6. Be Efficient

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When it comes to saving money on home heating and electric bills, our parents have said it all:

  • Turn off the lights!
  • Turn off that tap!
  • Put on a sweater!
  • Go outside! 

These are all great starting points, but to really go green—and save green—you can do much more. Efficiency is the single easiest way to reduce collective dependence on unstable or polluting energy sources—it’s free, after all.

Be sure to unplug appliances like lamps, power strips and radios, when not in use. Just leaving a cell phone charger in the wall socket or your DVD player in “standby” mode could drain as much energy as a 75-watt light bulb. Swap your light fixtures for energy-saving, compact, fluorescent bulbs. By replacing your home or office’s five most frequently used lights with green light bulbs, you can save more than $60 a year in energy costs. And when it comes to heating and cooling, use sunlight intelligently. Leave shades and blinds open to absorb heat, and close them when you want to cool things off.

Buy EnergyStar products—created by George H.W. Bush in 1992, EnergyStar is a government-backed incentive for appliance manufacturers to save you money. These products will have a tiny label on them and are designed to keep your electric bills lower. And, because folks tend to keep big-ticket appliances for years at a time, paying just a bit more attention to purchasing habits upfront can make a real difference. Buying an inkjet printer, for example, uses as much as 90 percent less energy than a typical laser printer. (Print less, by the way.) EnergyStar also approves dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines and other investments.