7 ways you can help the planet that’ll save you money
Solar panels, stir fry, apps and common sense top our list.
We've all been hearing a lot more about climate change, especially with the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference coming up in late November, in which world leaders will meet in Paris to try and make global agreements to reduce our collective carbon footprint.
We'd all like to help the environment, but we also have our own concerns to deal with – money, for instance. Luckily, people from around the world are coming up with ways we can help save the planet while actually saving cash in the process. Here are a few ideas:
Get solar panels installed on your roof for free
Solar prices are starting to rival fossil fuel prices. (Photo: sculpies/Shutterstock)
Some solar companies will actually come to your house and install solar panels on your roof for free. Why would they do such a thing? Because the company harvests the sun's energy and sells it back to your local power grid. You and the company split the profit, thus lowering your energy bill and making them money. It's a win-win-win: for you, the company and the environment.
Different companies operate in different areas, but here are some to get you started: Sunrun, which operates across the U.S., Isis Solar, available in the U.K., and Yeloha, an Israeli company that plans on expanding throughout the U.S.
"Going solar is one of the most effective ways each individual can fight climate change,” says Raina Brett Russo, an engineer who graduated from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. She started Women for Solar, an organization that recruits women to help customers install solar panels.
Try ride sharing
A Lyft customer gets into a car in San Francisco. Nearly one third of San Francisco's licensed taxi drivers have stopped driving taxis and have started to drive for ridesharing services. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
If you regularly take cabs, you may have noticed your bills adding up. But companies around the world are offering a way around those prices, while still not dooming you to (gasp!) walking. San Francisco-based Uber recently unveiled UberPool, a shuttle service that picks up multiple travelers going on similar routes, lowering the cost per traveler. Lyft, also based in San Francisco, has a similar option called Lyft Line, as does Via, a New York-based ride-sharing service founded by Israeli entrepreneurs. Not a bad way to use less gas and save on cab fare.
Get into meatless Mondays
Factory farming is a big, energy-consuming process. Plus animals, especially cows, produce methane (yes, we're talking about gas) which exacerbates climate change. So try going without meat some days. Here's a hint: If you're not into soy, try quorn, a protein substitute made from fungus that was invented in the U.K. as a less expensive alternative to meat. Quorn's carbon footprint is five times less than that of beef. Plus, it's really tasty in stir fry; just throw in some Teriyaki sauce and veggies.
Turn off your appliances at night
Computers, lights and televisions that stay on at night use up energy for no good reason, and increase your energy bill. This is especially a big deal for businesses, which often increase costs by leaving many machines running at all hours. A study a few years ago found that U.S. organizations waste $2.8 billion a year in energy costs by leaving computers on overnight. To make things even easier, you can use the Lutron Home Control, an app founded in a makeshift lab in New York that automatically turns off your lights for you.
Water your plants smart ... with apps
Download Koubachi, an app created by Swiss biologists that informs you when and how to care for your plants, so you don't end up overwatering. Or try The Smart Garden Hub, an app that takes temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, barometric pressure and sun radiation into account to help you regulate your garden's watering schedule with your phone.
“On very hot days, it will execute full watering cycles, while on cooler, cloudy days it will reduce the amount of water. On rainy days there will be no watering at all," says Odi Dahan, CEO of Israel's Green IQ, which developed The Smart Garden Hub.
Regulate your house temperature
You don't need to heat or cool your entire house to keep yourself at a nice temperature. Irish-created Climote lets you adjust the temperature of specific rooms in your house so you don't have to heat your entire house to stay toasty in one room.
And in the summer, you can try out Sensibo, which was made by a company in Israel. The device changes air-conditioning output based on things like your location in the house. The company claims it will lower the average user's carbon footprint by an impressive 40 percent.
Check your computer settings
Does your computer stay on even when you're not using it? Is it unnecessarily bright? You can actually change the settings and save energy. Once again, this is especially a big deal for companies, which can save thousands by making sure their computers are only running when employees are using them.
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