Home, Yard, Car & Workplace

Save money on energy and water bills, keep toxic chemicals out of your home and workplace, reduce wasteful throwaways, cut down on air pollution, and help make Union County a cleaner, healthier place for your family, friends, and neighbors.



Plastic bags are Public Enemy #1 when it comes to wasteful throwaways. Billions are manufactured every year, used once, then tossed away. Many end up littering our roadways. They kill wildlife, clog storm drains, and pollute our soil and water.


Carry reusable totes instead of taking plastic bags from stores.

Instead of buying plastic wrap and plastic baggies for leftovers, use washable containers.



Plastic water bottles are Public Enemy #2. Like plastic bags, they are used once, and then tossed away. Many end up as litter. On top of that, bottled water is heavy. Trucking it from bottling plants to stores needlessly wastes fuel and adds pollutants to our air.

Carry a refillable bottle or canteen instead of buying bottled water.
Tap water costs just pennies per gallon. Some popular bottled brands are just re-filtered tap water!
If your home or workplace has a water cooler, use washable cups instead of disposables.




Our region depends on coal-burning power plants to generate power, so anything we can do to reduce our use of electricity will help clean our air. Because lighting uses a lot of electricity in many households and businesses, it’s a good place to start saving

Replace standard bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. They use 75% less electricity, or even less.

For even more savings turn off overhead lights and use daylight or desk lamps when possible. Switch to lower-wattage bulbs in hallways and other lightly used areas.

Compact fluorescent bulbs last far longer than standard light bulbs – up to ten years or even more. You save money on replacing bulbs while reducing your electricity bill, too.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) can yield even more savings than compact fluorescent bulbs. LEDs have been used for specialty purposes for many years, and now they are being adapted for home use.



Vehicle emissions are the biggest source of air pollution in New Jersey. They lead to breathing and lung problems, especially among children. Idling contributes to the problem. After just 15 seconds, idling causes more pollution than shutting off your engine and restarting it.

Shut off your engine when parked, waiting for afterschool pickups, or using drive-through lines at banks and fast food restaurants.

Idling creates deposits on spark plugs and corrodes the exhaust system. By cutting down on idling, you save on maintenance and repairs while saving money on gas, too.


Unnecessary idling is against the law in New Jersey, and today’s engines need no idling to warm up, even in winter. Check your manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Safe, moderate driving saves a lot of gas. Observe the speed limit, accelerate gradually, take it easy going uphill, cut down on lane-changing, and don’t tailgate.



In the U.S., paper is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing sector. Paper also adds tons of waste to our landfill spaces.

Use 100% recycled paper products when possible (they use far less energy), and ask your local recycling coordinator about paper recycling. Mixed paper means “anything that rips,” from empty food boxes and drink cartons to phone books and school papers.

Reuse old school or office papers for memo pads and shopping lists, or for printing out travel instructions and other Internet material.

In the kitchen, use inexpensive cloth napkins and dish towels instead of paper disposables. Dark-colored towels are good for cleaning up spills and greasy surfaces.

Junk mail is a big paper-guzzler. You can stop unwanted catalogs through a free service called Catalog Choice.



Many cleaning solutions and laundry products contain petroleum products and other toxic chemicals. They can cause breathing problems and aggravate asthma. When flushed down drains, they pollute our waterways and eventually get into the soil and food chain.

Switch to alternatives that are based on plants and other safe ingredients. Read the label for product information.

Use less cleanser by wiping surfaces with warm water first, then apply cleanser with a sponge or cloth instead of spraying. Some cleansers are concentrated to save on packaging, so check labels for recommended use.

Watch out for green-colored cleaning products that look “green,” but really are not. For a reliable product guide, check The Green Guide, a project of National Geographic.

Plain vinegar is a low cost, effective, fresh-smelling, all-natural cleanser. It also kills many kinds of mold. Dilute with water if desired, and use with a little baking soda for extra scrubbing power.



