Splurging is a deep-rooted part of the winter holidays. Whether you’re purchasing dozens of presents, serving enormous feasts or putting enough lights on your house for it to be seen from space, the holiday season can really bloat your waistline as well as your carbon footprint and energy bills. Here are 10 easy ways to save energy and make the season a little greener.
- Turn down your thermostat: Setting your thermostat to 68 degrees while you’re home and lower while you’re asleep or away can result in significant savings. By turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours per day, you can save as much as 15 percent on your heating bill. If you are hosting a holiday party, the extra people in your home will provide heat, so you can turn down your thermostat even more.
- Insulate your doors and windows: Poor insulation forces your heating system to work even harder to maintain your desired temperature, costing you energy and money. Sealing any of these air leaks will keep your heating system from having to work too hard, and keep that money in your wallet. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans spend about $2 billion per year on heating and cooling to account for heat transfer through windows. It may take some time to find all of the drafty spots in your home, but it will go a long way toward saving on your energy bills.
- Replace old lights: By switching to energy-efficient LED, battery-operated or solar holiday lights, you can cut back on your energy consumption. For every light strand, consumers can save more than $2 per month in electricity costs by switching over to LEDs.
- Purchase energy-efficient electronics: If you’re purchasing electronics or household appliances, search for ENERGY STAR certified options whenever possible. These models consume less energy, meaning whoever receives your gift doesn’t have to deal with a higher electricity bill.
- Wrap differently: While wrapping paper is usually inexpensive, most of it cannot be recycled. This year, try some of the many alternatives to traditional wrapping paper, including cloth bags, old newspapers or any form of recycled paper, including wrapping paper. While these options may lack the sparkle you are used to, the homemade aesthetic will probably be even more appreciated than store-bought wrapping paper.
- Plan your shopping trips: When heading out to buy gifts or groceries, try to walk, bike or take public transportation whenever possible. If you have to drive, save gas by making a plan to get everything you need in one trip.
- Unsubscribe from junk mail: You may have noticed that your mailbox fills with catalogs during the holiday season. This is because companies are trying to sell as much as possible. However, these catalogs come from paper, which is an extremely energy-intensive process. Be sure to recycle the junk mail you receive, and call the 1-800 number located on the catalog to be removed from the mailing list.
- Shop with reusable bags: If you’re shopping for anything from groceries to gifts, don’t forget to bring your own bag. Plastic bags are rarely recycled and are slow to break down in landfills, while according to NBC News the process of making paper bags emits 70 percent more air pollution than plastic.
- Unplug appliances before you go on vacation: Even when turned off, many appliances and electronic gadgets consume energy, which according to ENERGY STAR costs the average U.S. family about $100 per year. If you plan on traveling, be sure to unplug all charging devices and anything with a block-like structure along the power cord. These are the major culprits of what is known as vampire electricity.
- Prepare several dishes at the same time: Whether you are baking or cooking, make the most out of the energy that goes into heating your stove by cooking multiple dishes at once. Keep the lid on your pots and pans as much as possible, as this helps food cook faster and demands less energy.
The holidays are a time to be with loved ones and enjoy giving and receiving gifts. By being more energy efficient, you can enjoy the holidays without worrying how much your energy companies will charge you. If you can, choose a few of these tips and make them part of your regular routine. This will help you save energy and money year-round.
Ben Barnes is a graduate student with experience in the energy sector. His work concentrates on efforts to increase the sustainability of renewable energy sources and reduce the carbon footprint in the world we live in.
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