Think Green

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Going green makes financial sense

Being "green" is not just a buzzword today but also a way of life for an increasing number of people. The benefits of making some environmental strides not only extend to safeguarding resources for future generations. For those who have not yet embraced environmentally friendly actions, perhaps the financial rewards of doing so may be the catalyst for change.

A side effect of being environmentally conscious often can be saving money. In fact, depending on the initiatives taken, savings can be anywhere from a few dollars to several thousand. Naturally, some eco-changes do require an initial investment, such as purchasing a new energy-saving device or appliance. Many others do not and only save you money.

Whether you're looking for tried-and-true ways to go green, relatively easy ways to save money or both, the following are some ideas that work.

• Cook more meals at home. Convenience meals may be easy, but they're more expensive than cooking fresh meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What's more, convenience foods tend to be overly packaged and may be shipped great distances. Simply packing a lunch for work each day can save you around $100 per month.

• Find a carpooling buddy. Share your ride to work with one or more people, and not only are you saving fuel, wear and tear on your car and possible toll charges, but you will save money as well. Some calculations paint a savings of around $650 a year for carpoolers who share their ride and gas bill with only one friend. That may be incentive enough to split commuting costs and tasks.

• Try public transportation. If you are more of a commuting loner or do not have anyone nearby to split the ride, try switching to public transportation, where available. Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint by using mass transit, biking or walking to work, but you will also save thousands on trips that would depreciate your vehicle's value.

• Make smarter buys. So many items are available at the click of a button or by visiting mass retail chains. However, not every purchase is a smart buy — even if it costs less. Some cheap consumer goods are not worth the smaller price tag. They're produced overseas in areas with lax environmental regulations and then may be shipped thousands of miles. Sometimes buying more expensive, locally produced items makes better financial sense in the long run. These products will last longer and not need replacing in mere months.

• Rent, borrow and give. Most people are at fault for purchasing a gadget, tool or small appliance they had every intention of putting to good use. But after one use, that item is now collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. Instead of always thinking to buy first, save money by investigating rental agreements or borrowing belongings from others. Plenty of people have equally dusty items sitting in their homes that they'll likely lend out. The cost is considerably less than purchasing new, especially for a one-time use item.

• Grow a garden. Produce prices continue to climb. An easy way to save money and have ultimate control over what fertilizers and pest remedies are used on fruits and vegetables is to grow them yourself. Save hundreds on salad greens, tomatoes, potatoes, and strawberries. Plus, a home garden offers the convenience of fresh produce close by when it's needed.

• Do an energy audit. Your home is probably wasting money right now. Simple improvements that make a home more efficient can save the average homeowner considerably. Caulking, sealing windows, ensuring heating and cooling systems are working efficiently and a load of other minor repairs can save on energy costs. Additionally, you may be eligible for home tax credits.