DARLINGTON COLUMN: Go green and save green

I was standing behind a woman in the checkout line the other day as she was buying mostly organic products. When she saw her total, she said to the cashier, “It does cost more to be eco-friendly, but it pays off eventually.”

She's right that it pays off, but I have to disagree that being eco-conscious has to cost more.

There are so many ways to make sustainable choices without having to fork out extra cash. Here are some easy, cost-efficient choices you can make every day to help your environment and your family's health.

Healthy food

I can't talk about healthy, sustainably made food without first mentioning Trader Joe's. Even if you aren't a big “health nut,” Trader Joe's gives the incentive to eat healthier by making most of its store-brand products cheaper than goods at other stores.

Things I routinely buy at Trader Joe's include Greek yogurt, tofu, orange juice, hummus and wine (organic wine is priced as low as $3 a bottle).

When it comes to produce, always go for the locally grown stuff. Not only will it support the local economy, you'll help cut back on the emissions caused by transporting foods. Piggly Wiggly and the Vegetable Bin are among the best places to look first.

In-season produce such as dark greens and citrus fruits will be cheapest right now.

Sustainable cleaning

When you see large warning labels and hazard symbols on cleaning products, consider them big, red flags. Not only are these artificial chemicals bad for your health and hard on the environment, they also may be overpriced.

Instead, find natural alternatives such as baking soda and white vinegar, both of which can be found at dollar stores. For a fresh scent, add a few drops of lemon juice. Also, try to use old T-shirts and towels instead of paper products whenever you can.

Recycle, reward

Recycling doesn't just mean throwing trash in the right bins. It's a guiding principle of how to make eco-conscious decisions every day. For example, when you need batteries, splurge on rechargeable ones.

When you clean out your closet, donate your old clothes or sell your gently used items online. Amazon Trade-in, for example, will buy your electronics, DVDs and textbooks in exchange for Amazon.com gift cards.

You can receive deals and bonuses for making eco-friendly efforts. At Recyclebank.com, each sustainable decision you make earns points that can be redeemed for exclusive coupons.

If going green hasn't already been your goal, give it a shot this year. You may be surprised at how easy it can be and how much money it can save you.

Email Abigail Darlington at Charlestonsavvyshopper@postandcourier.com. Find more ways to save by liking our Facebook page and visiting the blog at charlestonsavvyshopper.com.

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