Many herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers use harmful chemicals. In wet weather they mingle with the runoff from lawns and gardens. They enter our rivers and streams, and get into the food chain.

Consider replacing high-maintenance lawns and annuals with hardy native ground covers, perennials, shrubs, and trees.

Hardy native plants thrive with little or no pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or extra watering. For more information, check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Union County residents can get free, expert advice on yard and garden care from a certified Master Gardner through the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, 908-654-9854.

Plant a shade tree on the south or west side of a building to reduce summer cooling bills. Evergreens on the north side will block winter winds and save on heating bills. For more tips on “Greenscaping,” check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.



Gas powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers are a major source of air pollution. Those engines are small but they pack a wallop! Reducing your use of lawn equipment is an effective way to cut your carbon footprint.

Replace part of your lawn with low-maintenance ground covers, shrubs or trees. Expanding an existing garden bed is an easy place to start.

Ask your local garden shop for guidance on hardy plants that are suitable for Union County, or contact the Master Gardeners at 908-654-9854.

You’ll cut the cost of fuel and upkeep by using your lawn equipment on a smaller area, while saving money on water, herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer.

If you’re planning to purchase new yard equipment, consider going electric. Push-mowers are a good choice for small lawns.

Grass clippings give your lawn nutrients. They cut summer watering bills by helping to retain moisture, and they do not contribute to thatch buildup. Instead of bagging them, leave them in place. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has a handy brochure (pdf) with more information.



Modern conveniences have made it easy to use energy – and easy to waste it, too.

Re-discover common sense habits: turn off the lights (and the television, etc.) in empty rooms, refrain from using the toilet as a wastebasket, only wash full loads of laundry, and keep durability in mind when buying home and workplace supplies.

Put on a sweater before turning up the heat, keep a comfy throw on your favorite armchair, and open shades and drapes during the day to let sunlight warm your rooms.

Reach for a glass of cold water before turning up the AC, close shades and drapes during the day to keep rooms cooler, and open windows on cool nights.

Windows are a major source of energy waste, even if they are double-paned. In winter, close shades and drapes at night to keep heat in. In summer, close shades and drapes during the day to keep heat out.

Winter drafts can make a home feel colder than it really is. Shift your favorite armchair to an inner wall, and put a draft-blocker (a long, stuffed tube of fabric) against the bottom of outer doors. A rolled-up towel tied with ribbon will do the trick.



If you are planning to replace part of a lawn with low-maintenance shrubs and perennials, try a rain garden. This simple landscaping trick helps to reduce stormwater runoff and prevent flooding. A rain garden also cuts outdoor watering costs. Rutgers University has a handy rain garden brochure (pdf).


A green roof is covered with grasses, shrubs, and other light plantings. Green roofs are becoming common – even the U.S. Navy is using them! The greenery forms insulation that yields big savings on heating and cooling. Green roofs absorb storm water and help prevent flooding. They also preserve the conventional roof membrane beneath them, which reduces repair and replacement costs.


To learn more about green roofs, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


Did you know…? A green roof eliminates the “heat island” effect of conventional roofs. This helps contribute to cooler summertime temperatures in the community. Green roofs can also include amenities like a picnic areas, a garden for flowers, herbs and vegetables, or even a putting green.


The latest twist in water-saving devices is a toilet with two flushers, usually in the form of buttons. One button releases the standard amount of water needed to flush solid waste. The other button releases about half that amount, to flush liquid waste. For more information on the latest water-saving fixtures, visit the U.S. EPA’s Water Sense Program.


Recent improvements in technology are enabling more buildings to take advantage of the natural heating and cooling properties of the earth. In the U.S., about 40,000 residences have geothermal systems installed every year. To find out more, visit the U.S. Department of Energy.

New technologies and rebate opportunities are bringing solar, wind, recovered waste heat, and other renewable energy within reach for more homes and businesses. For more information, visit the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.