So you’ve saved up your holiday time at the office, booked the dream getaway spot – even splurged on a new pair of sunglasses. Time to put your worries aside and hit the open road for a summer vacation. But don’t let your good eco-sense go flying out the window of your getaway car. No matter where you’re going or how you get there, some of the most important things you can do for the earth while you’re travelling happen before you leave. So before you tear out the door make sure you’ve eco-proofed the house you’re leaving behind.
Dial it down
Even if you’re just skipping town for the weekend, turn down the air conditioning. You don’t want to pay for cooling when no one’s at home. A programmable thermostat allows you to set the system to turn back on just before you return, so you can come home to a comfortable house. You should also draw the shades over your windows to keep the heat out. That way your air conditioner will have less work to do when you return.
Take a power walk
Unplug or switch off everything but your fridge. Even when they’re not in use, appliances are drawing “phantom power” – to keep a television in standby mode, for example, or run the clock on a microwave or DVD player. Plugging all your home-entertainment appliances into a power bar makes it easy to power them all down with the flip of a switch. To avoid wasting (and paying for) electricity, do a little flick-off walk through your house just before you leave. Be sure to include the hot-water heater, which should be turned way down or switched to the vacation setting. If your heater is electric, shut off the circuit breaker.
Make everything automatic
Did the safety-proofers tell you to leave lights on when you’re out of town so your house isn’t an obvious target for burglars? Better yet, put some of your lights on timers. These simple devices, sold at any hardware store, turn your lights on and off automatically, making the house look even more lived in and saving on your electricity bill. Put a hold on newspaper delivery, too. Cancelling your newspaper service while you’re away saves paper, which saves trees, which saves the earth.
Now your house is ready to be energy-efficient in your absence. And all the money you save will help pay off your fabulous vacation.
Get these gadgets before you go:
•Light timers: I prefer the kind with a rotary dial over the digital ones. Be sure each timer has multiple buttons, so that lights can be set to go on and off more than once a day.
•Power bar: These require a grounded (three-prong) socket and an on-off switch to cut the current.
•A slow-release plant-watering device: I like the Aquaplant model. You fill it with water and insert near the roots of your indoor plants. It will release water as needed, for up to four weeks.