10 Earth Day challenges that give the planet (and your wallet) a break

We’re all about keeping sustainability simple and fun here at TVA EnergyRight. So this Earth Day, on April 22, we invite you to take the Earth Day Challenge. We’ve rounded up 10 eco-conscious actions you can take to reduce your environmental footprint. Download the Earth Day Challenge Checklist so you can mark your progress as you go. Read on to learn more about each challenge and why it matters to the planet and your bottom line.

What is Earth Day?

For over 50 years, people around the world have observed Earth Day on April 22. Today, more than a billion people recognize the day as an opportunity to practice new planet-friendly behaviors and to create global, national, state and local change. Ready to join 1,000,000,000 new friends in starting new energy-saving habits? 

10 planet-friendly actions that won’t bust the budget

Reducing your impact on the environment doesn’t have to be expensive or inconvenient. Small, consistent actions over time can make a big difference — not just to the planet, but also to your home energy bill. Saving money and helping the environment — we give that two green thumbs up! Let’s jump into these challenges.

1. Complete the free DIY Home Energy Assessment.

Have you ever wondered about all the factors that make up your monthly energy bill? Your insulation, your HVAC system and even the tiny space between your walls and outlet covers play a role in your home’s total energy use. 

TVA EnergyRight offers a free DIY Home Energy Assessment that lets you walk through your home at your own pace and at the time that’s most convenient for you so you can discover exactly how your home is using or losing energy. You’ll get a full customized report at the end of the assessment highlighting energy-saving improvements you can make to lower your energy bill. Plus, you’ll get a free $10 home improvement store gift card and one of our energy-saving kits in the mail. 

Or, if you’d rather an expert assess your home’s savings potential, schedule a Home Energy Evaluation instead. One of our TVA-certified Home Energy Advisors will get it done.

2. Switch to bar soap.

Next time you’re running low on hand or body soap, consider switching to good ol’ fashioned bar soap. Now, before you object, remember that bar soap has come a long way — this is not your grandma’s soap! Today, there really is something for everyone. 

One of the huge pros of using bar soap is that it typically uses zero plastic packaging. Since plastic is made from oil, a nonrenewable energy source, using less of it is always a good thing. That cuts back on plastic in landfills, which can take up to 400 years to break down! Plus, unlike liquid soap or body wash, bar soap is already shelf-stable, which means it contains fewer chemicals and other possible skin irritants. Now there are even shampoo and conditioner bars.

Worried about germs? Rest easy. Multiple studies have proven that bar soap is not any less hygienic than liquid soap.

3. Give your HVAC some TLC.

A well-maintained HVAC system is a happy HVAC system. Basic maintenance allows your system to run more efficiently, which will save you money on your energy bills. We recommend changing your air filter at least once every three months. And we’ll let you in on a little secret . . . basic air filters work just fine. You don’t need to dish out extra cash for the fancier ones with all the bells and whistles. 

We also recommend getting your HVAC system serviced twice a year — once in the spring and once in the fall. This ensures you go into summer with a properly functioning air conditioner and into winter with your heat ready to roll. So, right now is the perfect time to schedule your spring tune-up, and when you do, you can get a $50 rebate

If your HVAC system is 10 or more years old, struggles to keep up with your home’s demand or you experience higher-than-normal energy bills, it might be time to consider upgrading your system. TVA EnergyRight offers a wide range of money-saving rebates on HVAC system upgrades, including everything from mini-splits to geothermal heat pumps. Check out all our rebates.

4. Plug devices into a power strip, then turn the power strip off when you’re done for the day.

How often do you go around unplugging computers, TVs or phone chargers from the wall when you’re done for the day? Probably never. But those devices and electronics are still using energy, even when they’re off. We call this passive energy use “vampire energy.” 

To stop vampire energy in its tracks, we recommend using a power strip. Everything gets plugged into the power strip instead of directly into the wall. Then, when you’re done for the night, all you have to do is turn off the power strip. 

If you want to take the energy savings one step further, consider a smart power strip. It works just like a traditional power strip, only a smart power strip senses when devices have gone into standby mode or aren’t being used and cuts power to them automatically. 

