How to Go Green on a Budget

By: Danny Lipford

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Instead of spending a fortune on expensive eco-friendly products for your home, try these simple ways to go green on a shoestring that can save you money while helping the environment.

Indoor Air Quality

Sealing up your house is a great way to save energy, but it can also trap harmful chemicals and other pollutants in your home. One of the best ways to clean the air is by installing a high quality air filter, which can remove up to 99% of dust, pollen, mold spores, and smoke. To work effectively, it’s important to change the air filter at least every three months.

Another way to reduce indoor air pollution is by literally “going green.” Houseplants can act like natural air filters by absorbing harmful chemicals while releasing oxygen in the air. Some of the most effective ones are:

  • Philodendron
  • English ivy
  • Spider plant
  • Cornstalk dracaena
  • Janet Craig dracaena
  • Weeping fig
  • Golden pothos
  • Peace lily
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Bamboo palm

Find out more in our article on the Best Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air Quality.

Heating and Cooling

Having enough natural light in a room can not only keep you from having to turn on lights during the day, but it can be used to regulate the temperature of your home as well. During cold weather, open curtains or blinds on the sunny side of the house to let in solar energy, then close them at night to retain heat. Reverse the process in the summer by closing curtains and blinds on the south and west sides of the house during the day.

Another option is to install window film on the inside of the glass. This will allow natural light into your home while reducing solar heat gain and harmful UV rays.

A truly “green” solution to reducing solar heat gain is to plant deciduous trees near windows on the south and west sides of your house. The trees block the sun in the summer but shed their leaves in the winter to let heat in. Deciduous trees include:

  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Beech
  • Poplar
  • Birch

Other ways to reduce your heating and cooling bills include:

  • Set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter.
  • Dress warmer indoors in the winter and wear lightweight clothes in the summer.
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate air in the winter and provide cooling in the summer.
  • Caulk cracks and holes on the outside of your house.
  • Replace weather stripping around windows and doors if needed.
  • Examine HVAC ductwork to see if it’s sealed and insulated properly.
  • Look in attics and basements to be sure you have adequate insulation or visit for more information.


To go green in the kitchen:

  • Use a slow cooker when preparing meals rather than the oven.
  • Avoid opening and closing the refrigerator door more than necessary.
  • Don’t prerinse dishes for the dishwasher, and run only full loads.
  • Install a water filter rather than buying bottled water.

Laundry Room

To save water and energy when washing and drying clothes:

  • Run only full loads in the washing machine, and use cold water settings.
  • Clean the lint filter on the dryer regularly.
  • Don’t overload the clothes dryer.
  • Dry clothes outside on a clothes line whenever possible.

Hot Water Heater

To save energy on hot water:

  • Turn down the thermostat on the hot water heater to 120º F or less.
  • Install foam insulation on hot water pipes.
  • Drain a bucket of water from the water heater every year or flush it out completely.

Conserving Water

The average family uses nearly 150,000 gallons of water a year, much of which is wasted. To save water in your home:

  • Turn off the water while brushing teeth or shaving.
  • Take shorter showers and replace existing showerheads with low-flow models.
  • Install low-flow aerators on kitchen and bath faucets.
  • Repair plumbing leaks in pipes, faucets, and toilets.

For more information, check out our article on Water Conservation in the Home.

Recycle and Reuse

Recycling is a great way to cut down on waste. Most municipalities have a central recycling center or offer curbside recycling. Items that should be recycled include:

  • Paper
  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Metal cans
  • Aluminum cans
  • Batteries
  • CFL light bulbs and fluorescent tubes
  • Household chemicals and paints
  • Grease and motor oil
  • Electronic products such as old televisions, computers, printers, and cell phones.

Reusing existing products saves even more than recycling, since it eliminates the need for reprocessing. Donate unwanted items to your local reuse store or go there to purchase materials for your next home improvement project. Not only will you be helping the environment, but you’ll save money as well.

Other Tips from This Episode

Removing Grease from Kitchen Cabinets

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Removing Grease from Cabinets

To cut through grease on kitchen cabinets, heat a damp sponge in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds. Spray the cabinet with a citrus based cleaner and use the hot sponge to remove the grease. Wipe off any remaining residue with a paper towel. The combination of the citrus cleaner and hot sponge will remove the grease in half the time without harmful chemicals.

Concrobium Mold Control

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Concrobium Mold Control

Mold in your home can cause serious health problems, but the toxic chemicals used to combat it are often just as harmful. Concrobium Mold Control kills and prevents mold without dangerous chemicals. It’s odorless and contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Concrobium Mold Control is available at The Home Depot.

Saving Water with Low-Flow Showerheads

Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Low-Flow Showerheads

Showers account for almost a fourth of individual water use. Installing low-flow showerheads in your home saves both water and energy. For more ways to reduce the water you use, check out our article Water Conservation in the Home.

Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.



Please Leave a Comment

5 Comments on “How to Go Green on a Budget”

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  • Joann Says:
    December 27th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Danny,

    I would like to know, if a person moves into a house that has beautiful white kitchen cabinets, but they want oak cabinets — do they have to replace those cabinets, or is there something else they can do to those cabinets.

  • solar heat information Says:
    November 30th, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks for your simple suggestions within budget. Electricity can also be produced using solar panels. Solar power is a very powerful and free way of generating electricity to power a home, and is a type of renewable energy. I think it is also used mostly for homes at lower cost than other energy systems.

  • Greywater Guy Says:
    November 22nd, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Build your own Greywater Recycling System with plans from and save up to 30% or more on your monthly water bill. Conserve our resources, save your planet!

  • Ben C - Solar Refrigerators Says:
    November 12th, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    If you can afford the move to Solar powered refrigerators and freezers. They will pay for themselves in a few years.
    You can also run them off wind or hydro generators and batteries.

  • Greg Says:
    November 8th, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Here is a link to some examples of low flow faucet aerators ranging in gallon per minute flow from 2.2 gpm all the way down to .5 gpm There are also swivel spray low flow aerators on the site which are nice for the kitchen. Any of these can be found at a local hardware store for under $10.

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