Individuals and communities have increasingly become “Earth conscious,” making heroic efforts to save our planet from climate change, deforestation, pollution and other threats. While taking personal responsibility to repair the world may seem like a daunting task, it is actually a lot easier—and more affordable—than you may think. After making an investment in Mother Earth you can even save money. That means more green in your pocket in exchange for a greener, cleaner planet.
Still not convinced you can make a difference and be financially responsible? Here are three easy ways that you can go green and save money.
1. Clean Cruising
Transportation is a big culprit in emitting harmful greenhouse gases. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles account for 27 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse emissions, second only to the electricity sector. Limiting driving by walking, biking or carpooling are simple ways to reduce greenhouse gases. There are also guaranteed monthly savings in fuel, insurance and vehicle maintenance, as well as wasting less time in traffic.
If giving up your car is out of the question, it may be time to consider a fuel-efficient hybrid or an all-electric vehicle. But they’re way more expensive than a conventional vehicle, no? A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that popular alternative energy cars are already beating 2030 emissions standards—while today’s average carbon emitting vehicles are 50 percent higher than the 2030 standard—and they are more affordable over the vehicle’s lifespan when considering energy and operating costs. There are money savings before driving off the lot, too. New all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are currently eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. Driving clean isn’t as financially messy after all.
2. Sensational Solar
Do you suffer from a solar energy crisis? You drive past a house outfitted with rows of solar panels, knowing they’re helping the environment and providing long-term savings to its owner, but you’re intimidated by the expense of doing it yourself. You may be surprised to learn that going solar is easily achievable and the cost savings are real.
While residential solar panels can cost between $15,000 and $40,000, a loan through Prosper combined with federal government subsidies, can make this energy investment manageable. Until December 31, 2021, Americans who install a solar energy system, like solar panels or solar water heaters, receive a 30 percent federal income tax credit with no limit on the cost of the system. This is above and beyond the monthly savings you’ll receive off your electric bill, and depending on which state you live in, homeowners using solar energy can save more than $30,000 in electricity cost over 20 years. Some cities, like Los Angeles, have even bought back stored energy from homeowners with solar panels.
Still feeling squirrelly about solar? Then save money and decrease your carbon footprint by better insulating, weather-proofing and sealing your home, and by simply changing out conventional light bulbs for more efficient LED bulbs. You can save $75 a year by doing just that. Unplugging appliances and purchasing household items that have earned an ENERGY STAR label are other simple ways to protect the planet and save you money.
3. Buy Local, Eat Organic
Most of the food we eat travels far before it reaches our plates. On average, food travels 1,500 miles from its source to the U.S. consumer, creating a massive carbon footprint. You can reverse this trend by eating local, which is typically defined as eating food produced within a 100-mile radius of your hometown. Doing so can make a dramatic impact. In 2014, Columbia University reported that conventional food distribution caused 5 to 17 times more CO2 emissions than local and regionally produced food.
Eating organically can be worth the extra cost and benefit to our planet, too. While CO2 emissions is a major issue in food production and transportation, non-CO2 greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide and methane found in fertilizer and pesticides make up a more potent environmental problem. As a matter of fact, nitrous oxide emissions are 298 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2. Putting that into perspective makes organic eating appetizing.
Whether starting small by walking to your local farmer’s market to pick up an organic apple, or going all-in with an electric car and solar home, there are many ways you can save the planet while saving money.