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During the past few years, "green" living has gone mainstream. Words like "carbon footprint" are commonplace and many companies are trying to highlight (sometimes even fabricate) how eco-friendly they are so that consumers will view them more favorably.
But one thing you may wonder, whether you've considered switching to plant-based cleaners, energy star appliances, organic cotton clothing, or a backyard composter made from recycled plastic is this: Why does "doing good" for the earth have to be so darn expensive? Organic, natural, plant-based, recycled, biodegradable, and fair trade do—for the most part—cost more. And that higher expense, unfortunately, deters many consumers from changing their ways.
But if you're willing to spend a little time and think creatively, there are plenty of zero- and low-cost options to green your lifestyle, diet and home. In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, here are some of the cheap ways you can go green to protect our planet:
1. Buy secondhand. If you do need something, buying secondhand is always better than buying new, even if that new product is eco-friendly. Buying secondhand uses existing resources instead of tapping into new ones.
2. Stop buying single-use disposable goods. If you are regularly buying single-use disposable items, such as bottled water, disposable toilet scrubbers and the like, consider investing those same dollars into a more permanent solution to save money and decrease waste that goes to landfills.
3. Unplug and turn off. When plugged into an outlet, many electronics are using power even when they're off. You could invest in an expensive "smart" power strip to prevent this, or for free, you can simply make it a habit to unplug your electronics whenever you aren't using them.
4. Opt out of mailing lists and switch to paperless billing. This will save you time, paper waste, and postage. Each time you buy something from a website or catalog, request that company not share your address with anyone else and say you do not want to be added to their mailing list. And don't forget about officially opting out of credit offers (it's free and easy!) to prevent even more junk mail from coming your way.
5. Buy fewer packaged foods. Those little plastic produce bags for your apples and broccoli—totally optional. When possible, forgo food packaging or try to make some of your purchasing decisions based on foods that use less packaging. This most often will apply to processed foods that you often don't need to eat anyway. When you do, choose the larger sizes in lieu of small packages or single serving items to decrease packaging waste.
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