From composting to recycling, a green lifestyle can seem complicated and costly. But you can still live green while saving time and money, according to Trish Riley, the Florida-based author of Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Living ( $16.95).
Riley recommends a ''one-step-at-a-time'' approach to adopting environmentally friendly choices into your lifestyle. Pick an area and gradually make greener choices in that part of your life.
Riley made reducing her family's exposure to harsh synthetic chemicals -- linked to many health problems -- a top priority. She began by taking her arsenal of harsh cleaning supplies to a hazardous waste disposal site. Now she cleans her house with safer solutions, including essential oils (drops of lavender, cedar wood, grapefruit oil) mixed with warm or hot water. Those oils -- very affordable at health food stores -- are effective cleaners with proven antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria. And they smell yummy.
Essential oils also substitute for commercial air freshener sprays and sticks. In my home, a decorative container filled with a mixture of essential oils and water provides a light scent.
''Apply the principles of aromatherapy when choosing the oil,'' Riley says.
In aromatherapy, peppermint oil is valued for stimulation; lavender oil is associated with relaxation; citrus oils (especially grapefruit and lime) are considered refreshing.
Other eco-friendly cleaning options include vinegar and water and baking soda powder. Arm & Hammer, the baking soda manufacturer, offers a room-by-room guide for cleaning with baking soda at its website: http://www.armhammer.com/.
Riley's book also features low-effort, low-cost green tips for lawn care. For example, lawn clippings provide the grass with valuable nitration and moisture. Also, clovers in your yard can be left rather than pulled as weeds because they provide the soil with nitrates.
You can save money and time by finding long-term alternatives to toss-away products. Organic cotton sacks are a safer option to the plastic bags provided by many stores.
Replace plastic water bottles with tap-filtered water and reusable stainless steel or glass bottles. You can even tote around the old-school collapsible cups that fit neatly into a purse or brief case.
These solutions eliminate the volume of plastic products that release harmful chemicals into the environment and our food.
''Everything doesn't have to be disposable,'' Riley says.
Dawn, a popular blogger at Frugal For Life (http://www.frugalforlife.blogspot.com/), recently posted a list of money-saving green solutions to everyday situations.
Her list of ''paper alternatives'' includes:
• Reusable coffee filters: Rather than use 365 paper filters a year, consider purchasing reusable coffee filters that work for three years. Reusable filters are sold by online coffee supply vendors.
• Cloth diapers: Make, buy or rent your own from a diaper service.
• Rags, dusters and sponges: There are many long-term solutions to rip-and-toss paper towels. Turn old T-shirts, linens and towels into cleaning cloths and dusting rags.
• Feminine products: Various reusable alternatives to feminine hygiene products are sold at drugstores and medical supply outlets
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