It doesn't have to take a lot of greenbacks—or a lot of time—to go green. We've put together simple steps that fit into every area of your life, no matter what your level of eco-interest.
Free: Wipe up with old t-shirts and dishcloths instead of buying sponges or using paper products that will just end up in a landfill.
Cheap: Make your own cleaning products with baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.
Eco-investment: Purchase cleaning products made with toxin-free and biodegradable ingredients (like Method).
Free: Make a list of grooming must-haves-and stick to it. Buying only the essentials reduces the amount of packaging you throw away (not to mention cabinet clutter).
Cheap: Cook up self-care concoctions using natural ingredients. Get recipes at totalbeauty.com (search for "homemade beauty").
Eco-investment: Buy only products that do not contain problematic ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances and petroleum derivatives.
Free: Unplug electronics when they're not in use to save "phantom energy" that can add up to 5 percent to your electricity bill each year.
Cheap: Contact your power company to find out whether you can purchase solar and wind power. You can also buy carbon offsets equal to the amount of energy your home uses at carbonfund.org.
Eco-investment: Get an energy audit of your home to find out where you're wasting energy and how to fix the problem.
Free: Drive the speed limit to save gas-and 13 to 42 cents per gallon. (Get other simple tips to maximize your miles per gallon at fueleconomy.gov/FEG/drive.shtml.)
Cheap: As often as possible, carpool with friends and colleagues to work and other group gathering places, or take public transit.
Eco-investment: Purchase a vehicle that gets at least 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
Free: Switch to "cold" for every load to make a huge impact: About 90 percent of the energy required to wash clothing is used to heat the water.
Cheap: To protect waterways, choose laundry detergents free of chemicals like phosphates, bleach and synthetic fragrances.
Eco-investment: Choose a front-loading washer with the Energy Star logo and halve the water and energy used by your top loader. Look for a dryer with a sensor that shuts the machine off when clothes are dry. Find the most efficient models at greenerchoices.org (search for washers/dryers).
In the bathroom
Free: Conserve 10 or more gallons of water each day by reducing the amount of H2O used to flush your toilet. Place pebbles into a plastic gallon jug, fill with water and place into the tank (avoid the working parts).
Cheap: Install a low-flow showerhead ($15 to $50) to save 3 to 4 gallons of water per minute while you shower.
Eco-investment: Get a low-flow toilet (prices start around $250) that uses no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, about 30 percent less than conventional models.