If you aren’t ready to throw some solar panels on the roof and ditch your power company, but would like to save some money by living a greener life, here are 20 tips to help you get started.
Around the house:
1. Buy food, including spices and flour, in bulk. You’ll save money and reduce the amount of packaging that goes in the trash. Giant, Trader Joe's, Fresh Market and Shoppers Food offer some bulk food options. Or visit Sam's Club in Owings Mills.
2. Make sure your thermostat is set properly. Lowering the default settings during the summer and at night could save you almost $200 a year, according to Energy Star. More tips at energystar.gov.
3. Insulate your hot water heater. To see if you need to insulate, touch your heater. If it is warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation. You will lower your water heating costs with this single step.
4. Cut down on car trips and run your errands on your bike or on foot. Rusty on two wheels? Get some cycling advice, including equipment, rapairs, routes and group rides, from Pikesville Bicycle Shop.
5. Rip up some lawn and plant a vegetable and flower garden. You will save a ton of money on food, and delight your children as they watch things grow over the summer. Need help getting started? Check out the Pikesville Garden Club.
6. Take BGE's advice to buy energy-efficient Energy Star appliances. Some area stores that sell them include:
- Appliance Land, 1514 Reisterstown Rd, 410-580-0595
- Cummins Appliance, 1708 Reisterstown Rd 410-484-1333, 800-214-0323
- Some appliances at Target, 1737 Reisterstown Rd, 410-486-4141
- Home Depot at Reisterstown Road Plaza in Baltimore also sells some Energy Star products.
- Walmart, 8730 Liberty Rd., Randallstown 443-576-3132
- Home Depot, 6000 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville 410-719-9200
7. Expand your hand-me-down circle. Organize a clothing swap for your co-op, preschool or a group of friends. Have everyone bring gently used and clean kids’ clothes to your garage; parents can take as many items as they donate. The rest goes to charity. Pikesville's consignment shops include Scene II by Hadassah, Repeat Performance and Last Tango.
8. Have your kids make their friends’ birthday cards and wrapping paper. Paper bags are easily transformed with pastel crayons or markers, and kids love getting a handmade card—as do adults.
9. Organize a Halloween costume swap in September. This can be a great service project for a Girl Scout troop. Reserve the room at the Pikesville Branch Library and publicize it by passing out flyers at your parent/teacher groups and at preschools, and by posting on their Facebook pages. Or post a blog, event or announcement on Pikesville Patch. Green Halloween is a great resource for ideas on how to get started.
10. Check out Swap.com, a 'valet service' that collects your unwanted clothes, gear, media, toys and décor and sells them on its site. You set the prices and you can take your windfall in cash or stuff.
12. When stuck in line at the bank drive-through or school pickup line, turn off your engine. Get other driving tips for tree huggers on the Car Talk website.
13. Ditch those dreaded sandwich bags and get some washable containers or bags. Maybe try ReUsies, washable cloth sandwich and snack bags made in Seattle.
14. Save up to 30 percent on your monthly heating bills by having a home energy audit done by a professional. Ask if Baltimore Gas & Electric will cover some of the cost.
15. Give and accept hand-me-downs.
16. Replace your old light bulbs with LED bulbs. They last 15 times longer and use 75 percent less energy. Find stores with bulbs at energystar.gov.
17. Got an older house? Install double-pane windows and you’ll see immediate savings on your heating bill.
19. Dump your bottled water costs. Buy snazzy metal water bottles for everyone in the family and a personal filter for your kitchen faucet, and you could save hundreds of dollars a year.
20. Replace your shower heads with low-flow models. Low-flow shower heads can save you up to 15 percent of water heating costs.
For more ways to save energy, including energy-saving programs, visit Baltimore Gas & Electric's website.
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Pikesville Patch Editor Janet Metzner contributed to this story.