Illustrations: Nick Dewar

What You'll Learn

    Little ways to go green in your...
  5. Entry, Basement & Laundry
  6. Living Area
It seems everybody knows you can help the planet—and save yourself some cash—with big changes: adding spray-foam insulation to open walls, say, or installing a tankless water heater. But there are lots of simpler, lower-cost ways to improve your eco-scorecard, too. Here are some low-stress steps to take around the house to reduce your carbon footprint, create a healthier home, and lower your monthly bills to boot.

1. Unplug your power tools. Figure out which cordless tools (like drill/drivers) get the most use, then unplug the chargers on all the rest. Most cordless tools have nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries, which will hold some charge for up to a year. They lose 15 to 20 percent of their juice each month, but only take a couple of hours to power up again. Newer tools with lithium ion batteries lose just 2 to 5 percent of their charge each month, so they'll be ready to go even if you haven't charged them in ages.

2. Spread sawdust on your floor. Take the superfine shavings captured by your dust collection system, wet them down, then push them around with a stiff broom to sweep your concrete garage or workshop floor. The mix is as good as a power-guzzling shop vac at picking up dust but doesn't swirl it into the air. 

3. Up the wattage on lights. Where you still use incandescent bulbs (with dimmers or three-ways) on multiple fixtures in a room, try consolidating. One 100-watt incandescent emits more light than two 60-watt bulbs combined but requires 17 percent less power. The 100-watter also uses the same energy as four 25-watt bulbs, but pumps out twice as much light. Just be sure your bulbs don't exceed the maximum wattage recommendation for each fixture.

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