5. Enroll in TVA’s Green Switch to support solar power in our region.

For as little as $2 a month, you can support solar power in the Tennessee Valley by enrolling in Green Switch. With Green Switch, you can match some or all of your electricity use in $2 blocks (each block equals 200kWh) of solar-powered electricity. That’s enough power to run your refrigerator for six months, or the equivalent of saving the carbon emissions of 20 gallons’ worth of gasoline!

Solar power is a renewable energy source with zero carbon emissions. So, when you support Green Switch, you’re making it possible for all Valley residents to breathe cleaner, fresher air. You can enroll or unenroll in Green Switch whenever you like. 

Want to know if your local power company offers Green Switch? Check the list and get in touch with your local power company to sign up. 

6. Celebrate Meatless Mondays with plant-based meals.

What’s meat got to do with saving energy? A lot, actually! A whopping 75% of Earth’s agricultural land is dedicated to livestock production.1 This industry creates more carbon emissions than the plane, train and automobile industries combined. 

But just skipping beef at one meal every Monday for a year reduces your carbon emissions by the equivalent of driving 348 miles.2 You could power an iPhone for six months with the same amount of energy it takes to produce just one quarter-pound burger!3 So, if you want to shake up your meals, save energy and reduce your grocery bill, give Meatless Mondays a try.

7. Opt out of junk mail.

Tired of opening the mailbox to only find credit card and car insurance offers? Now you can save trees and cut the credit card clutter by opting out of junk mail. Just like adding your phone number to a do not call registry, you can take similar action with your mail. Visit DMAchoice.org and Optoutprescreen.com to add your address.

8. Use the dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand.

Are you ready to have one of the biggest energy myths of all time busted? Here goes: You do not save energy or water by washing your dishes by hand. Seriously! An ENERGY STAR® dishwasher uses less than four gallons of water per cycle. A running faucet? Four gallons of water every two minutes. That’s not to mention the energy it takes to heat the water and pump it to your home. You don’t need to wait until your dishwasher is full to run it either. Today’s dishwashers are so much more energy efficient that you will still use less water and energy running a half-empty load than washing by hand.  

Think you can handle one more debunked energy myth? Hold onto your hats, pre-rinsers, this one’s for you! The most energy inefficient thing you can do when it comes to getting your dishes clean is to pre-rinse them. Not only does it take water and energy to do the pre-rinse, but then more water and energy are needed for the dishwasher. So, this Earth Day, we challenge you to take your dishes straight from the dinner table to the dishwasher!

9. Switch to garbage bags made from recovered plastic.

This might be hard to believe, but plastic garbage bags are a relatively new addition to the trash disposal scene, gaining popularity only around the 1950s. And unfortunately, the amount of plastic they use really stinks. Plastic garbage bags are typically made from virgin plastic and are single-use. Basically, they’re designed to be used one time before they head to the landfill — a place where it is pretty unlikely they’ll be recycled.

Life is a lot different than it was in the 1950s, and most of us probably aren’t giving up plastic garbage bags for good. So what’s a helpful alternative? Switch to garbage bags made from recovered plastic. A combination of recycled and reclaimed plastic, recovered plastic bags are just as strong as your average plastic garbage bags and usually come in a recyclable box made of recycled cardboard or paperboard. Plus, they’re available at your favorite grocery store or major online retailer.

10. Don’t mow so low.

Overwatering, evaporation, runoff and water hogs (aka the flora that love to soak up as much water as they can) account for a ton of water waste during the spring and summer months. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as much as 50% of the household water we use outdoors is lost to these factors and others, like wind and inefficient irrigation methods.

One of the easiest ways to reduce water waste in your yard is to raise the blade of your lawn mower. When you give your yard a buzz cut or mow too often, the grass dries out more quickly, leaving your lawn longing for a drink. Taller blades of grass provide shade for each other and retain more water. If you use a landscaper, communicate this to them and adjust your mow schedule accordingly, especially as the peak summer months roll in.

Start taking Earth Day action

Now that you’ve got your challenges, it’s time to take action! Whether you do one or all 10, every energy-saving step you take makes a difference — not just to the planet but to your energy bill, too. Lean on your local power company and TVA EnergyRight for even more tips, resources and programs that can save you energy and money.

Download the Earth Day Challenge Checklist to get started.


The Residential Team


Save energy and money at home. The TVA EnergyRight Residential Team is here to help you improve your home's energy efficiency so you can lower your bill and live more comfortably.