Wish Mother Nature - and your pockets - were a little greener? You can save money and the environment with these top 5 tips from David Bakke.

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Save money by inviting your friends to play Scrabble instead of going out! (image: 401(K) 2013 / Flickr)

Save money by inviting your friends to play Scrabble instead of going out! (image: 401(K) 2013 / Flickr)

By David Bakke at Money Crashers

You don’t have to install expensive solar panels on the roof or windmills in the back yard to have an impact on the environment. In fact, there are lots of little things you can do to help Mother Nature and your bank account.  If you’re interested in improving your financial situation as well as your planet, check out the following five tips:

Turning lights off can save you a bit of money on your electricity bill (image: Kolix / Flickr).

1. Reduce Home Energy Use

When fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil are burned, greenhouse emissions go up. In order to save cash and ease the burden on the planet, look into the many ways you can reduce your home energy bills. Start by investigating the competition to see if you can save money by switching home energy providers.

Related: Talking to Green Energy Tycoon, Dale Vince, Founder of Ecotricity

Once you know you’ve got the best deal, reduce your bill further by installing ceiling fans to help circulate air in your home - if you don’t already have them, they pay for themselves in approximately three years. Set them to rotate clockwise in the summer and counter-clockwise in the winter.

You can also reduce your energy bill by up to 20% by simply adjusting your thermostat three degrees in either direction. Do this one degree at a time – with the ultimate goal being 78 (25°C) degrees in the summer and 68 (20°C) in the winter – and you’re barely going to notice the difference as you cut costs.

2. Conserve Water

When you waste water, it has to be cleaned and recycled in order to be usable again by consumers. This requires significant energy consumption. Even if you cut your bill by only $20 per month, you’re saving $240 annually. Run only full loads of dishes and laundry, take shorter showers, and put a pitcher of water in the fridge so you can cool off without running your faucet until the water gets cold.

Related: The Reasons to Conserve Water [Infographic]

Sell used tech on eBay (image: THEMACGIRL / Flickr).

3. Sell No Longer Needed Electronics

Many electronic products contain chemicals that are damaging to the environment, such as lead, chromium, and mercury. Rather than discarding them, consider selling your electronics on eBay - many people find use in the spare parts of your technology.

By re-distributing your old laptop computers, flat screen TVs and other similar items, you can reduce the amount of these chemicals released into the environment. The benefit of doing this is that you’re actually doing better than just saving money – you’re generating cash.

4. Drive Less

Driving less reduces carbon monoxide emissions and helps you save money on gas as well. Think this is impossible given your day-to-day responsibilities? Investigate public transportation for your daily commute. If that’s not feasible, consider instituting a carpool program at your place of business. Piggyback daily errands with your commute to cut back even more. If you insist on going it alone, make sure your vehicle is well-maintained. Keep your tires properly inflated, change your air filter as recommended, and get oil changes regularly.

Nothing beats fresh produce. (image: UN Women Asia & the Pacific / Flickr).

5. Green Your Diet

Switch to a diet based more on fresh fruits and vegetables than red meat and you can help to cut down on livestock methane emissions. Cook more fresh meals at home and cut down on the number of plastic containers that end up in landfills.

To maximize your savings, see if there’s a local farm or farmers’ market near you. The prices are typically lower, the quality is the same if not better, and there’s often a better selection. By switching your diet, you can improve the overall health of your household – that can help to cut down your household’s medical expenses.

Final Thoughts

Tally up your savings after you’ve implemented these ideas. If you’re saving $100 per month, for example, shoot it toward your credit card debts until they’re gone for good. If that’s not an issue, beef up your emergency fund or bolster your retirement savings – you can never have too much set aside for your sunset years. By doing this, you’re not only positively impacting the environment and saving money, you’re solidifying your financial future. It’s hard to argue with a strategy like that.

What ways can you think of to cut costs while benefiting the environment?

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David Bakke lives in Atlanta and writes about money management, green living, and technology on the popular finance blog, Money Crashers.