I must admit, I roll my eyes when I see glossy magazine features about startlingly gorgeous celebrity couples and their environmentally friendly homes -- eco-conscious right down to the hand-dyed organic silk underwear in the reclaimed oak drawers. If the planet's waiting for all of us to be able to afford this kind of eco-luxury, it's in trouble.
Luckily, you can buy green and stick to a budget. Here are six ideas for earth-friendly and wallet-friendly shopping:
Cheap green products. The popularity of green buying has made environmentally friendly products a lot more common, so you may find some more affordable than you expect. Home Depot
(NYSE:HD)has an Eco-Options brand, and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)has made it a priority to sell sustainable products at low prices. Retailers have also started to incorporate environmental practices into their operations. The Environmental Protection Agency's list of the 10 greenest power purchasers is topped by Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI), Kohl's, and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX).
Green can be as much a marketing concept as an environmental commitment, so decide for yourself whether your purchases will promote planetary happiness. You can get more information from organizations like Scientific Certifications Systems, which audits companies' environmental claims.
Think value, not just price. You can help the planet and your bank account by consuming less, so make your purchases count. Get the best value for your dollar by buying items that will last a good long time. There's lots of information about product quality in consumer magazines and websites. When possible, buy from companies that back their products with lifetime guarantees.
Reuse other people's stuff. Your neighborhood garage sales and thrift stores can be a great source for cheap stuff in good condition, as can websites like Craigslist and Freecycle. For certain items, like electronics, retailers have even gotten on the reusing bandwagon with discounts for buyers. A few examples: You can buy refurbished iPods through Apple
(NASDAQ:AAPL)and Target (NYSE:TGT), and you can buy returned and refurbished computers through the Dell (NASDAQ:DELL)outlet.
Buy with recycling in mind. Pick products with minimal packaging. Buying in bulk will reduce both your costs and the packaging you have to recycle or throw away. While you're shopping, keep your community's recycling rules in mind and buy products in packaging that will be accepted.
Don't do disposables. Disposable products make your life easier, but you quickly toss them -- and the dollars you spent on them -- straight into the trash. Wherever possible, dispose of the disposables and get something longer-lasting instead.
- Don't buy stuff you don't need. You'll save money and do the world some good.
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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple owns stock in Whole Foods but no other company mentioned in this article. She welcomes your feedback. Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Dell are Stock Advisor picks. Home Depot, Dell, and Wal-Mart are Inside Value recommendations. The Motley Fool has a very friendly disclosure policy.