, some have argued that the revenue should then be used to fund income tax cuts or direct rebates.

So there you have it… Twelve ways to reduce your environmental impact, most of which will also help to pad your wallet.

Published on March 18th, 2008 - 9 Comments
Filed under: Energy, Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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9 Responses to “The Lazy Cheapskate’s Guide to Saving the Planet”

  1. 1
    "Mo" Money Says:

    Excellent article. We should all be very interested in saving our planet; and who would not want to save money at the same time.

  2. 2
    Cheap Like Me Says:

    Excellent tips! I also must advocate visiting my blog, which is all about being cheap AND green! :)

    I would also add hanging up laundry. Check the wattage on your clothes dryer: It uses a lot of energy. I’ve timed myself, and hanging the laundry out takes about 7 minutes per load. Then when I take it down, I fold as I go, so it’s done in one fell swoop. Plus the sun sanitizes it somewhat.

  3. 3
    nyc Says:

    How bout public transit — that saves a lot as well.

  4. 4
    James Says:

    I agree sealing is a great way to save on energy loss, typically a house ventilation leaks 25-40%, you want as close to 6% leakage with 0.35 natural air changes per hour.

    But be careful, sealing a house to well can cause back draft in open combustion furnaces and water heaters, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you really want to save some bucks on the bills, upgrade to a sealed combustion furnace & water heater(tank).

  5. 5
    Nick Says:

    I didn’t laugh like this for a long time thank you…

    # 10, Can I have several wifes? I promise to treat them well… :)

  6. 6
    Cheap Like Me Says:

    I didn’t mean to hijack your blog, but I linked to my post about hanging laundry to include the fact to back up the savings: By not using an electric clothes dryer, even a small family can avoid producing 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year and save $60.

  7. 7
    betsy - Green House Detectives Says:

    We’ve started an energy efficiency and conservation biz, Green House Detectives. My first blogpost is about waterheating. Turns out, unless you need hot water all day long, you can turn your waterheater off altogether.

  8. 8
    FIRE Finance Says:

    Excellent post! The sense of humor is wonderful :) and we had a great time laughing…

  9. 9
    abc Says:

    I told my wife that by not showering every day, and by showering every other day, i’m saving on water, energy, and time (i get an extra 20 minutes zzzzz).

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