With rising tuition costs, reduced financial aid and a scarcity of jobs, students these days are more cash-strapped than ever. We've got tons of tips on reducing college costs and saving money on major expenses - now you can learn to save money and help the environment.
Most students are already saving energy without even knowing it. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), single family homes account for 80% of the total American residential energy use, whereas multi-family dwellings - think apartments, house sharing, even dorms - use only 15%. (Mobile homes account for the other five percent.) But even though most students already use less energy than does an average family, you can still manage to cut down your energy usage and save money on your bills.
If you live off campus, chances are you're paying your own utility bills. Follow these tips to reduce energy consumption and save money on electricity and gas:
Correctly program your thermostat to save a lot of energy with minimal effort. Set the heat a little bit higher when you and your roommates are home, then set it to go down when you're out or sleeping. Some people go so far as to turn off their central heating altogether and use space heaters to heat the rooms they're in, but this isn't always a good solution because many space heaters use a lot of electricity too. Of course, it's never a bad idea to put on a sweater and turn the heat down.
Use an energy-efficient fan instead of central air conditioning. Ceiling fans are especially efficient at cooling whole rooms - if you don't have them, ask your landlord if they can be installed.
Turn off your lights whenever you're not using them, and replace as many bulbs as possible with Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs). These bulbs last longer and use less energy.
Use cold water to wash your clothes and let them hang dry whenever possible. Not only will this reduce energy, it'll extend the life of your clothes - heat can shrink or damage fabric and cause colors to fade.
Appliances & Home Electronics
Put your computer to sleep when you're not using it for a while; turn it off if you'll be out all day. Unplug major appliances when they're not being used. Keep your electronics on a surge protector or power strip, and turn it off when you're away from home so they can't use energy. Consider replacing your appliances with more efficient ones - the DOE reports that one-fifth of all energy used in the average household comes from appliances and home electronics.
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Live in a dorm or another on-campus residence? Most campus housing programs just charge a flat fee for utilities, so you may not always be as conscious about saving energy. However, just because you're not saving money up front doesn't mean it's not worth doing your bit to cut down on your school's energy usage. If enough people cooperate, the school may eventually be able to reduce their fees.
A lot of the tips above can be adapted to dorms:
- Put CFLs in your lamps.
- Use a laptop instead of a desktop computer, and set it to go to sleep whenever you're not using it.
- Use a power strip and switch it (and everything plugged into it) off whenever you're not in your room.
- Avoid high-energy appliances like mini-fridges and hi-def TVs. Try trading your Xbox or PlayStation for an energy-efficient Wii.
- Turn off your lights and heat whenever you leave your room.
If you're really enthusiastic about saving energy, try to get your whole campus involved. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers some useful tips on reducing energy use on campus, including how to work with your school's administrators to create an energy efficiency plan.
Be An Energy Star
Cutting back on your energy usage can save you tons of money on your gas and electric bills - and now it can even earn you cash rewards. The federal government just launched Cash for Appliances, a $300 million program funded by the 2009 stimulus bill. Like Cash for Clunkers, the program encourages consumers to trade old, wasteful home appliances for new, energy-efficient ones that are Energy Star-qualified. The funds were divided equally between all of the U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, and each state has its own program rules and restrictions. Visit Energysavers.gov to learn more about Cash for Appliances in your state.
Students - don't own your own home, or see much point in buying a new washing machine? If you live off campus, you can still benefit from the program! Check to see which appliances qualify in your state, then talk to your landlord about replacing them. They'll get a cash rebate, you'll save money on utilities and you'll both be doing your part to help the environment.