Going Green at Home: What Will It Cost?

Many people are interested in joining the eco-friendly movement that is sweeping the nation, and indeed, the globe. But most are worried that they simply can’t afford the additional costs associated with environmentally sound products and services. Even if they’re willing to put in time and effort in order to ensure a greener future for all mankind, they might not have the extra cash on hand to make their green dreams a reality (especially with the recession dragging on). But turning your home into a bastion of eco-awareness might not be quite as expensive as you think. With consumers calling for more and more products that do less harm to the environment, the market for green goods has expanded, subsequently increasing competition and causing prices to drop. So while you can certainly drop a ton of money on green living, you don’t necessarily have to spend and arm and a leg to reduce your carbon footprint these days.

You might be surprised by the many ways you can go green at home with no additional cost. And in some cases you’ll even save over what you’re currently paying. The easiest way to start is with recycling, and if you do it right you can actually earn a few bucks in the process. By saving up cans, bottles, and other items to take to the recycling center you can generate large enough loads that the money you earn from turning over these items will pay for your trip and then some. Of course, it’s also pretty easy to conserve, and this could help you to save, as well.

There are two main types of conservation in the home: energy and water. Both are pretty easy thanks to a slew of useful products. Okay, so there’s no denying that replacing your appliances with energy-star models is expensive. But considering that the fridge sucks up twice as much energy as any other appliance, you can start by replacing just this one item to see instant savings on your utility bills. In short, this type of switch could pay for itself in time.

Of course, you can also opt for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) instead of incandescent bulbs. They may cost a couple of dollars more up front, but considering that they last 10 times as long and use a third of the energy, you’ll quickly see a return on investment. As for conserving water, low-flow toilets, aerated faucets, and cisterns to collect rainwater (for your landscaping) will cost you initially. But contact your local DWP to see if they offer rebates when you purchase these items (you could get up to half back) and then check your next water bill to see the savings.

There’s even more, though. You can also plant your own organic garden (to save over the cost of produce at the grocery store). You can scour Craigslist to find consumer goods to give a second life (virtually recycling them) rather than supporting new manufacturing (and the pollution and waste that go along with it). You can even look into solar energy. Did you know that the government mandate for increased alternative energy has prompted many power companies to offer solar packages? You pay nothing up front for installation; you simply make monthly payments (like a loan) in lieu of your power bill (which is now nothing thanks to free energy from the sun) and in 20 years you will have paid off the solar panels. In the meantime you’re not pulling power off the grid. Of course, these changes won’t likely net you enough of a return to cover your mortgage rate, but they will save you a little, pay for any upfront costs over time, and help you to make your home life a little greener, all of which make them well worthwhile.