Go Green!

Saving the environment can help you save big bucks

Samara Swanston enjoys a positive cash flow. She recently received a $2,000 tax credit. In addition, her monthly utility bill dropped about $20, and her grocery bill is at an all-time low. What’s her secret? The answer is simple: She’s gone green.

Environmental concerns such as climate change are alerting Americans to take better care of mother Earth. “Unless we start working toward [protecting the environment] now, our children and our grandchildren will inherit an environmental legacy of deforestation, polluted water and air, and unpredictable weather patterns,” says Dianne D. Glave, adjunct professor of history at Morehouse College and co-editor of To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History (University of Pittsburgh Press; $24.95).

Going green, or making environmentally conscious decisions, isn’t simply a matter of eating local produce. We can all do our part, and doing so will improve our quality of life–and bank account.

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Internal Revenue Service offers tax credits for purchasing energy-efficient appliances and products. Here are some other ways to choose conscientiously and save a few bucks in the process.

Go Green To Save Green
Purchase Energy Star products. According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, businesses and households saved approximately $14 billion on energy costs last year by using Energy Star products. “We’ve worked with manufacturers and set a voluntary performance standard for efficiency, and if they choose to meet it, they get to use our label on their box or product,” says Jerry Lawson, national manager for Energy Star Small Business. Some retailers like Maytag offer a mail-in cash rebate of up to $500 on select Energy Star products from stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Insulate your water heater. Heater insulation keeps water hot longer and qualifies for a tax credit of 10% of the cost (up to $500 for all home improvements combined). According to Lawson, homeowners should insulate heaters that are more than 5 years old. “If [the heater] is warm to the touch and losing heat, you need to put on the sleeve for insulation. The sleeves are under no stress, so they’re good for many years,” he says. Go to www.energystar.gov for details.

Purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle. If you purchase or lease a new hybrid gas-electric car or truck, you can get a tax credit of up to $3,400. “I got a tax credit for [my 2003 Toyota Prius]. My car has more than 100,000 miles on it, and I’m still getting 45 miles to 50 miles a gallon … and producing half the pollution,” says Swanston, an administrative law judge with the New York City Environmental Control Board. Keep in mind, hybrids may be more expensive to purchase than their gas-only counterparts.

Install a low-flow shower head. A low-flow shower head, which can be purchased at home improvement stores, uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute; a regular shower head uses 5 to 8 gallons per minute. You’ll save more

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