Minute, Morning, Month

There are so many simple ways to save money, protect health, preserve the environment and better daily life. Use the filters to the right to find the actions you can take in the time you have.

Keep indoor air clean. Remove mold and mildew.
Morning

Damp places in your house are an open invitation to two unwelcome guests: mold and mildew. These fungi can grow anywhere moisture lingers, such as on damp basement walls, around leaky pipes or in poorly caulked areas around the shower. Several studies have linked mold to the onset of allergy and asthma attacks, and some scientific evidence suggests that mold can put children at risk of developing asthma.

Be vigilant about mold. When you see it developing in a basement or other living space, promptly remove it using soap and water or, if necessary, chlorine bleach. If using chlorine bleach, mix 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wear gloves and eye protection. Open windows and doors for ventilation. Never mix ammonia and chlorine bleach, which together create a highly toxic gas.

For large tracts of mold, call a mold-removal professional. Be sure to fix the source of the moisture (such as a leaky pipe, or rainwater slipping down along an outer foundation wall). Otherwise the mold will be back.

To prevent mold and mildew, use the exhaust fans in your bathrooms and kitchen. Make sure they vent to the outdoors and not to the attic. Keep attic and crawl spaces properly vented and indoor humidity at 40 to 60 percent. If you have a dehumidifier, clean the water pan regularly to keep it free of bacteria and other pathogens.

Protect water quality. Put in a rain garden.
Morning

Stormwater runoff is one of the major causes of water pollution. Cities such as Burnsville, Minnesota, are encouraging residents to plant rain gardens in order to divert rainwater from streets.

A rain garden, a plot of low-maintenance, native perennial flowers and shrubs planted in a shallow basin, traps rainwater, allowing it to seep into soil rather than running off your driveway and rooftop toward storm drains. Why choose native plants for your rain garden? They have evolved to live in your region, so they have better defenses against predators and require water commensurate with annual rainfall. They also help foster healthy soil and insect life, which attracts birds and enhances overall biodiversity.

Check out NRDC's Coastal Dwellers Guide for more things you can do at home to keep waterways clean.

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Replacing the AC? Dispose of the old one properly.
Morning

If you are replacing your old air conditioner, don’t just toss it. Air conditioners contain harmful, ozone-depleting refrigerants that must be recovered by authorized handlers, so most landfills don’t accept them. Contact your waste management authority or an appliance retailer to learn the proper disposal method in your area, or search earth911.com.

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Properly dispose of household hazardous waste.
Month

The average home can accumulate as much as 100 pounds of household hazardous waste. This includes paints, heavy-duty cleaners, oils, batteries and pesticides that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive ingredients--all the stuff that accumulates under sinks and in utility closets, basements, garages and sheds. If kept for too long, many of these products give off carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can sneak into the living spaces of the house, posing a risk to those inside. There is also a heightened danger that a child or pet might be poisoned or harmed. Problems also occur if household hazardous waste is not properly disposed of. One spilled batch of used motor oil can contaminate a million gallons of freshwater after it washes down your driveway and into storm drains.

Follow these suggestions to safely rid your home of and reduce your future exposure to household hazardous waste:

* Collect all your hazardous waste from under the sink, storage closets and sheds, as well as the basement and garage and make arrangements to safely dispose of it. Many communities offer a variety of options for conveniently and safely managing this. Check with your community’s sanitation department or earth911.com to find out where in your town you can recycle or safely dispose of these materials.

* Recycle used motor oil at a car dealership, oil-change specialist or repair shop.

* Antifreeze made of ethylene glycol may be sweet-smelling, but it is lethal. Your best bet is to let a mechanic change your antifreeze and handle general car maintenance; most have access to recyclers of antifreeze and oil filters that consumers don’t have.

* Conventional varieties of fertilizer, when carried by stormwater runoff to the ocean, can cause algae blooms that threaten fish and other aquatic life. Use certified organic brands instead. To avoid runoff, use fertilizers sparingly.

* Exposure to household pesticides is linked to asthma, cancer and neurological damage. Properly dispose of pesticides as instructed by your sanitation department, and substitute least toxic alternatives. Click here to find out how to get rid of ants and other pests without using harmful products.

* There are many alternative household products on the market today that don’t contain hazardous ingredients. Use Label Lookup to find cleaning products and paints that are safer and better for the environment.

Removing hazardous waste from your house costs nothing other than time.

Love music? Save the tonewoods. Buy a secondhand guitar.
Morning

The future of the guitar and a number of other wooden instruments may be in jeopardy, because many of the forest species that give them their unique sound are in jeopardy. According to the conservation group Fauna & Flora International, more than 200 species of trees are used to make musical instruments, and 70 of those are threatened with extinction. These include mahogany, Honduras cedar and Honduras rosewood, all of which are used in guitars.

In response, major guitar manufacturers like Gibson, C. F. Martin, Fender and Taylor have joined forces with Greenpeace to launch the Music Wood Campaign, an effort to increase the supply of tonewoods certified as responsibly harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council. Gibson and Martin already make guitars from certified woods.

