April is Earth Month, and people across the United States are thinking about ways they can help the environment. The problem is, many don’t know where to start. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in environmentalism to make a few easy changes that help the earth…and you pocketbook.

1. Stop Using Paper Towels. Paper towels can easily be replaced by old rags you have around the house. If you don’t have any old rags, places like Costco often sell big bunches of towels inexpensively. I bought a huge package of microfiber towels at Costco for less than $20, and I haven’t bought paper towels in months.

2. Pass on the Bottled Water. Plastic is very bad for the environment. Instead of buying disposable water bottles, invest in a stainless steel water bottle for each member of your household. Take that along when you run errands or go to your child’s soccer practice.

3. Recycle Everything You Can. Call your local transfer station to find out if they offer a recycling program. Ours does, and we recycle everything from cardboard to milk jugs to aluminum cans. Now that we’re recycling so much, I shudder to think about all the stuff we used to throw straight into the landfill.

4. Start a Compost Pile. I just started doing this last fall. Right now we have a basic pile of leaves, grass clippings, and fruit and veggie waste in a corner of our yard. Recently I picked up the book Compost: the natural way to make food for your garden by Ken Thompson from the library. As I learn more about composting, I’ll write more about it.

5. Grow a Vegetable Garden. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, growing a few veggies in a square foot or container garden can put yummy, organic food on your table. If you can’t start a garden, consider trying to buy your produce locally.

6. Line Dry Your Laundry. I love line drying my laundry, and I’m so excited that the weather is almost nice enough to start again. Line drying laundry saves a lot of electricity, and it’s nice to get out in the sunshine during the day. It’s not as harsh on your clothing as a clothes dryer is, either.

7. Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. If you watch the sales, CFL bulbs can be bought fairly inexpensively, and they last a long time. We have vaulted ceilings, so an added bonus for us is that we’re not having to constantly drag out the ladder to change the bulbs.

8. Use Power Strips. When you turn off your TV and computer at night, they still draw a little bit of power. To make sure they don’t use any power at all, put all of your electronic devices on power strips. Before you go to bed, just flip the switch on your power strip, and you can rest assured that your electrical equipment isn’t using any power while you sleep.

9. Don’t Use the Dry Cycle on Your Dishwasher. Using the dishwasher is convenient, but the dry cycle is completely unnecessary and wastes energy. Some dishwashers have an option to turn off the dry cycle. If yours doesn’t just open the dishwasher after the wash cycle and let your dishes air dry.

10. Bring Reusable Bags to the Grocery Store. Instead of using paper, or worse, plastic bags from the grocery store, bring your own bags from home. You can buy a bag for $1, but many places give them out these days as promotions for special events. So keep your eyes open. And some stores give small discounts, if you bring your own bags. Over time, these discounts add up.

Those are just 10 of many easy ways to start going green. Do you have any additional suggestions?

Photo by aussiegall.