Last year, the median annual wage for an American was just over $26,000, the lowest number since 1999. With a slow-growing economy, plummeting incomes, and increasing national debt, environmental concerns are often put on the backburner.
Going green has frequently been stereotyped as expensive: Specialty produce at overpriced shops, expensive hybrid cars and top-of-the-line energy saving appliances are often not in the budget for the average American. Organic and all-natural foods can be more expensive than regular varieties, and hybrid cars can cost thousands of dollars more upfront than their gas-guzzling counterparts, says National Geographic.
But the truth is, going green can actually save money. The focus of the movement is on "reduce, reuse and recycle," as opposed to generating more expensive and complex products. Check out the list below for 10 ways you can actually save money while going green.
Have any other cost-cutting green tips? Let us know in the comments below, and share your thoughts on the costs and benefits of being eco-friendly.
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When your faucet is leaky, or you leave the tap on while washing dishes, money is quite literally going down the drain. Conserving water around the house will significantly cut your water bill, in addition to being environmentally friendly. <a href="http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/ConserveWater.htm#stormwater" target="_hplink">The EPA suggests collecting rainwater in barrels for non-consumption water uses</a>, such as watering a garden or washing your car. Another <a href="http://www.rodale.com/ways-conserve-water?page=0,0" target="_hplink">major water saver is the old "brick in the toilet tank" trick</a>, according to Rodale, which works best with a plastic jug or weights. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/12/save-water-save-money-5-s_n_106728.html" target="_hplink">Click here for more water-saving suggestions</a> from the Huffington Post.
One of the <a href="http://www.duke.edu/web/mms190/textiles/environmental.html" target="_hplink">greatest sources of waste for the textile industry</a> is wastewater. <a href="http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw07-rpt.pdf" target="_hplink">68 pounds of clothes per person are thrown away every year</a> in the U.S., according to the EPA's Office of Solid Waste. That accounts for 4% of all the solid waste in the system. Try shopping at Goodwill or vintage stores, and reuse old clothes as rags or for other household uses. Not only will you be saving tons of money while still finding unique pieces, but your clothing carbon footprint will drop immensely!
It's no surprise that eating at home is cheaper and can be more environmentally friendly than going out. But many of the ways to cut costs at your dinner table are good for the environment as well. The Environmental Working Group claims that <a href="http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/climate-and-environmental-impacts/" target="_hplink">lamb, beef and cheeses have the highest carbon emissions per kilogram</a>. <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/meat-price-spreads.aspx" target="_hplink">These proteins also rank high on the price scale</a>, according to the USDA. Sticking with vegetable proteins and legumes is both cheap and environmentally friendly. Contrary to popular belief, <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/133287/eib71.pdf" target="_hplink">frozen vegetables are not necessarily less expensive than fresh ones</a>, says the USDA. Buy whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables to eat cheap and go easy on the environment.
Recycling is both easy and environmentally responsible. According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, <a href="http://www.deq.state.ms.us/mdeq.nsf/page/Recycling_RecyclingTrivia?OpenDocument" target="_hplink">recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy</a> of creating a completely new can. In addition, it can take a little as <a href="http://www.maine.gov/spo/recycle/residents/whatrecyclablesbecome.htm" target="_hplink">60 days for a recycled can</a> to make it from the bin back to the shelf. Recycling aluminum also saves you money. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2010/04/05/get-money-for-recycling/" target="_hplink">Recycling centers normally pay five to 10 cents per bottle or can</a> in cities with bottle bills, according to Earth911. Non-aluminum recycling can save a pretty penny as well. Keep all plastic containers and glass jars to save money on tupperware and other forms of storage, and check out these tips from The Daily Green on <a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/save-money/reuse-plastic-bottles-460709" target="_hplink">creative ways to reuse plastic bottles</a>.
Plant A Garden
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/07/michelle-obama-nate-berkus-celebrate-fall-harvest_n_1079973.html" target="_hplink">If the first lady can do it</a>, why can't you? Planting your own garden is not only a fun activity, but can save money, cut pesticides and reduce carbon emissions compared to mass-marketed vegetables. According to The Daily Green, you can save up to <em>thousands</em> of dollars by <a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/garden-save-money-47062603" target="_hplink">planting some of your favorite vegetables</a>.
Invest In CFLs
On the surface, incandescent light bulbs may seem like the cheaper option. According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection,<a href="http://www.dep.wv.gov/daq/EnergyEfficiency/Pages/LightbulbComparisonSpreadsheet.aspx" target="_hplink"> an average 40-watt incandescent bulb costs $1.19 per bulb</a> from Lowe's, while an energy equivalent 11-watt compact fluorescent light (CFL) costs almost five times that at $4.98. However, the more energy efficient your light bulb is, the more money you save. Not only do you save on energy costs every month, but energy-efficient bulbs last longer, meaning you don't need to buy new bulbs for years. The National Resources Defense Council says that <a href="http://www.nrdc.org/energy/lightbulbs/?gclid=CMLqj_GnnrICFUhN4Aod8UwAMA" target="_hplink">CFLs are the best consumer value</a>, since they use only a quarter of the energy of an incandescent while lasting 10 times longer. Therefore, each bulb saves at least $30 in energy costs. Although LED light bulbs have a longer lifespan and higher efficiency than CFLs, the high cost per bulb (<a href="http://www.nrdc.org/energy/lightbulbs/?gclid=CMLqj_GnnrICFUhN4Aod8UwAMA" target="_hplink">$10-$30, says the NRDC</a>) make them less commercially viable.
According to the EPA, <a href="http://www.epa.gov/apti/course422/ap3a.html" target="_hplink">mobile sources account for more than half the pollution in the atmosphere</a>, with automobiles as the primary source of air pollution. Given the growing price of gas, driving doesn't come cheap, either. By cutting down on car time, you are saving major emissions as well as cold hard cash. Try to set up a carpool with other parents, look into the public transportation options in your city, and walk as much as possible.
Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
These days, a specialty cleaner exists for every possible surface. However, these fancy products can be expensive, bad for the environment, and just plain unnecessary. A great way to save money while staying eco-friendly is by making your own home cleaners. <a href="http://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value-Distilled-White-Vinegar-16-oz/10450996" target="_hplink">White vinegar</a>, lemon juice and <a href="http://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value-All-Natural-Baking-Soda-16-oz/10315486" target="_hplink">baking soda</a> are wonder products, each costing only cents. Check out <a href="http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm" target="_hplink">Eartheasy's guide</a> to homemade cleaners for recipes and uses.
We all know the phrase "sharing is caring," but have you ever realized that sharing is cheap and environmentally friendly too? According to the Daily Green, <a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/save-money-megaflip#slide-4" target="_hplink">power tools are only used for an average of 30 minutes in their lifetime</a>, still hitting your wallet and the environment. Send around an email list to nearby friends and discuss a communal swap for necessary but not often used items, such as power tools, lawn mowers, flashlights, and more. <a href="http://www.sharesomesugar.com/" target="_hplink">Sharesomesugar.com</a> allows you to find people in your neighborhood looking for a similar swap.
Dryers may be convenient, but they consume mass amounts of water and energy, in addition to money. According to How Stuff Works, <a href="http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/line-dry-laundry.htm" target="_hplink">a single dryer emits more than one ton of carbon dioxide</a> per year, and racks up almost $100 in energy costs. In fact, TreeHugger claims that <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-laundry.html" target="_hplink">dryers are the second biggest energy hogs</a> in the home, behind the refrigerator. After putting your clothes in the washer, dry them on a line outside. It saves money, time, and the environment to boot!
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