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SPY Guide: 5 New Ways For Your Family To Go Eco-Friendly (and Save Money While Doing It)

* Cut down on waste and harmful emissions
* Save money on gas and electricity bills
* Do your part to help the environment by making a few small changes

You already take out the recycling every week, and you probably know to turn down your thermostat and keep the lights off when you’re not at home. But a few other simple changes could go a long way toward saving you some money — and helping to save the environment.

We’ve listed five new devices, fixtures and items that will help you make your home an eco-conscious one. You might not be able to afford the big ticket item just yet (though seriously, you should look into this car) but there are plenty of affordable options to consider too. Here’s what you’ll need to start making a difference in your carbon footprint – and in your bills.

1. Install a Low Flow Shower Head

The average person spends about 8.5 minutes in the shower every day, using up more than 17 gallons of water each time. According to statistics, showers run up more water than dishwashers, trailing only toilets and laundry machines in terms of water usage. Switching to a low flow shower head will help you cut down on water consumption, saving you money on your monthly water bill in the process.

Niagara’s Earth Showerhead is one of the best-reviewed showerheads on the market, with an almost 5-star rating from more than 800 reviewers. It’s also one of the best values on Amazon, available for just $8. While most showerheads run at about 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute), the Earth Showerhead uses just 1.25 gpm, saving you up to 30% more energy and water. The smaller flow rate will take a few seconds to get used to, but if you want a more steady stream or higher pressure, simply adjust the showerhead’s 9-jet adjustable turbo massage to rotate between a gentle spray to a forceful jet. 

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One reviewer says his family cut down their water consumption down to 4,400 gallons in just 20 days of use. “We saved $23 on our water bill,” he writes, “so the showerhead paid itself off in less than a month.”

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Image courtesy of Amazon


2. Program Your Thermostat To Be More Energy Efficient

If you’re already familiar with the Nest Thermostat, here’s all you need to know: the 3rd generation model is at its lowest price yet, available for around $200 right now on Amazon.

If you haven’t heard of the Nest, you’ll want to get familiar. The smart thermostat works with your home settings and your family’s habits to find ways to save money and be more energy efficient. It does this by automatically adjusting the temperature in the house, like turning it down when nobody’s home, or connecting to your smart devices (I.e. your washer and dryer) to only run a load when energy demand is low. Connect to your Nest through your phone or use Alexa voice controls. Even if you’ve forgotten to turn off the AC, or turn off the lights, you can do it from the convenience of your device.

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Image courtesy of Amazon

Independent studies have shown that the Nest Learning Thermostat saved families an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. The Nest Thermostat is also the first thermostat to get ENERGY STAR certified.


3. Start Using Solar Panels

Maybe back in the day, solar power and solar panels were something

than in the home. But solar technology has come a long way, and now there are portable solar panels you can keep at home or even take with you on the go.

At the highest level, studies have shown that switching from fossil fuel to solar power could potentially cut air pollution by 90%. On a more practical scale, generating power from the sun can save you a ton of money on your energy bills. After all, the sun is basically free electricity.

Start with these portable panels, which you can use to charge your devices, power your speakers or even run small electronics. Reviewers say this solar panel from Renogy can even power up a campsite or trailer, running a Smart TV, lamp, laptop and a CPAP all night “without hardly any drain.” Other reviewers have used this panel to power up mini fridges, coolers and microwaves too.

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Image courtesy of Amazon

This solar panel set has a 4.7-star rating from almost 1000 reviewers. It’s easy to set up and great for beginners too when it comes to going off the grid and entering the world of solar energy. Choose from one piece or six pieces; the price starts at a reasonable $140.


4. Switch to a Non-Toxic Mattress

You may not realize this, but the pricey mattress you sleep on every night, could be full of chemicals and ozone depleting materials. You’re inadvertently breathing in all of this stuff too. If you want to be friendlier to the environment — and to your health — swap your old mattress for a non-toxic one.

We like the Snuggle-Pedic Mattress, which is one of the highest-rated mattresses online. Their memory foam mattress is super responsive to your body, and adapts to cradle and support your sleeping style, whether you sleep on your side, stomach or back. Their bamboo micro-vented mattress cover is also super breathable – no more sweaty nights here.

The best part: the mattress is certified eco-friendly. Snuggle-Pedic uses a combination of Biogreen and CertiPUR-US-certified memory foam that is tested and shown to be made without harmful ozone depleters. In addition, the mattress has no flame retardants, mercury, lead or other heavy metals, and no formaldehyde or phthalates. It’s also low in VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for better indoor air quality. As a finishing touch, the mattress comes rolled in vacuum-sealed packaging for eco-friendly shipping (no wasteful bubble wrap or bulky boxes here).

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Image courtesy of Amazon


5. Drive An Electric Car

The ultimate upgrade for the eco-conscious home: switching to an electric vehicle. We recently got a chance to test drive the 2018 Chevy Bolt EV – the first affordable electric car to offer an EPA estimated 238 miles of range per charge. We took the car out for a road trip in Idaho, driving it from Boise to Ketchum, where we arrived just in time to catch the Perseid Meteor Shower under the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve. With no emissions coming out of the car, there was no air pollution or harmful fumes blocking our view of the stars.

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While early electric vehicles were considered clunky and a little “granola,” the Bolt EV drives with all the zip, features and handling of cars two-times its price point (the Bolt starts at $29,995 after a federal tax credit). We liked the iPad-sized touch-screen, the multiple charging ports for our phones and the surprisingly spacious interior (on one stretch of our road trip, we had five full-sized adults and a ton of luggage packed comfortably in the car).

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Viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower in Idaho | Photo by Rob Marcroft for Chevrolet

Of course, with all the money you spend on gas every month, you’ll love how much you’ll save with the Bolt EV, which requires no gas at all. Instead, it runs on a super powerful battery. Simply plug your car into a charger and you’ll get 90 miles in as little as 30 minutes of charge time (using a DC Fast Charging Station, which you can typically find in most city centers, shopping malls and airports). You can also charge overnight at home, and be ready to go on a full battery the next morning.

Driving the Bolt EV is a little different than driving a regular car, but within minutes, we had the motions down pat. Use “Low” mode and your car will slow down or even come to a complete stop when you take your foot off the accelerator. This allows you to use your brakes less, which means less energy is wasted, and in turn helps to increase your range.

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You can also “regen” (re-generate) energy by using a paddle on the back of the steering wheel, which lets you slow down without using the actual brakes. This again, helps convert energy into more electricity and then transfers it back to the battery.

If you’re a design snob, the Chevy Bolt is actually a pretty good-looking car, and it’s a lot sleeker and more aerodynamic than you think. (It also had good grip on the open roads of Idaho, even when zooming by large tractor-trailers).

If you care about reviews and awards, this is a highly-ranked car too. The Bolt has been named “Motor Trend Car of the Year” and “North American Car of the Year.” The Chevy Bolt was also named as the 2017 “Green Car of the Year” by the Green Car Journal, and it was included in Time Magazine’s list of 25 Best Inventions. Not too shabby.

Sure, getting a new car is the priciest option on our list, but like many of the other items listed here, you have to think of the long-term benefits. Not only will the car pay for itself within a few years (saving you thousands of dollars on gas and gas-related maintenance), you’re also contributing to the long-term health of the environment, reducing your emissions output and ultimately reducing your personal carbon footprint.

Find Out More About The Chevy Bolt EV

If you’re trying to go eco-friendly, this is the ultimate way for you and your family to do your part.

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