Going green doesn’t have to mean overhauling your life. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, commit to making a few thoughtful changes to your lifestyle. Even minor tweaks can have a significant impact on the environment — and your wallet.

How to Go Green on a Budget

Eat less meat

Meat is the most expensive source of protein — and also the most environmentally harmful. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, global livestock are a significant source of  greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Cattle raised for milk and beef top the emissions list at 65% of the livestock sector. In addition to GHG emissions, livestock requires significant water consumption, land, chemical fertilizers and more.

We’ve all heard the suggestion to eat less meat, but what is an environmentally-conscious meat lover supposed to do? Experts suggest starting small: no need to become a vegetarian, just make a conscious effort to cut back your meat consumption. Swapping out one meat-based meal a week will positively impact both the environment and your wallet. Peas, nuts, tofu, beans and eggs are relatively low-cost sources of protein with a lower environmental impact. 

Rethink your transportation footprint  

In the United States, transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, using one gallon of gas creates 20 pounds of CO2. These CO2 emissions can really add up over days, weeks and months of driving around town. Reducing your transportation footprint saves you money in gas usage and wear-and-tear on your car — plus, it reduces carbon emissions.

Try planning out your errands at the beginning of the week and creating a specific day for running around town. It’s more efficient on your time and fuel usage — and you won’t be as tempted to make a quick trip out the next time you want something small. Look into ridesharing to work with nearby coworkers, biking or walking when you can and utilizing “eco-driving,” a setting on most new cars that optimizes fuel usage.

Consider taking public transportation if it’s available in your city. Buses, trains, subways and trolleys offer lots of benefits: no parking or gas costs, better for the environment and safer — especially for longer commutes — with the added benefit of being able to extend your workday or decompress on the ride home.  

Do an energy audit

Did you know that your local utility company will come to your house and run an energy audit? These assessments are typically low-cost or free, and they can add significant savings to your energy costs.

The U.S. Department of Energy is an excellent resource for finding a nearby energy auditor. The Energy Saver 101 infographic offers a helpful overview of what’s included in an energy audit and how it can help make your house more efficient. Typically, the energy auditor will check home essentials like insulation, appliances, lighting and water consumption and provide a detailed analysis on how to maximize efficiency. Homeowners who implement the recommendations usually save between 5% and 30% on their monthly energy bills.

Another easy tip is to check your thermostat. Try setting your air conditioning a degree warmer in the summer or your heat a degree or two colder in the winter. Tweak your settings to see what fits your needs — you might not even notice the difference.

Also, take advantage of cool nights and warm days to turn your thermostat completely off. Fresh air can boost your mood and save you money on heating and cooling costs, all while helping the environment — so bring the outdoors inside with open windows and a nice breeze.

Say no to single-use plastic

We’ve all ordered a to-go coffee in a Styrofoam cup or bought a bottle of water in a pinch. And who hasn’t loaded up on multiple plastic bags full of groceries?

Skipping the single-use plastic does require a bit of a lifestyle modification, but it’s worth the effort. Load up on reusable bags and keep a few in the car, just in case — some retailers will even give you a discount for bringing your own bag. And if you forgo single-use water bottles for a reusable version, you’ll save money and do your part to reduce the 60 million plastic bottles that end up in landfills every day.

Opt for the ENERGY STAR

Want to ensure your appliances, electronics, lighting and other products are as energy-efficient as possible? Check out ENERGY STAR, a government-backed symbol that signifies the product is energy efficient.

According to ENERGY STAR, a typical household can save $450 per year on energy bills by choosing its certified products. There are also rebates and tax credits available, so it’s worth doing your homework to get the best bang for your buck.

Start small — and get started!

This Earth Day, make a commitment to save money and the environment. You’re making a difference in your life and the lives of billions of other people — it’s worth it!

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