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Save the World—and Save Money

Take care of the environment and fill the piggy bank at the same time.

En español | When Tish Leon ditched her Camaro for a bicycle to commute to work, it wasn’t about going green or even about saving money. It was an easy way for the 57-year-old Mexican American to get some exercise and get around town.

“It’s amazing how many of us are green without even realizing it,” Leon says.

See also: Consider using alternative energy sources.

She estimates that biking to get to work and run other errands saved her more than $300 in gas in 2008 compared to the prior year.

Though other people have longer commutes or live in neighborhoods that may keep them from following Leon’s lead, there are many things you can do to go green and fill the piggy bank at the same time. In fact, saving the environment often means saving money, says Lisa Mastny, senior editor at the Worldwatch Institute, which focuses on global environmental issues.

“A lot of it is basically going back to basics,” Mastny says.

Sometimes people are under the misconception that going green translates to buying the newest, expensive green product at the drugstore. Not so. For instance, homemade cleaners work just as well and are usually cheaper and greener, says Mastny.

“Baking soda works just as well [as more expensive store-bought products] when scrubbing,” Mastny points out. “A lot of the older generation will probably remember when they used vinegar and basic soap and other homemade cleaners.”

In addition to riding her bicycle to work and around her hometown of Santa Ana, California, Leon also reuses paper at work, drinks from a mug instead of disposable cups, and pays her bills online.

She's not the only one going green. According to a 2008 report by the Consumer Electronics Association, over half of consumers plan to engage in more environmentally friendly behaviors this year.

And according to a Branding and Integrated Marketing 2007 report, nearly nine in 10 Americans say they are more likely to buy from companies that manufacture energy-efficient products, and about 87 percent say they were committed to buying products from companies that commit to environmentally friendly practices, as long as their products are of equal quality and price.

Leon says living a simple lifestyle has always helped her cut back and save. Gift giving for her doesn't have to mean a trip to the mall, but instead an adventure to her nearest secondhand store, where she buys handmade pottery. Then she bakes cookies, places them inside the pot, and wraps it up with a dishtowel.

“That started in the ‘70s, in my hippie days,” Leon says. “I was a poor, starving student, and it become a way of giving on a budget. I don't even think of that as living green.”

Check out these sites for more tips:

GenGreen Life: This resource guide includes more than 36,000 listings to help people live a green life.

Worldwatch Institute: With a focus on global environmental issues, this organization suggests 10 ways to go green and save money.

Center for a New American Dream: This resource for sustainable living offers tips from eating to buying to gift giving.

These links are provided for informational purposes only. AARP does not endorse, and has no control over, or responsibility for, the linked sites or the content, advertisements, materials, products, or services available on or throughout these sites.

You may also like: Mature activism may save the planet.>>

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