5 Surprising Ways to Save Energy

It’s easier than you think to cut your carbon footprint – even without making major life changes.
It’s easier than you think to cut your carbon footprint – even without making major life changes.

If you’re trying to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, then you probably know some of the first changes to make – like switching your lightbulbs, giving up bottled water, and walking or biking instead of driving whenever possible. But other simple swaps aren’t quite as obvious. Read on to see how changes in the way you eat, clean, garden, and travel can all help you use less energy.

Eat Local

Three meals a day -- plus snacks – can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint when you start paying attention to the energy required to get the food from where it’s grown to your kitchen table. Stocking tomatoes in January, bananas from South America, and year-round lettuce (plus other fruits and vegetables) when they’re out of season in your area means big energy investments to transport and preserve them. If you live in a region where fresh produce is limited in the winter due to weather, look for a local orchard where you can get dried, canned, or jellied fruits to last you until spring.

Buy Organic

Most folks buy organic fruits and vegetables because they can be better for your health, since it means you’re ingesting fewer chemicals and pesticides. But when you choose organic, you’re also supporting a farming industry that uses less energy right from the start (according to TreeHugger) and, for the most part, produces less waste – which means there’s less energy required to clean up after those foods, too.

Drive the Speed Limit

Remember when you tried to convince that cop that you were speeding to save fuel? There’s a reason he didn’t buy it: Hypermiling, a driving style that gives you the maximum fuel efficiency, means keeping your pace consistent – and not too fast. According to How Stuff Works, “A test carried out by Wayne Gerdes, the man credited with coining the term hypermiling, found that using cruise control at speeds of 30 to 40 mph (40 to 64 km/g) can increase fuel economy by double-digit percentages.” Even if you can’t slow down that much, more moderate acceleration, smoother deceleration, and limiting the amount of cargo you’re carrying can all make a difference.

Use the Dishwasher

Believe it: Using your dishwasher instead of washing your dishes by hand uses “half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap” according to TreeHugger. Of course, there’s even more you can do: Make sure you are running your dishwasher when it’s full, go without the heated dry option, and when you’re in the market for a new appliance, choose one that’s Energy Star-rated.

Plant a Tree

Trees are good for the air, for the earth, and for your local birds, but expending the energy to plant them on your property can help you save on energy in the long run, too, according to the Arbor Day Foundation: If you place them at the right distance from your home on the east, west, and northwest sides, they can help shade it to lower your cooling costs in the summer; using one to shade your air-conditioning unit makes an even bigger impact. In the winter, pine trees and other conifers can block winds, while trees that lose their leaves will let the sun through to warm things up.

More Great Links


  • “Organic Food: Healthier for You and the Planet”. TreeHugger. (Mar. 5, 2013) http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/organic-food-healthier-for-you-and-the-planet/page4.html
  • “What is hypermiling?” How Stuff Works. (Mar. 5, 2013) https://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-racing/nascar/nascar-basics/hypermiling1.htm
  • “Built In Dishwashers vs. Hand Washing Which is Greener?” TreeHugger. (Mar. 5, 2013) http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-design/built-in-dishwashers-vs-hand-washing-which-is-greener.html
  • Arbor Day Foundation. (Mar. 5, 2013) http://www.arborday.org/index.cfm