Green is the hot color in catalogs and stores promoting eco-friendly products and services. At times, the options are overwhelming, especially if the budget is tight. Having just celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day last week, it's important to remember there are green strategies for consumers who want to save money and the environment. Here's one blueprint. Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers
Priorities: In my home, I am going green in stages by developing strategies that fit my lifestyle, outlook and budget. With a room-by-room green conversion, I try to lock down meaningful changes in one area before moving to another room. For example, finding green products for the bathroom and kitchen is a priority. From deodorants to dish soaps, I look for organic or eco-friendly products that deliver environmental and health benefits. Likewise, eliminating disposable products in the kitchen is the goal of one friend, who uses cloth napkins and towels — instead of paper goods — for 95 percent of kitchen cleanup chores.
Home office: School papers, banking records and airplane tickets are printed from our home computers. Double-sided printing, whenever possible, saves paper and money. Likewise, the use of recycled ink cartridges can also conserve resources. Home Depot estimates that consumers can save 10 percent per purchase by using recycled cartridges. Or you can make bulk purchases of ink cartridges from the original equipment manufacturer. Multi-packs are less expensive on a per-unit basis and feature less packaging, according to Home Depot, which is offering a free online seminar about ways to save money and resources in home offices.
Energy savings: Cut costs by cutting power usage. The Department of Energy estimates that standby power — energy used by gadgets that are plugged in, but not in use — consumes about 75 percent of the power used by electronics in homes and offices. Save money by placing computer monitors on sleep settings or unplugging battery chargers, microwave ovens and other electronic devices that use standby power. Check your local utility for other energy conservation tips.
Refill: Reduce expenses and landfill waste by using refillable mugs and bottles for coffee, water and tea. If you drink several cups of coffee and bottles of water during the workday, you could be tossing away hundreds of plastic and paper vessels each year.
Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of "The Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money," a coming-of-age memoir about money, and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget."