En español | From washing clothes to washing cars to shopping wisely, living green has become part of our lives. As scientists zero in on new ways to save resources and industry develops innovative energy-efficient technology, yesterday's advice can seem ... well, a bit old hat. Here are seven recommendations for living green that have been brought up to date.
Old advice: Wash your car by hand to save more water
1. Better bet: Use a commercial car wash
Commercial car wash facilities typically use 60 percent less water for the complete wash than a typical owner uses just to rinse the car. Car wash services also channel the water they use to wastewater treatment plants. When you wash your car in your driveway or the street, the dirty runoff flows directly into storm drains. From there it makes its way to streams, rivers and lakes — carrying with it the soap you used as well as brake fluid, rust, gasoline, motor oil and other pollutants.
If you do opt for DIY, park your car on grass or gravel, which will absorb and filter any soap, and pour the leftover soapy water down a sink drain or toilet.
Old advice: To use less gas, let your car idle instead of turning it off and then back on
2. Better bet: Turn off the engine if your car has been idling for more than 10 seconds
Both your wallet and the environment will thank you for switching off the ignition while you wait in line at a drive-up teller's window or pull over to talk on your cellphone. Based on your engine size, over the course of a year you'll waste between $56 and $215 — while going nowhere — if you let your car idle as little as 10 minutes a day, according to the U.S. Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory. An important exception: For safety reasons, keep your car running when you're stuck in a traffic jam.
Old advice: Switch all the lightbulbs in your house to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
3. Better bet: Look at the options and choose the best bulb for the job
Those familiar twisty CFLs are up to 80 percent more efficient than old-fashioned incandescent lights and can last six times longer or more. But CFLs work best if they're left on for at least 15 minutes at a time. Turning them on and off for less than 15 minutes shortens their life, so they're not a good choice for pantries, closets or other areas where you need light for just a minute or two several times a day. For those locations, check out LED bulbs and halogens, a more efficient form of incandescent light.
Old advice: Use warm water instead of hot when you wash clothes to save energy and still get clothes clean
4. Better bet: Switch to cold water for all your wash
A whopping 90 percent of the energy consumed during use of a washing machine goes to heat the water. Swapping warm water for hot can cut energy use in half — but using cold water will save even more and get clothes just as clean. Most detergents work in cold water, but many newer ones have been reformulated to pull dirt and grease from clothes washed in cold water. Look on the label for "cold-water detergent," "works in cold water" or some similar phrase.