Free and easy

Eight ways to help the environment without buying a thing

One free way to help the environment is to check your car’s tire pressure once a month for better fuel efficiency.

One free way to help the environment is to check your car’s tire pressure once a month for better fuel efficiency.

Photo By Erin Seward

When you think of making an impact on the world, images of a doctor, a teacher, even the president, may come to mind. But despite the good we try to do, the impact most of us have is negative. We spend thousands of dollars on energy efficient appliances, hybrid cars or compact fluorescent light bulbs. Purchasing green products is a great thing. Unfortunately, not all of us have the finances to do so.

Here are eight free things anyone can do to reduce their impact on Earth. They don’t cost a single cent. In fact, some may even save you money.

1. Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot or warm water. It takes a lot of energy to heat cold water. In addition to reduced power bills, this way also reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants.

2. Reuse grocery bags. Plastic and paper grocery bags don’t easily decompose in landfills. Save your grocery bags for the next trip. Some grocery stores, such as Raley’s, refund 5 cents per reused bag at the checkout stand.

3. Recycle paper. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 34 percent of the municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2006 was paper and paperboard. MSW includes food waste, glass, plastic, metal, wood, paper and appliances. Reduce your paper load by, first, recycling all your throwaway paper—newspapers, junk mail, magazines and scrap paper. Second, get your name off marketing lists to reduce or eliminate junk mail. Recycling paper saves energy—the equivalent of 185 gallons of gas per ton of recycled paper. To learn more about how to stop junk mail, visit

4. Reduce toilet water. When you have a couple empty jars (like a spaghetti sauce or mayonnaise jar) fill them with rocks, screw on the cap, and place them in your toilet’s water tank. This reduces the amount of water used when you flush.

5. Check car tires. Take time once a month to make sure your car tires remain at their recommended pressure. According to, low tire pressure can increase fuel consumption by 6 percent. With today’s high gas prices, it’s more money in your pocket.

6. Choose goods with less packaging. It seems everything we buy has a plastic wrapper and comes in a cardboard box. When deciding between two items, choose the one with less packaging.

7. Pay bills online. Sign up for electronic instead of paper bills with your utility company, school loan, car loan and even bank statements. You’ll save on stamps, envelopes and reduce CO2 emissions from shipping.

8. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Yes, the three R’s we all learned about in grade school are back. Before putting odd items in your recycle bin, check with Reno’s Waste Management at 329-8822 or

“These things will make a difference, especially when they are free,” says Stanley Marshall, bureau chief of Health Protection Services at the Nevada State Health Division. “When we take money out of the equation, the only thing we have left is environmental savings.”

Many people think they have to spend money to reduce their impact, but anyone can participate for free with simple lifestyle changes.

“We need to be conscious decision-makers even with the small things,” says Marshall.