With gas prices swinging wildly in the past couple of years, people have been looking for alternatives to gas-guzzling SUVs.
But while the sales numbers for the Toyota Prius vouch for the hybrid's popularity, at an average starting price of just under $23,000, the car is more expensive than most of its non-hybrid compact counterparts. The savings one gets from fewer trips to the pump will take years, if ever, to see actual overall savings.
While most of us would like to live the life of an economic crusader, many of us simply can't afford to. At least, we think we can't afford to. We've got bills to pay, and while it sure might feel good to drive around in a Prius, we can still buy a Ford Focus or Honda Civic for about $7,000 less.
However, going green doesn't always have to be an expensive project. According to Jeanie Pyun, former editor of Sprig.com, a now-defunct website dedicated to the green lifestyle, there are many ways to save green by going green.
"A lot of people come across on little things, and they learn more and more and more, and then, before you know it, they are seeing green traits in products," said Pyun. "It could be something that they seek out because it's less toxic, it's better for you, it tastes better or the quality tends to be better."
Trade In Those Old Gadgets
Throwing away old computers, cell phones and other gadgets can be very harmful to the environment because of the chemicals they can deposit in landfills. But there are places you can go where you can turn in your old gadgets and get cash back in return.
One website dedicated to this is CellForCash.com, which will take you old cell phone and give you cash in return. How much money you can get varies depending on the type of phone. Most phones listed on the site are recycled for free, but some earn rewards of more than $60."They will dispose of it for you in an environmentally responsible way, so by being green you are actually making money," said Pyun.
Other large retail stores such as Best Buy will take your old computer and give you a discount on your upgrade.
"You could save, like, $58 on a Mac upgrade. So, you are actually making unexpected money," said Pyun.
Buying a compact florescent light bulb will be more expensive than a regular bulb, but florescent bulbs tend to last longer and will save you money in the long run. A compact bulb can cost around $5.According to Popular Mechanics, the average US household has 45 light bulbs. A compact florescent bulb can potentially use one-third the electricity of a regular bulb and last up to nine years, so replacing all your bulbs can save up to $180 a year.
"It can decrease your energy usage for light bulbs by nearly 75 percent," said Pyun. "And if you're a little lazy, like I am, you never have to change them. They never die. I have light bulbs in my house that have been going for five years, and I am used to pulling out my step ladder and changing bulbs, but I haven't had to do that for a very long time. So they save you a lot of money over time."
Fluorescent bulbs have a reputation of giving off a depressing, sickly light. But technology has changed over the years, and there are many newer fluorescent bulbs that provide warmer light.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are available in a variety of styles, including warmer light for living spaces and more traditional fluorescent light for work spaces.
CFLs fit in standard lamps and come in many shapes, ranging from ones that look like traditional bulbs to "squiggly" models that take traditional fluorescent tubes and bend them into spiral shapes.
Unplug If It Isn't In Use
By taking a few minutes to unplug electronics that aren't in use around your house, you can save on your electric bill.
"Home electronics use a vast majority of power when they are turned off. You have to unplug them because they kind of sip off the energy grid the whole time," said Pyun. "And you're paying for that. So if you go around unplugging things, it can have a big impact on your utility bill."
According to environmental activist Laurie David, founder of StopGlobalWarming.org, Americans spend more money on their utility bill paying for electronics when they are turned off than when they are in use, and unplugging them can save hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs.
Switching to low-flow shower heads and toilets can also cut dollars off of your monthly utility bills.
"It's a good idea to go low-flow because -- particularly in the shower -- you are using water that gets heated by your heating system, and you're paying for that twice," said Pyun. "So, that can have a big impact as well."
Say 'No' To The Brawny Man
Many people use paper towels to clean up around the house, weather it's for dusting or wiping down the kitchen counter. But think of how many sheets of towels one goes through in a lifetime. By switching to rags for around-the-house cleaning, you can save trees and dollars at the same time.