With Earth Day taking place last week, this yearly event brings a message of environmentalism and more sustainable energy practices. The beauty of Earth Day is that, unlike other holidays, it’s one to be celebrated all year round. By evaluating the energy efficiency of your home with close care, you can substantially reduce your carbon footprint and save a little money too.

1. Turn Off the Lights – Take a moment right now to check the lights around your house/apartment. How many are always left on? Lights that are left on unnecessarily are a significant energy drain and can make a severe dent in your energy bill. If it’s a nice enough day outside the natural light of the sun should be enough to keep a room aglow. If you must have lights on, use LED Energy Star-certified bulbs.

2. Unplug – Now, take a look around and see how many unused appliances are plugged in right now. Whether it’s the toaster in your kitchen, the television in your living room or a lamp in your bedroom, plugged-in devices can use up energy even when unattended. These “vampire” energy drains can easily be avoided by just unplugging when you’re done using a device. It might seem like a pain to remember, but you’ll get used to unplugging your devices after a few times and you’ll be glad when you receive your energy bill.

3. Be Smart about Thermostat Use – Take a look at the temperature outside. Now take a look at the temperature inside. If there’s a significant discrepancy between the two, you have a problem. Look for other ways to heat up/cool down rather than cranking the heat or air conditioning. If you’re the tech savvy type, a smart thermostat can keep you on the straight-and-narrow and only activate your heating and cooling systems when absolutely necessary.

4. Cold Water Wake-Up – Hot water feels good, but it comes at both a monetary and environmental cost. For chores that require water, such as laundry or pre-washing dishes, opt instead for cold water. In the summer, consider taking slightly cooler showers. You’ll save energy and maybe find that the colder temperature gives you a much-needed boost in the morning!

5. Look for the Energy Star Label – Products and appliances that are part of the government’s EnergyStar program are rated as being more energy-efficient. You can find their logo on a variety of common household products, from washers and dryers to refrigerators and freezers. By choosing to buy EnergyStar, you can expect to reduce your electricity bills by as much as 30 percent.

6. Use Your Small Appliances – Cooking at home is always the more sustainable choice. But you can also be more Earth-friendly in how you make your meals. When you cook with small appliances like slow cookers and electric skillets instead of stoves, you use less fuel overall.

7. Look for Air Leaks – Is there an unexplained draft in your home? Take a careful look around and you might find your answer. An application of caulk can stop these leaks and warm your house back up, sealing in energy that would have been wasted otherwise.

A proactive environmental mindset is more important than ever. Take a moment now to do just one thing to conserve energy in your home. Whether it’s turning off a light switch or unplugging an appliance, one small step towards sustainability is a step in the right direction.

By Beth Kotz
Beth Kotz is a freelance business writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.