Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting Tax Refund Money? 10 Ways to Spend Your Green, Greenly

It's the third Friday of the month and that means we're privileged to have a guest post by Adam Shake of Twilight Earth. Today he's talking about how to spend our tax refunds wisely and greenly.

A common misconception amongst many people is that being green costs more money, than not. This is not true, and in fact, the opposite is true. Being green saves you green. But just like most things in life, there is sometimes an up front cost involved, and that cost, over time, pays for itself or cost's less than a conventional product.

We've put together a list of items that will help you live a healthier life, help you keep the planet clean and will save you money. It’s a win, win, win situation!

  1. An Energy Star Washing Machine - While saving over $50.00 per year, the machine will pay for itself through its average life-cycle of 10 years. Kenmore, GE, Asko and Miele are just a few of the companies that sell these models.
  2. An Energy Star Dishwasher - This has a double bonus. Not only will you be saving money on electricity, but these use 25-50% less water than a non Energy Star rated Dishwasher. Save some green and use fewer resources.
  3. Energy Star Refrigerator - Standard Fridges account for a whopping 15% of your household electric use. But there is good news, new Energy Star Refrigerators use 40% less energy than models sold in 2001! One of these could easily save you $50.00 a year in electric expense.
  4. High Efficiency Water Heater - Saving you over $100.00 a year through less energy use and water use, for most homes you can get the heater itself for $600 - $1,200. Sounds like a good deal.
  5. Upgrade your insulation - There are many homes, especially those in the South West that don't have adequate insulation. Proper insulation is one of the most overlooked energy saving methods out there, and should be started in the attic. Just about any insulation investment will pay for itself in less than five years. You can also buy great insulation made in the US out of recycled and sustainable materials such as Cocoon cellulose insulation (recycled newspaper), Ultratouch recycled denim insulation, and BioBased insulation (made from soybean oil)
  6. New Windows - If you do not have them already, installing energy-efficient, or double-paned windows can be a great way to use your refund. Not only will installing these new windows keep the cold out and the heat in, but you can also claim federal tax deductions for qualifying installations, if installed before December 31st of 2009. You can deduct 10% of the cost, up to $200 for all windows, skylights, and storm windows.
  7. Change out your light bulbs and shower heads - Perhaps you’ve been waiting to change your incandescent lights to compact fluorescents or LEDs because the latter are expensive. Now’s the time spend a couple hundred dollars and get really energy-efficient lighting throughout your home– and for outdoors as well. Compact fluorescent lights will last ten times as long as standard bulbs, and LED lights will last 5-10 times longer than the fluorescents. You’ll save money and energy. Also spend $50 to get a few low-water-use shower heads. These shower heads can save you 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of water per person per year. And they work great! You won’t know you’re in a low-flow shower!
  8. Alternative Energy Stocks - It looks as if the economy may be turning around, but even if we have to wait a bit, Alternative Energy Stocks are the way to go. Check out sites like for more ideas and tips.
  9. Invest in a Garden - What's better than healthy eating, saving money on groceries and spending time outside? Not much. Did you know that the largest selling seed in the United States is grass seed? Did you know that there is more grass grown in this country than corn? Gardening is the way to go.
  10. Saving your green - One of the things we like to say here at Twilight Earth is that "Sometimes, the greenest thing to do, is to do nothing at all." The only thing I would suggest replacing with energy efficient substitutes is light-bulbs and shower-heads. (Unless it is time to replace other things) Nothing else should be replaced if it has already been installed and is in good working order. The energy it takes to create things often offsets the savings of replacing them. Please don't go ripping out hardwood flooring to replace it with bamboo. Please don't tear out counter-tops to replace them with recycled glass ones. Only replace when needed, and then replace with green!

Adam Shake is the founder of Twilight Earth, a blog that brings news and excellent commentary on what is going on with the environment worldwide that we need to care about. Whether he's educating about the environmental impact of things like coal or simply sharing his breathtaking photos of nature, I always learn something at his site. Visit Twilight Earth and look around (and check out my guest post on his site today).

On his blog he says "I’m about sharing with you what I know, what I’m learning, and what I’m ignorant about in reference to this huge subject that we call the environment." That's what we appreciate around here.

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