April
22 - 2011

5 Ways of Investing in a Cheaper, Cleaner Future

 

photo by Iburiedpaul

Happy Earth Day! It’s a great day to think about making one lasting change to make your life greener and cleaner — and maybe cheaper, to boot. Check out several ideas in this guest post from Kate Manning.

Whether you’re simply looking to reduce your carbon footprint, save yourself money or give yourself over to a completely ecological life, there are a number of ways you can transform your kitchen, home and even garbage to make them more environmentally conscientious. Although it’s impossible to totally eliminate your carbon footprint, the recommendations you’ll find below will go a long way to relieving your personal dent on the earth and save you some money at the same time.

Composting

It’s pretty obvious why composting gives the environment some breathing space. When you throw out banana peels in plastic garbage bags, they take much longer to decompose. This is because the plastic blocks bacteria, sunlight and oxygen from biodegradable substances, which slows the process of decomposition. While composting doesn’t provide a solution to all garbage, it does go a long way toward reducing overall landfill volume while providing rich, naturally fertilized soil. Lowering your trash volume will also make your trash bags last longer. (Note from Cheap: And if you pay for trash collection, you’ll save money, too!)

Composting is fairly simple. If you live on a larger piece of land (anything that’s not a zero lot line really), you probably have enough space to set up at least one composting bin. If you don’t have a yard, you can probably find a community compost center nearby or partner with a friend who has access to an outdoor space: anyone who keeps a garden can appreciate the free fertilizer. Whatever your composting needs, you can learn more about how to safely return your household waste to nature at howtocompost.org. (Note from Cheap: Or check out vermicomposting for small spaces.)

Human-Powered Generators

Often, these pop up on news shows about people who have taken “going green” to a different level, but they’re not nearly as odd as you might think. A human-powered generator is simply a generator whose power source is you. They usually are used to charge a 12-volt battery that can be used to any of a number of household appliances, which should reduce your overall reliance of fossil fuel and save you a bit of cash.

Setting up a human-powered generator doesn’t mean you are totally dependent only your own efforts to power designated appliances (a nightmare if you’re ill). You still have the option of unplugging them from the power pack and plugging them into the wall.

What it does mean is that you’ll be reducing your overall fossil fuel consumption by providing some of your own power. Put a hand crank in the laundry room or a bike in the corner of the garage and you’ll augment your health as you help the environment. There are a number of options available on the market, but Windstream Power offers some excellent options to help you easily convert your small appliances into green appliances.

Solar Panels

Solar panels, part of a photovoltaic system, have traditionally been an expensive option to make your home greener, and many people are hesitant make the investment. However, what many don’t realize is that installing solar panels doesn’t have to involve rows of glistening black panels perched on your roof. It can be as simple as putting up one or two panels to supplement your normal power usage.

A good solar power system is generally capable of generating 200 watts of power per panel. This wattage can be stored in batteries or tied into your house’s grid to route the power to your home’s normal outlets. This enables your home to draw less on utility-provided electricity, and in even run a surplus that some utility companies will pay you for. For more information about how solar panels work, visit SustainableSources.com.

Change How You Look at Food

A 2005 study by the European Environmental Agency showed that 1/3 of a household’s environmental impact was related to the consumption of food and drink. This isn’t just related to waste, but everything that goes into producing food. Overfishing, agricultural emissions, pesticide pollution and non-biodegradable packaging all contribute to this problem.

Changing how you buy your food can go a long way to reducing the environmental impact of your household and save plenty of money. Buy locally sourced foods from a farmer’s market; the shorter shipping distances will often knock a bit of overhead off of the cost. You should also find out what fish are considered at risk and avoid buying them. Be sure to buy fresh fish only outside its spawning season as well. Additionally, look for products that come in biodegradable packaging so they can be composted.

Go Vegetarian—at Least Part-Time

A bit more drastic than buying local, but going vegetarian part-time can be a big step toward living greener and is an easy way to save money. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that 18 percent of all greenhouse gases come from the livestock industry, and 8 percent of the world’s fresh water is dedicated to sustaining livestock. Couple this with the rising price of meat and dairy and the case makes itself. Consider preparing one or two meals a week that use no meat, or even animal products of any kind.

Ultimately, saving money the green way is easier than you may think. Simply making a few changes to your diet and your energy use can go a long way toward lessening the amount of money you spend on necessities, and help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint.

Kate Manning is a business major who has worked under others and as a self-employed entrepreneur. She currently owns and manages her own business in Washington State and is a contributor for Online MBA.

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