The bitter coldness of the Winter season tends to bring out the inner Roger Ebert in even the most positive among us. From chapped lips, to slushy sidewalks, to criminally expensive utility bills- laundry lists of complaints are not difficult to compose this time of year. On the plus side, the act of complaining about the latest Blizzard or the biting 10 degree wind can bring a sense of unity to people of all walks of life. Winter may be punching you in the face, but it is punching us all in the face- regardless of creed, race or religion. Say what you will about old man winter, but he is truly an equal opportunist. 

Besides the comfort offered  by a new found comradery with your fellow man, this Winter you can  find solace in the knowledge that you are doing your part in protecting the environment while reducing your ever-growing energy bills by following any combination of the following tips!

Windows:  Not surprisingly, seeing as they are by their very nature portals to the outside, windows tend to be one of top culprits in heat escaping your home. Luckily, there are ways to prevent your windows from going all Billy the kid on your valuable heat. Try installing heavy curtains or sealing your windows with plastic. If you notice any significant leaks, be sure to seal them with weatherstripping or caulk. Same goes for doorways, don’t let their trustworthy exteriors fool you, doors can be just as guilty of heat thievery as their window brethren.

While you are at it, make your windows work for you. No, you will not need to give them a paycheck come the end of the week, just try opening your blinds when the Sun is out to utilize its incredible heating abilities. No need to check references, the Sun is known for doing a bang up job supplying warmth. If you do not believe me, just ask your cat, Senor Whiskers, next time he is curled comfortably in the one slither of sunlight in the entire house. 

Thermostat:  Listen, I know you love rocking the cut-off jeans look 24-7-365, but it is time to give those bad boys a few months off and turn down the thermostat. No, I don’t mean down to 75, let’s be reasonable. Try keeping the thermostat set to 68 or below when you are at home, and even lower when you are not or you‘re in bed. You should think about investing in a nice, Cosby-like sweater and a programmable thermostat that will take the think work out of all of these temperature adjustments. I know there is not too much time for thinking with that Van Halen cover band you started last year. 

I am fairly certain 85 percent of Americans and 12 percent of dogs received a Snuggie this holiday season, so this is the perfect time to crank down the heat and bust out that stylish blanket. 

Fan: “Fans, they are not just for summer anymore!” – The Council for Fan Awareness. If you missed this entirely fictional campaign by the CFA this fall, you may not be aware of the fact that your ceiling fan is not a place to hang birthday balloons off of during winter months! Ceiling fans in reverse at a low setting help to redistribute warm air that pools near the ceiling. 

Furnace: Furnace maintenance is important. I am not just saying this because the American Furnace Workers Union sent me a Snuggie this holiday season. Your furnace will work less hard and use less fuel if the filter is kept clean. Depending on your furnace, these filters should be cleaned or replaced every one to three months. 

Snow Removal:  Shoveling may have the prestigious position as the most complained about winter activity, right after luging. Other than waiting for the warmer weather of the Spring, which depending on where you live may not come until late May, shoveling is the most eco-friendly way to remove snow from your sidewalks. Also, it will help give you rippling abs that will make you a total babe come beach season. If you just can not fathom parting with your snow blower, opt for electric models. Avoid ones that run on gas, for they release more harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Water Usage: Heating is not alone to blame for your soaring utility costs this winter. Hot water is still a factor, so try to cut down shower times, or take cooler showers- a tip that will help protect your dry winter skin as well as your bank account. You may also try washing your laundry- which hopefully will be cut-offs free for the season- in cold water. 

Winter can be a cruel mistress, but with a little effort you can make these cold months a little easier on the planet and your wallet. So put on your best Cosby sweater, grab a shovel and commiserate with a neighbor or two. Come Spring, small talk is going to get a whole lot  trickier.