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Go green and save money

A  one-time investment of $30 will upgrade your old thermostat to a programmable version, which can lead to savings around $100 a year in energy costs. (©iStockphoto.com/Melinda Fawver) A one-time investment of $30 will upgrade your old thermostat to a programmable version, which can lead to savings around $100 a year in energy costs. (©iStockphoto.com/Melinda Fawver)

By Amy Levin-Epstein for Green Goes Simple

Sure, protecting the environment can sometimes mean spending more, but there are plenty of ways that greening your life can help keep more green in your wallet. "Living green and healthy can be done on a budget and, in many cases, can actually save you money," says Sara Snow, green lifestyle expert and author of Sara Snow's Fresh Living. Here are six tips from Snow on how any family -- with any budget -- can start helping the planet and saving money today.

Make Time for a Tune-up

Next time you get your oil changed, spring for a new air filter, which can improve fuel efficiency by 10 percent. Driving around with a clean air filter, properly inflated tires and working spark plugs can save you as much as $600 a year in fuel and maintenance charges.

Be a Biker

If you haven't already joined the ranks of the two-wheeled, you can start by buying an inexpensive used bike online. Assuming you spend about $30 a week in gas, you could save up to $1,500 a year in fuel costs by peddling from point A to point B. Even if you only bike once or twice a week, it will still add up to some serious dough. The bonus? You'll get nice toned legs along the way.

Go Veggie

Not only does meat cost more money than vegetables, it costs the environment more resources, including water and feed. Even if you can't quit turkey, well, cold turkey, try going veggie a few days each week. If you spend about $20 on meat each week, you could save around $500 a year by eating it half as often. Plus, a healthy plant-based diet may reduce your medical bills as well.

Streamline Your Stuff

Be the ultimate antihoarder by selling valuable household items that you rarely use. The Belgian waffle maker gifted by your Aunt Suzy last Christmas? Let it go. The vintage roller skates you never got around to using? Say goodbye. If you sell your I-made-one-juice-last-year $300 juicer for $100, you'll be recycling the product -- and cycling some money back into your bank account. You can host a garage sale or offload used things to new owners online. 

Buy a Better Bulb

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent lightbulbs. Plus, each CFL can save you about $30 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb. Figuring that a CFL bulb will last about 10 years, that's $3 per year per bulb. By replacing 20 bulbs in your house, you'll save $60 annually in lighting costs -- clearly, a bright idea.

Take Control of Your Thermostat

Your thermostat no longer calls the shots automatically. A one-time investment of $30 will upgrade your old device to a programmable version that will allow you to control when and how intensely your home will be heated or cooled. You can also set the thermostat to turn off when you're away or asleep, saving around $100 a year in energy costs.

Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who's been published in magazines like Glamour, Self and Prevention, on websites like AOL, Babble and Details and in newspapers like The New York Post and the Boston Globe. You can read more of her writing at AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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