Spending to save the planet: Frugal dilemmas

April 22, 2011|By Liz F. Kay

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

I hope you'll get an opportunity to take advantage of some of the Earth Day freebies, deals and discounts we mentioned yesterday. Many reward behavior that benefits the planet, such as carrying a reusable beverage container or offering a reusable bag to tote your purchases.

Some greener choices make good economic as well as environmental sense: shops sometimes offer smaller discounts yearround when you bring your own mug or bag; making your home more energy efficient can lower your utility bills; and keeping your car's tires filled can improve your gas mileage.

But don't let cost be a false guide to where you should invest in green improvements. BGE's electric rates will continue to drop this year, reports Sun business columnist Jay Hancock, so it may take longer for insulation, etc. to pay for itself. Then again, there's no guarantee how long electricity prices will stay low.

You might also decide it's worth a premium to buy something with a green label --- but not every product lives up to its claim. For example, a few years ago the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on manufacturers of soft bamboo fabrics that were reportedly biodegradable and antimicrobial in addition to sustainable --- except the chemical process of turning it into flexible rayon requires toxic chemicals and eliminates the beneficial properties of bamboo itself, according to GreenerChoices.org, a Consumer Reports site. (This is not an issue when bamboo is used as a wood, as in flooring or cutting boards.)

Let's remember that we probably can't save the planet with our credit cards. The old mantra is "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" and we should not ignore the first two of those Rs. So, while it might be better to buy organic cotton t-shirts, maybe it's best not to buy more t-shirts. Unless, you need them.

What changes and choices have you made with sustainability in mind, and how have they impacted your wallet? Please tell us about them in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

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