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Go ‘green’ without breaking the bank

Created date

April 27th, 2009

It would be great if we all could go out and buy fuel-efficient hybrid cars and build modern environmentally friendly houses from the ground up. But the reality is that many people who care about protecting the environment don t have the resources to make those kinds of drastic (and initially costly) changes. The good news is that there are plenty of small things we can all do to live a "greener" life, and maybe even conserve some cash in the process. We rounded up some of the best earth-friendly tips to help get you get started. If some of these tips sound familiar, it s because they probably are. "For the most part, what we re doing here isn t new," says Maria Onesto Moran, owner of Green Home Experts, a Chicago-area retailer that sells environmentally friendly home supplies. "It s just a return to the way things were." Earth-friendly tips 1. Clean and green: "Probably one of the easiest things you can do is to make your own cleaning supplies," Onesto Moran says. She says white vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and water can be used to clean just about anything in your house. Natural cleaning agents are better for the planet than the highly toxic products you d buy at the store and they re much cheaper. 2. Energy savers: Onesto Moran says energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs have come down in price since they first became popular for home use. She sells them for about $3 at her shop. Another potential energy waster is your house s heating and cooling system. The Worldwatch Institute, a Washington D.C.-based environmental research group, says turning the thermostat up or down a few degrees can translate into big savings on utility bills.

' 3. Choose to reuse: Where there was once a mop and a bucket, there is now a Swiffer. These days there is a disposable version of just about everything. But, if you want to save the planet and your hard-earned money, Onesto Moran says to opt for reusable items whenever possible. Skip the paper towels and use a cleaning rag, and ditch the plastic baggies and aluminum foil for reusable storage containers, she suggests. ' 4. Veg out: Even the most diehard "meat and potatoes" fans can go without once in a while. The Worldwatch Institute challenges meat-eaters to add a meatless meal once a week. Meat is more expensive at the grocery store, and the production process can take a toll on the environment. Onesto Moran says you can take it a step further by growing your own vegetables at home. Eating from your own garden means fewer trips to the grocery store and gives you greater control over your diet and health. ' 5. Learn to share: There are many things like books and DVDs that you can borrow from the local library for free, saving money and probably a tree or two. Worldwatch Institute suggests getting even more creative in your sharing, by swapping power tools with a neighbor, for example. When you do need to buy something, the group says to check out garage sales and resale shops before you head to the department store. '