Sunday, June 21, 2009

Easy Ways to Go Green: 9 Green Tips for Spending Your Green (Dollars)

1.Take paint precautionsMost paint emits VOCs (volatile organic compounds), the same kind of chemicals found in gasoline and nail polish. But manufacturers like Sherwin-Williams have developed water-based products that perform well but give off virtually no VOCs. Krylon's H20 paint is the first low-VOC latex spray paint that can be cleaned up with soap and water. Made from 99 percent food-grade ingredients, Anna Sova's Healthy Wall Finish (annasova.com) leaves your rooms smelling vaguely like vanilla. To be at least minimally organic, use a water-based latex paint, not an oil-based alkyd paint — and remember, exterior paints should never be used indoors.

2.Raise the roof with recycled materialsIf your old shingles need replacing, consider a Classic Metal Roofing System (classicroof.com). It's made from recycled aluminum cans but resembles traditional shakes or tiles. Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, installing this type of material can qualify you for a $500 tax credit.

3.Choose energy-efficient appliancesLook for the Energy Star label, awarded to fridges, washers, and other products that exceed government efficiency standards by using less water or electricity.

4.Be picky about produceDownload the Shoppers' Guide to Pesticides in Produce at ewg.org. The wallet-size list sorts out the fruits and veggies that tend to be higher in pesticides (like apples and spinach) from produce with a lower count (like bananas and peas).

5.Choose "certified" coffeeYuban coffee is Rainforest Alliance Certified (that means it's grown in a way that preserves the ecosystem). A Fair Trade Certified brand is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. (Both brands are available at many markets.) For more on these certification labels, visit rainforest-alliance.org and transfairusa.org.

6.Support local farmsAt eatwellguide.org, you can plug in your zip code and find suppliers of organic and sustainably produced meat, poultry, eggs and more. If you buy locally, you won't have to rely on farms that ship food nationwide, which helps to decrease our dependence on oil and to cut back on gas emissions.

7.Tote your own grocery bagPaper or plastic? Neither! If you're shopping for a small load, bring along a cute sack like the polka-dot tote from Cath Kidston (cathkidston.com). Another practical option: the ACME Workhorse Style 1500 (reusablebags.com), which crunches into a tiny pouch that fits in your purse.

8.Pay attention to packagingEvery American produces about four and a half pounds of garbage a day. So before you buy something, eyeball the amount of cardboard, plastic, and/or other materials used for the box or wrapping. Wal-Mart is one big retailer that is waking up to the problem: The chain is replacing petroleum-based plastic containers with corn-based packaging for precut fruit, herbs, strawberries, and Brussels sprouts.

9.Invest the green wayEnvironmentally conscious mutual funds are increasingly available through 401(k) plans, especially if employees express interest. To learn more, log on to socialinvest.org; then talk to your benefits administrator.

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