Clean the lint trap before every load. It's the safe thing to do and the efficient thing to do. A clean trap can save as much as $35 a year in energy costs.
Do your own (linen, storage) closet systems with a bunch of inexpensive clear plastic boxes/bins. Stash all sorts of household essentials in their own box -- for instance, tape, ribbon, razors, soap, shampoo, etc. That way you can see what you already have at home and won't be tempted to overbuy.
Pay attention to all the single-use items in your daily life -- the throwaway plastic water bottles, paper napkins, paper towels, disposable wipes. And try to figure out alternatives: reusable water bottles; cloth napkins; microfiber dusting cloths that can be washed and reused; etc.
Get rid of CFLs -- recycle them -- responsibly. The mercury contained in compact fluorescent light bulbs should not be accumulating in a landfill or, even worse, incinerated.
* Check with your municipality to see if it has scheduled a household hazardous waste collection date with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. And/or in the coming months, get the schedule of those collections by visitinghttp://www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/house hold-haz-waste/hhwc-schedule.html.
* Visithttp://www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling for ongoing waste collection sites.
* Know that IKEA offers free CFL recycling at its stores: 1800 E. McConnor Pkwy., Schaumburg, 847-969-9700; and 750 E. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook, 630-972-7900.
* Check out earth911.org for more on bulb recycling.
Keep shower tiles sparkling clean without using chemicals. After a shower, use a microfiber cloth or chamois to wipe down tiles and fixtures or for glass, use a squeegee.
Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth and save as much as 10 gallons a day, a person. For a family of four, that's 14,600 gallons of water a year.
* Rinse out cans and bottles before throwing them into a recycling bin to discourage vermin and keep food waste off paper.
* Remove caps from bottles, since they are made of different materials. But don't bother trying to remove the plastic or metal rings that are often left from caps on glass bottles.
* It's best to keep paper recyclables dry until collection day. But a night in the rain isn't fatal.
* Don't risk cutting yourself by trying to remove the metal tops from cardboard tubes (in products such as scouring powder and ready-to-bake cinnamon rolls). Separation is ideal, but most recycling programs will process the item anyway, either as metal or mixed paper.