Another year, another Earth Day. Looking back, is there anything you did in the past year to shrink your carbon footprint?

In our house, we’ve continued to replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. We’ve turned down the heat at night (it’s usually about 66 degrees in my bedroom at night) and piled on the fleece during the day.

I don’t know if we’re shrinking our electric and heating bills by that much, but it sure feels as though we should be (especially during a long, cold winter).

We recycle batteries, paper, metals, glass, and plastics. We scrape our plates instead of washing them before we put them in the dishwasher, and we turn off the water while brushing our teeth.

We’ve also taken a stand against bottled water. While we have a few bottles in the house, we’ve made a concerted effort not to use bottled water. Instead we fill reusable bottles, especially when we’re around the house.

It’s a start, but there’s definitely room for improvement. The amazing thing about saving energy is that it’s not only good for the earth, it’s also good for your wallet: A classic win-win scenario.

“Green means different things to different people,” acknowledges Dr. Herb Hauser, president of Midtown Technologies, a technology engineering firm based in Manhattan.

Hauser says that for some consumers, being “green” means being thoughtful about the environment when designing kitchens, baths and entire homes. For others, particularly seniors, their awareness of green issues is heightened when their grandchildren come over and ask what’s green in their house.

But for others, being green “has nothing to do with the environment but it has to do with money,” he says, adding that what this group of consumers is asking is “If I do something to make my home more green how long is the payoff before I identify the financial benefits of it?”

If you’re looking to save as much money as you can, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has some suggestions on its website ( The high-level concept: Reduce what you use, reuse what you can, and then recycle the rest.

You can reduce what you use by buying permanent items instead of disposables, buying products with less packaging and buying products that use less toxic chemicals.

If you repair items instead of replacing them, you’ll use less energy. But maybe not a lot less. Using cloth napkins or towels instead of paper means you’ll contribute less waste to a local landfill, but you’ll eventually need to throw them in the wash.

Finally, recycling paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans is easy. You can recycle electronics ( and motor oil, and compost food scraps, yard clippings and dead plants.

One of the easiest ways to green up your life is to green up your finances. According to a study commissioned by the non-profit PayItGreen Alliance, the average American household receives approximately 19 bills and statements each month, including credit card bills and bank statements, and sends about 7 payments in paper form each month.

By switching to electronic bills, statements and payments, the study found that the average American household would save 6.6 pounds of paper while not producing 171 pounds of greenhouse gases.

If just 2 percent of American households (about 2.2 million people) switched to electronic bills, statements and payments, the collective impact would save more than 15 million pounds of paper, 181,000 trees, avoid creating nearly 144 million gallons of wastewater, and avoid using 10 million gallons of gasoline.

We’d avoid pumping 196,000 tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which is the same as taking 32,572 cars off the road.

How much money would you put into your pocket? According to the PayItGreen Alliance, you could save up to $100 on postage, $50 on checks, and whatever you would have spent on late fees.

Plus, with electronic statements and direct deposit, you never have to worry that your credit card statement or payment has been stolen out of your mailbox.

April 3, 2008.