13 Ways to Go Green: The Reader’s Digest Version

Simple answers to 13 common questions that can help you save the environment while cutting down your electric bill.

By Andy Simmons from Reader's Digest | April 2009

Q. Should I turn off the lights every time I leave the room?

Reader's Digest Version: Turn off incandescents if you're leaving the room for more than five seconds; CFLs, if you'll be gone at least 15 minutes.

Q. Do I really have to unplug my TV, phone chargers, CD player ...?

Reader's Digest Version: Unplug. Even easier, plug everything into power strips with on/off switches.

Q. I know cold-water washes are greener, but will they get my clothes clean?

Reader's Digest Version: Washing your clothes in warm or even cold water will get rid of almost any grime, except for the worst dirt or oily stains. Switch from hot to warm water to cut energy use in half; cold, to cut it even more.

Q. Dirty dishes: by hand or by machine?

Reader's Digest Version: Stick to full loads, use the pot-scrubber option only if necessary, and hit the no-heat or air-dry option.

Q. Peanut butter jar: a simple rinse or a full-on scour before recycling?

Reader's Digest Version: Rinse out what you can, then recycle.

Q. Soda bottle tops: on or off before recycling?

Reader's Digest Version: Off with their heads!

Q. Paper or plastic?

Reader's Digest Version: Paper and plastic are both lousy choices. Take your own reusable canvas bags.

Q. In public restrooms, paper towel or electric hand dryer?

Reader's Digest Version: If there's a choice, go for the hot air.

Q. Should I turn off the computer when I leave for the day?

Reader's Digest Version: If you won't be using it for 20 minutes, turn off the monitor. If it won't be needed for more than two hours, turn off the computer.

Q. What exactly can I put into those blue recycling bins -- the ones that say 'White Paper Only'?

Reader's Digest Version: Toss in newspapers, cardboard, magazines, envelopes with the plastic windows, and even the occasional staple.

Q. Let the car idle or turn it off?

Reader's Digest Version: Idle for 30 seconds if you must. Longer than that: Turn it off.

Q. I should still idle my car in really cold weather before driving, right?

Reader's Digest Version: Turn it on and go.

Q. Air conditioner or open window: Which costs me more gas?

Reader's Digest Version: On the highway, do what feels most comfortable. But around town, try to drive with the window down. Your hair will be a mess, but you'll save some gas.

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