What can you do to help? Search online for vintage or used guitars. Greener than certified wood, recycling an older instrument keeps valuable instruments being played, and they might even sound better. High-quality instruments improve in tone as they age.

Love music? Save the tonewoods. Choose FSC-certified wood.
Month

The future of the guitar and a number of other wooden instruments may be in jeopardy, because many of the forest species that give them their unique sound are in jeopardy. According to the conservation group Fauna & Flora International, more than 200 species of trees are used to make musical instruments, and 70 of those are threatened with extinction. These include mahogany, Honduras cedar and Honduras rosewood, all of which are used in guitars.

In response, major guitar manufacturers like Gibson, C. F. Martin, Fender and Taylor have joined forces with Greenpeace to launch the Music Wood Campaign, an effort to increase the supply of tonewoods certified as responsibly harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council. Gibson and Martin already make guitars from certified woods.

What can you do to help? Start saving your pennies. Groups like Greenpeace and Fauna & Flora concede that musical instruments alone aren’t depleting precious stocks of endangered woods. Most of the wood goes for construction materials and furniture. If you’re planning major renovations or redecoration projects, start a savings account so you can purchase furniture made with Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood.

Save the CO2-absorbing forests. Stop junk mail.
Morning

The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year, according to 41pounds.org, a Web service that will stop unwanted catalogs and junk mail from being sent to you. Assuming that one tree makes about 170 pounds of paper, and that recycled content makes up only a small portion of the mail, 50 million or so trees are felled to keep Americans buried by mountains of unwanted mail. A single tree absorbs about a ton of CO2 over its lifetime, which means that roughly 50 million tons of the heat-trapping pollutant is being released annually into the atmosphere to make America’s junk mail, almost half of which gets dumped unopened.

Take a morning, or even part of a morning, to just say no: no to junk mail, no to wasting trees, no to global warming. The aforementioned 41pounds.org and a number of other Web services can help you reduce your mail by getting your name removed from mailing lists you don’t want to be on. Even the Direct Mail Association recognizes that there is a problem and wants to help you. It’s easy, so start today by signing up with one or all of these excellent services: 41pounds.org, CatalogChoice.org, and/or DMAChoice.org. 41pounds.org charges $41 for five years of service; CatalogChoice.org welcomes donations; and DMAChoice.org, which can also help you control the flow of commercial email, is free.

Save money and fuel. Keep tires inflated.
Minute

Incredibly, as much as 15 percent of the energy required to move your car down the road goes to overcoming rolling resistance, which is the friction of the tire against the road surface. To maximize fuel economy, make sure your tires are inflated to the pressure recommended on the vehicle’s tire placard, which is usually found on the driver’s-side doorjamb.

Carry a digital tire pressure gauge, and top off the air in your tires whenever you fill up your gas tank. Losing just a few pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure will lower your mileage. When it’s time to replace your tires, consider a set of the new lower-rolling-resistance models offered by many manufacturers. Air is free, so keep 'em filled up.

Drive less and save the oceans.
Morning

We all know that cars are a major source of the heat-trapping pollutant carbon dioxide (CO2) and the lung irritant nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Cars, in fact, contribute a very significant one-third of our overall CO2 output each year. But what we are only now realizing is that CO2 and NO2 emissions are damaging ocean health, which is critical to all life.

As discussed here, scientists are discovering that our oceans, a natural sink for CO2, are becoming more acidic as they absorb the excess CO2 being emitted by the burning of fossil fuels. In fact, ocean acidity has increased 30 percent over the 250 years since the industrial revolution began, and researchers predict that if carbon emissions continue at their current rate, ocean acidity will more than double by 2100. A more acidic ocean is not good; it could wipe out species; disrupt the food web; and impact fishing, tourism and any other human endeavor that relies on the sea.

Meanwhile, NO2 emissions from cars, as well as other sources, are transported via jet streams and rain to the oceans, where they feed algal blooms that deprive water of oxygen and kill off other living organisms. NO2 emissions may account for more than 25 percent of the nitrogen buildup that causes these oceanic dead zones. Harmful algal blooms affect human health as well, producing bacterial toxins and other organisms that can cause asthma attacks, gastrointestinal problems and skin rashes.

Cut down on driving and help protect the ocean. If you can walk or bike to work or to run errands, you will see improvements to your health and also save money. Taking public transportation will save you money too.

Apply these water-saving measures in your yard and garden.
Month

The summer months are hard on municipal water supplies as families water lawns and fill their pools. With water restrictions common in drought-prone parts of the United States, you’ll want to apply some water-saving measures to be sure your yard and garden plants gets the water they need.

* Lay down cardboard with straw or other mulch over it to retain water, suppress weeds and provide a moist environment for your vegetables.

* Use a soaker hose or drip tape submerged in soil to carry water to roots before it evaporates.

* Install a rain barrel. Rainwater is a valuable resource, especially during dry summer months.

* Perennials have deeper roots and use less water. Xenoscaping--bushes, grasses and other flora native to your region--will be better adapted to surviving under local rainfall patterns. Xenoscaping may cost you a few hundred dollars but will return your investment many times over in a healthy garden and yard.