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An illustration of a blue planet Earth growing atop a green plant.
An illustration of a blue planet Earth growing atop a green plant.
An illustration of a blue planet Earth growing atop a green plant.

Published April 2, 2019.

Money-saving steps at home also help the environment.

You don't have to choose between helping the planet and helping your pocketbook. Here are a few ways to protect the environment while you save some green.

Dave Cotton of KHQ-TV consults with Sherry Wallis, an STCU member and financial educator, how we can save money at home while also helping the environment.

Plant a tree on the south side of your house. The shade it provides will lower cooling costs, said Chelsea Updegrove, development director at the Lands Council. Trees also provide habitat for birds and other critters, absorb carbon dioxide, and reduce storm water runoff, which can carry toxins to rivers and lakes.

Get smart about heating. Technology can help you turn down the heat when you're not home. Smart thermostats learn your routines, so you don't have to do the programming, said Chris Drake, the energy efficiency manager at Avista. The energy company offers rebates on many models, reducing your upfront cost.

Other ways to reduce heating (or cooling) bills: find and plug drafts; open the drapes in winter to let sunlight in (or close them in summer to keep heat out); and use ceiling fans to equalize the temperature in a room (run your fan clockwise in the winter to redistribute heat from the ceiling).

Turn it off. The light as you leave a room, of course, but other things, too. Like the TV no one's watching or the printer no one's using. Smart power strips automatically turn off electronics to save energy.

Each time you open the oven door, you can lose 20 percent of the heat.

Increase efficiency. When it's time to replace something in your house, whether it's the furnace or a light bulb, look for a more efficient model to cut energy use and costs. If you haven't switched to LED bulbs, it's time. Check for rebates to help defray the cost.

Use glass or ceramic baking dishes. That allows you to turn down the oven about 25 degrees, according to Avista. Also: Resist the urge to keep opening the oven to check on dinner. Each time you open the door, you can lose about 20 percent of the heat.

Cut back on watering. Many people overwater their lawns, Updegrove said, which can strain the region's aquifer. Many also use too much fertilizer, and the excess gets washed away. That's money down the drain, and the chemicals can travel to rivers and lakes and harm aquatic life, Updegrove said.

Shop secondhand. Whether you need clothes, baking dishes, or art supplies, often you can find what you need at thrift shops, vintages stores, or garage sales. Buying used items costs you less and keeps them out of the waste stream.

Borrow. The Spokane Public Library and Spokane County Library District have items like sewing machines, GPS units, and energy efficiency kits to check out. Your friends have stuff, too, like the tool you need to finish a repair. Just make sure to reciprocate. Your friends, and the planet, will thank you.