Like so many things in our modern lives, we have a HUGE tendency to significantly overconsume. About 1/3 of our groceries go in the trash, we use enormous amounts of electricity, water, and other commodities that we don’t need! Not to mention, those costs add up!
So, here are a few basic ways to cut a ton of money (and consumption) off your utility bills.
1. Light Soil Cycles
Most of the time when I’ve been to people’s houses, I’ve seen that they run their dishwasher and washing machines on super high soil mode. We think our clothes and dishes are SO EFFING DIRTY that they need massive amounts of Ultra Dirt Busting Power™ to get clean. In fact, the opposite is true. We wear our clothes so little, and wash them so frequently, that they’re hardly dirty at all. So, turn your washing machine to “Light soil”, turn OFF the pre-soak, the extra rinse, and all the other extra cycles, and leave them off. Unless you work in a sewer, or on an oil derrick, you don’t need the extra cycles and won’t notice they’re gone, and it will cut your water consumption by quite a lot. Same with the dishwasher. Use the light soil, or “Eco” mode. Just make sure to scrape off any of the really awful stuff first.
2. Cold Water Wash
Most of our clothing is worn down significantly more by the frequency of washing, than by the wear and tear of normal wear (exception: little kids… super destructive). One of the things that wears down the clothing is washing them in hot water (another one is the soap, read tutorial on that one here), as the heat can stretch the fibres more than necessary. And despite what you may think, you can wash pretty much every type of clothing in cold water, with a cold rinse. Not only is it better on the fibres, it’s cheaper on the hot water bill. It also won’t affect the cleanliness of the clothing either. If you’re using a good soap, it will dissolve fine, and wash just as well in cold water.
3. Flushing less
Our toilets use a really significant amount of water, and it’s often far more than necessary. And a retrofit is cheap and easy (like, under $10 cheap!). You can buy an adjustable water-saving toilet flapper and install it in minutes, and can save HALF of the water you normally use from flushing. A cheaper way to do this, is to fill a 4-litre/1 gallon jug of milk with water, and put it in your toilet tank. You’ll use 4L less water with every flush, as the jug will take up a lot of the space of the water. You can also flush the toilet less often, by just flushing away solids – anyone with a septic tank is probably familiar with this idea.
4. Buy Less Groceries, MORE Often
We all seem to like going for groceries once every few weeks, and packing a shopping cart full of food. Grocery shopping is often an inconvenience, so we stockpile food. As a result, we waste a ton of it. So when you’re buying perishables, make a plan for what you’ll be eating for the next 2-3 days, buy only that, and then EAT IT. If something is about to go bad, that’s the next thing for dinner. EAT THE FOOD YOU HAVE BEFORE YOU BUY MORE!
Phone/electronics chargers, small appliances, speaker systems, TVs, gaming consoles, all sorts of things we use infrequently, but leave plugged in constantly. They’re still drawing power, even when you’re not using them, and jacking up your electrical bill. You can get in the habit of unplugging them, or you can buy a simple powerbar with a power switch, and just turn that off, so your appliances are still where you need them. Australia has a clever solution to this, and just puts power switches on every outlet.
6. Adjust the Thermostat
Assuming most people work 8 hours a day, and sleep 8 hours a night, we’re only using most of our homes 1/3 of the time, and yet we have them heated/cooled to a comfortable temperature all the time. A good solution is a smart thermostat. They have standard programmable thermostats, and smart-phone enabled ones (which are really cool). These will turn down the heat/AC while you’re away or sleeping, and you will spend way less on your heating costs.
While none of these changes require major renovations, keep in mind when you are upgrading to look for eco options in small and large appliances, thermostats, plumbing fixtures, lighting, and so on. There are a ton of great options out there that cost almost the same as their high-consumption counterparts, but save you far more money in the long run.