Commute smarter - Share a ride to work, telecommute or use public transit. If your daily commute is just 10 miles each way (the national average) and you normally drive a 20-mpg vehicle, you would save 236 gallons of gas each year by opting to carpool, telecommute or use transit. If each commuter car carried just one more passenger once a week, we would cut America's gasoline consumption by about 7.7 million gallons.
Drive smarter (known as hypermiling) - Drive more smoothly, avoid heavy breaking or accelerating and coast to a stop in order to improve your vehicle's fuel efficiency and save on gas by maximizing miles per gallon. Avoid idling by shutting off the engine for prolonged waits (for the kids at school or at a train crossing). Remove roof racks whenever possible as they can create significant drag. When carrying clamshell storage containers, bikes or other burdens, you reduce your fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent, so take them off the car roof when not needed. Learn more about getting better mileage.
Slow down - Ease up on the pedal. Slowing down from 75 to 65 miles per hour will drop your highway gasoline consumption by about 15 percent. That's money in your pocket.
Switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) - Change the six bulbs you use most in your house to compact fluorescents. CFLs are 80 percent more efficient than conventional bulbs. Each CFL will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime. And while compact fluorescents are initially more expensive than the incandescent bulbs you may be used to using, they last ten times as long, and replacing six bulbs can save you an average of $36 per year in electricity costs.
Turn off the lights - Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you're not using them. This is a no-brainer, but it's surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers where you can. The same goes for any outdoor lights. Don't leave outdoor security lights on all night or during the day - install a timer or sensor.
Set heating and cooling temperatures correctly - Set your thermostat in winter to 68 degrees or less during the daytime, and 55 degrees before going to sleep (or when you're away for the day). During the summer, set thermostats to 78 degrees or more. Get an electronic thermostat that will allow your furnace to heat the house to a lower temperature when you're sleeping and return it to a more comfortable temperature before you wake up. Learn more on EPA's Energy Star website.
Make recycling convenient - Put collection bins in various places around your home and office to make recycling convenient. Use different bins that follow your city's recycling policies so you don't have to separate it out later.
Use durable goods - Bring your own cloth bags to local stores. Replace plastic and paper cups with ceramic mugs, disposable razors with reusable ones. Refuse unneeded plastic utensils, napkins, and straws when you buy takeout foods. Use a cloth dishrag instead of paper towels at home, and reusable food containers instead of aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Most cities in the United States have clean, drinkable water, so use tap water (you can filter it if you'd like) and refillable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.
Compost - Composting reduces the burden on overcrowded landfills and gives you a great natural fertilizer for plants and gardens. Buy a composting setup at a garden supply or hardware store. Start with yard trimmings, fruit and vegetable food scraps, and coffee grounds. Learn how to set up your own compost.
Recycle - If your office doesn't have a recycling program, work with your office manager and custodial staff to set one up. Paper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles are easy to start with, and additional materials can be added as the staff gets used to recycling. Set up bins in convenient areas to collect each type of material your office recycles, and make sure everyone knows they are there.
Commit to environmentally friendly purchasing practices - Encourage your company to make a commitment to purchasing paper and other materials made with post-consumer recycled content. Companies should avoid paper products made from 100 percent virgin fiber content, and switch to paper that is at least 30 percent post-consumer content. Also look for plastic and metal products made with recycled or scrap material.
Be thrifty with paper - Don't print out each report, memo or email you receive. Read and delete the ones you don't need to save and electronically file others you might refer to later. Make sure your office printer and copier can make two-sided copies, and encourage others to get into the habit of doing so (better yet, change the default settings to double-sided). Save even more paper by using the blank sides of used sheets of paper for note-taking and printing drafts.
Buy products with less packaging - A large percentage of the paper, cardboard, and plastic we use goes into packaging - much of it wasteful and unnecessary. When you buy a product, look at the packaging and ask: Can it be reused? Is it made of post-consumer recycled materials? Is it necessary at all? Reward those companies that are most enlightened about their use of packaging by purchasing their products. Contact companies that over package and tell them you will be more likely to buy if they change this policy.
Buy recycled products - Purchase paper and other products for your home and office that are made with post-consumer recycled content and packaged in recyclable materials. Check the packaging you buy to ensure that it's recyclable (and ideally includes recycled content). Avoid buying individually-wrapped servings - repackage at home in smaller, reusable containers.
Buy in bulk - When you can, buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging that gets thrown away.
Install a low-flow showerhead - On average, showers account for 32 percent of home water use. U.S. federal law now requires that all showerheads sold be low-flow models. Low-flow showerheads deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute compared to standard showerheads that release 4.5 gallons per minute. A typical family of four using low-flow showerheads can save about 20,000 gallons of water per year. Also remember, cutting down your time in the shower saves money on your water and energy bills. For every minute the typical American spends in the shower each day, 204 pounds of heat-trapping pollutants are emitted annually for an electric-powered water heater and 94 pounds for a natural gas-fueled water heater.
Use water wisely in everyday activities - Run the clothes washer only when full. Take a shorter shower and turn off the water while soaping and shaving to also save a lot of water. Sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them down - washing a sidewalk or driveway with a hose uses about 50 gallons of water every 5 minutes.
Repair leaks - Fix those leaking and dripping faucets as soon as possible. A dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons every day.