Many consumers fear a “green” lifestyle will hurt their finances. And it’s true – eating organic foods and installing solar paneling can be expensive. But there are ways to be green and budget-savvy. Here are 10 simple ideas.
1. Use natural household cleaners
A number of cleaning products contain harmful chemicals and leave overwhelming fragrance residues. That’s why Kimberly Button, author of “The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home,” keeps her home fresh using cheap, natural products like vinegar and baking soda.
2. Buy generic organic produce.
Purchasing organic fruits and vegetables can quickly run up your total at the checkout line. Renée Loux, an eco-adviser for spas, restaurants and hotels and host of the television show “It’s Easy Being Green,” says more retail chains like Safeway are producing organic items in-house, offering an alternative to pricey organic brand names.
3. Grow your own produce.
Fruit and vegetable gardening takes time, including preparing the soil, irrigating and fertilizing the crops and dealing with pests. If you have spare time to devote such labor, growing your own produce can be cheaper than buying organic produce.
4. Don’t waste food or water when eating out
Button recommends bringing containers to take home leftovers when eating out, since Styrofoam boxes are difficult to recycle. If you’re not going to eat a side dish that comes with your meal, inform your waiter or waitress ahead of time so the food doesn’t go straight from your plate into the trash. Also, if you’re leaving the restaurant shortly, don’t let the server refill your water glass.
5. Burn less fuel.
If you can’t afford to buy a hybrid vehicle, you can still use less gas. When running errands within a short vicinity, park your car at one place and walk to the nearby locations. Unload excess weight from your vehicle, since heavier cars burn gas quicker. According to FuelEconomy.gov, you can also improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires fully inflated.
6. Reduce your home’s “phantom load.”
Some appliances and electronic devices use energy even when they’re turned off; experts call this “phantom load.” Unplugging items such as televisions, cellphone chargers, microwaves and coffee makers when they’re not in use can lower your annual energy bill by around $200.
7. Lease solar panels
If you can’t afford to shell out thousands of dollars for solar panels, consider using a solar leasing company such as SolarCity.com, Sungevity.com and SunRunHome.com. Leasing solar panels starts at around $100 for the average three-bedroom home, and according to SolarCity.com, installing a 4-kilowatt solar system in a home with an electricity bill of $200 per month can reduce the bill to an estimated $60 per month
8. Make sure your home is well-insulated
Houses full of gaps and cracks have poor insulation – and therefore require more air conditioning in the summer and, naturally, more heat in the winter. Low-cost calks, sealants and repairs can improve your home’s insulation and reduce your monthly utility bills.
9. Install a programmable thermostat.
You can use a programmable thermostat to control the temperature of your home. (Some programmable thermostats cost as little as $40.) Homeowners can program the device in the summer so the temperature is higher when they’re at work, then cools down when they’re at home
10. Install energy-efficient lighting.
LED bulbs use only a fraction of the electricity incandescents or compact fluorescents use. They also last up to 10 times as long as CFLs and significantly longer than typical incandescents. By installing LEDs throughout your home, you can save money on both energy and replacement costs