Protecting the environment is a lot like saving: if you want to succeed, don't wait for that "one" great opportunity. It's the small steps in everyday life that accomplish major changes. Best of all: most small changes to your daily routine are not only good for the environment, but also for your budget.
1. Water – can be cool
Saving water means saving on your water bill – many households know this by now. What's less well understood is that saving hot water is even more effective. If you have your own boiler, it’s best to set the temperature between 55 and 60 degrees. That's good enough for a warm shower. You can set the temperatures lower without increasing hygienic risks when you're washing dishes, as well as when doing your laundry. Modern detergents make boiling and pre-washing laundry superfluous. For normally soiled colored fabrics, 20 degrees does the job; for whites, it's 40 instead of 60 degrees. Heating up the water consumes the most electricity. You could easily lower your energy consumption by a third when doing your laundry.
2. Refrigerator – everything in its place
Who doesn't love when the fridge is full of delicacies? As it happens, a full refrigerator also makes good ecological and economic sense. An empty unit consumes more electricity. And refrigerators make up 10% or more of a household's energy consumption. Though they're a central part of our homes, we often don't use them as well as we could. The most important savings tip: a temperature of seven degrees is enough. Each degree you don't cool saves you 6% on electricity. But don't forget that the temperatures inside the refrigerator are uneven. It's warmer on top, colder on the bottom. So you should place your fish and meat on the bottom and less delicate products like cheese on top. It's also warmer in the vegetable drawer and in the covered compartments designed to hold eggs and butter.
3. Meat – less is more
Vegetables and fruit are vitamin-rich and healthy. So it pays to prepare vegetarian meals from time to time to keep your family fit. And it helps the environment even more. Meat places a burden on the environment – up to 10 times more than vegetables and fruit. After all, animals must first be fed: according to a WWF study, roughly 15,000 liters of water are used for one kilo of beef. There are other ways you can save based on what you eat. On average, a single household wastes 15% of its food. So check your food before you throw it away. If a family changes its eating habits, it could easily save around 1,000 Swiss francs a year.
4. Shopping – it's cheaper by bicycle
A third of all car trips are shorter than three kilometers. Almost two-thirds of all trips are shorter than 10 kilometers. A question begging an answer: Do you really need a car for all these trips? If the destination is three kilometers away or less, you’ll get there faster by bicycle. And if you install a basket on your bike, it’s as good as a car for your family shopping. Where traveling 10 kilometers by car generates 1.9 kilos of CO2, and by train it's still 0.1 to 0.6 of a kilo – the zero-emission bicycle wins top prize. So take your bike for a spin now and then. Instead of gas, you'll burn calories. Besides the cost of travel, you could even save on your gym membership.
5. Herbs – fresh from the balcony
You don't need a green thumb to plant a few kitchen herbs – and certainly no garden. You can simply grow the plants in pots, in balcony boxes or even on a windowsill. After harvest, you’ll discover the mint from your balcony tastes stronger than any grown in a greenhouse. And it doesn't need to end in summer. Frozen or dried, herbs can be stored and enjoyed year ‘round. These plants are great for your ecological – and household – balance sheet.
The average resident of Switzerland consumes 180 kg of paper per year. By forgoing paper when you communicate with your bank and by paying your bills online, you can shave more than a little off that number. With UBS, for example, you could switch to e-documents, set up electronic credit card statements, and receive and pay your bills electronically. At the same time, you reduce your administrative costs and often also save on potential fees.