Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that “green” is the new black. And parents everywhere are tripping over themselves in an effort to tread less on the planet and leave the world in decent shape for their children.
But many families find that “going green” can be an expensive and confusing endeavor, causing some families to admit they just can’t afford to “eco-parent.” Is it financially feasible for U.S. families to go green? The answer is not so simple. While there are many ways to green your lifestyle that will make a huge dent in your wallet, there are just as many more that will actually save you money in the long run.
Dana Enck, of Charleston, South Carolina, is one mom who went green - because she wanted to save money. “Almost all of my green choices are driven by either direct savings, like buying water in large refillable containers, or an indirect impact, such as bringing my own grocery sacks to hopefully reduce overhead at the grocery store over time, passing savings on to me in the future.”
“I've found being ‘greener’ to be less expensive,” Enck says. “I make my own laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent at pennies a load. I also make my own counter spray, glass cleaner, and floor wash. My vegetables and fruits come from the local farms and farmer markets, and they are dollars a unit cheaper.”
The timing couldn’t be better to look for saving in sustainability. As families struggle to cope with rising gas prices and increasing grocery bills, many find, like Enck, that going green is simply a way to save money.
“Living ‘green’ offers a very smart framework for living on a budget, since an eco-lifestyle is one that saves energy, reduces consumption, and ultimately saves money,” explains Diane MacEacher, environmental advocate and author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World. “Think about clothes. Growing fibers and manufacturing clothing create a significant environmental impact. That's why buying gently used clothing makes so much sense. ‘Thrift shop’ shopping keeps the household budget under control while promoting resource conservation.”
As for cleaning products, MacEacher thinks that “no one needs to buy the new (and often expensive) ‘eco’ cleaners. Baking soda, vinegar and water are not only the cheapest ingredients to use - they're also among the most effective and least dangerous to the environment or our health.”
Interested in going green? Read on to see which changes you can make on your budget at hand.
For a significant investment you can:
- Buy a Hybrid car. Studies are conflicted as to whether Hybrid car buyers will recoup the added expense for their purchase in gas savings. Even with gas at over $4 a gallon, it may take 3 years for the Hybrid to “pay off.” But factor into that the higher resale value of a Hybrid, and it becomes a more attractive offer.
- Buy energy-star rated appliances. If you’re in the market for new appliances anyway, this is a no-brainer. But if not, this could be a huge chunk of money you may not want to spend.
For a moderate amount of money, you can:
- Check the insulation in your home. A window here or an attic door there may need adjusting. And may help your monthly bills at the same time.
- Use low-flow shower heads. Or reduce the time spent in the shower. Make it a game for your kids to see who can take the shortest shower and still get clean. Set a timer, and encourage your child to use it.
- Install motion-activated light switches. This will eliminate the need for you to nag about turning the lights off each time the kids bound from one room to the next.
On an even the smallest budget, you can:
- Switch to CFL bulbs. They’re about the same price as the old kind, but last longer and use less energy, saving you money.
- Ride your bike, carpool, or use public transportation. Run errands all at the same time. Reduce the amount of time you are driving your car, no matter what you drive.
- Turn stuff off when you aren’t using it. Lights are a no-brainer, but take a look at what else you may have plugged in – chargers, TVs, video games. Many appliances are using power when connected to the outlet, even if they aren’t on.
- Eat local. Cutting back on the some certain food items means reducing the amount of carbon-emissions from the trucks who deliver them. This is better for your health and the environment.
Whether you want to go green to save the planet, or simply save your bank account, start small and go from there. With a few conscious changes, your family will be green before you know it.