Sometimes environmentally friendly alternatives are more expensive, which makes them harder to manage on a tight budget. But there are many, often unexpected, ways to save money while being "green." Here are a few tips:
Kill energy vampires
Have you ever noticed how many appliances and electronic devices in your home burn lights or digital displays even after they're turned off? They're called energy vampires because they suck energy whenever they're plugged in - even in standby mode; about 5 percent of your monthly electricity bill, by some estimates.
Energy vampires include televisions, DVD players, stereos, computers, microwaves, cell phone and iPod chargers (regardless of whether devices are fully charged or even attached) - the list goes on. Try plugging these devices in only as needed or attaching them to power strips so you can turn them all off at once every night. Hint: Satellite- or cable-based television DVR recorders may have to be plugged in separately to operate properly.
It's the water
Besides sucking up millions of barrels of oil to make the plastic bottles, bottled water is just plain expensive: Per ounce it costs more than gasoline and is several thousand times more costly than tap water. Instead of feeding the landfill, buy a water filter and lightweight, reusable metal containers and save yourself hundreds of dollars a year.
Speaking of water, did you know that a faucet leaking one drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons a year? Throw in a leaky toilet and faulty lawn sprinklers and we're talking serious money. Numerous websites offer water conservation tips, including the National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org/water/waterconservation.cfm) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov/areyouready/appendix_a.)
Recharge your batteries
Think of all the batteries you buy every year for remote controls, cameras, video game handsets, etc. Consider buying rechargeable batteries that can be recharged hundreds of times, exponentially offsetting their higher initial cost. Just be sure to dispose of all batteries properly since they can leach toxic chemicals into landfill.
Recycle old electronics
Before trading up to a new flat-screen TV, computer or cell phone, note that older CRT televisions and computer monitors typically contain up to eight pounds of lead, while cell phone batteries and computer circuit boards harbor toxic metals. Plus, what's outmoded for you may still be an upgrade for many others, so rather than throwing away used electronic equipment, recycle or pass it along.
Many electronic retailers now offer free recycling programs for electronics, printer cartridges, batteries and other e-waste. Visit www.mygreenelectronics.com for zip code-searchable links to recycling and reuse programs. The site also features an energy calculator that shows you how much your various electronic devices cost when in use or idling.
Used is good
You may balk at wearing used socks, but what's wrong with using previously owned dishes, furniture or garden tools that are still in good shape? Check out the Freecycle Network (www.freecycle.org), a worldwide network of thousands of grassroots groups with more than 5 million members who are dedicated to reusing and keeping "good stuff" out of landfills. Another good search engine for recycling programs is www.earth911.org.
Make the world a better place for your grandchildren - and save a little money in the bargain.
Jason Alderman directs Visa's financial education programs. Sign up for his free monthly e-Newsletter at www.practicalmoneyskills.com/newsletter.