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: Six Cheapskate Ways to Green the Earth
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Published March 13, 2008 01:29 AM

Six Cheapskate Ways to Green the Earth

Sure, you've seen An Inconvenient Truth and cringed at the image of that CGI polar bear swimming in the ocean for miles, with no ice in sight. Since you don't want any polar bear blood on your hands, you've resolved to go greener by eating organic, switching over to CFL light bulbs, supporting only eco-conscious businesses, and doing whatever else Al Gore asks of you.

The only problem? Environmentalism can be very expensive. You can spend your entire weekly grocery budget on a few packages of organic meat at Whole Foods, and that eco-friendly bamboo t-shirt you ordered last week didn't come cheap, either. While you'd love to save the planet, you'd also like to keep your kitchen pantry stocked with something more than ramen noodles.

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Luckily, you don't need to choose between paying your mortgage and stopping global warming — there are plenty of ways you can go green without spending a single dollar. Here are some of our favorite ways to help the earth when you're on a budget.

Recycle. Simple, free, easy. Plus, in some states, you'll even get money back for recycling cans and bottles — and what's more budget-friendly than that?

Don't buy new stuff. Whether you're looking for furniture, books, appliances, or clothing (except underwear — we draw the line there), avoid paying top-dollar at retail shops. By buying second-hand goods or using a free trading service like Freecycle, you can get what you need for cheap or free, without supporting industries that draw on the Earth's precious resources.

Do it yourself. Rather than buying expensive green cleaning products, make your own with household supplies. You've probably already got everything you need to create all-natural, eco-friendly household cleaners. To make a scrubbing solution that's perfect for cleaning bathtubs, simply combine half a cup of baking soda with enough liquid detergent to make a spreadable solution. For an earth-friendly window cleaning spray, an oven cleaner, a furniture polish, and more, check out Care2's list of great green cleaning mixes.

Green your commute. Can't afford to buy a pricey hybrid? No problem - there are plenty of other ways to reduce your carbon footprint. If you live near the office, try biking there instead of driving whenever the weather's nice enough (also a great way to work out for free). If not, buy a monthly bus pass, or try carpooling with a neighbor - read our tips for finding a driving buddy here.

The most eco-friendly commute of all, of course, is telecommuting. Your boss may not let you work in your PJs every day, but if you can score a single day each week to work from home, you could drastically reduce your carbon emissions each year. So if your boss still isn't buying it, tell him the Earth depends on it and he just might cave. Check out this article for more great tips to win him over.

Grow your own food. Depending on where you live, this may not always be an option — but generally, we can all find at least a few months a year when it's easy to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables, which can supplement our daily diet while reducing our carbon footprint. If you don't have a garden plot to call your own, you can still get in on the game — visit this site to find your nearest community garden, where you'll be welcome to plant your own crops.

Flip the switch. It's one of the easiest ways to conserve power, but sometimes it can be tough to remember to turn off lights and electronic equipment when they're not in use. Whenever you leave a room, make a point of turning off the lights, TV, computer, and any other appliances or electronics if you know you won't be back within the next few minutes. And, as each light bulb burns out, make the switch to energy-saving CFL bulbs to stay green even while you're using power. CFLs cost a bit more than regular light bulbs, but you'll more than make up for the extra few dollars when it comes time to pay your electric bill.

Original story by Kathryn Hawkins

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