Going green is a smart financial strategy

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ATHENS, Ga. — Going green can do more than preserve the environment, says a University of Georgia financial expert. It can save you a lot of money, too.

“Making a few changes in what you buy and how you use energy and water can add up to substantial savings,” said Joan Koonce, a financial expert with UGA Cooperative Extension. The savings can top $9,000 a year.

If that money is then invested at a 12 percent interest return over 25 years, it could theoretically be turned into a million dollars, she said.

According to the book Go Green, Live Rich by David Bach, a few common areas where you can save by adopting greener habits include:

Transportation. Driving a small, fuel-efficient or bio-diesel car can save $800 a year. You can save almost as much by keeping a vehicle properly maintained.

Living without a car can save $8,500 a year and making one less trip a week can save $215 annually.

Home. Adding insulation and repairing leaks can save $500 a year. Changing a thermostat a few degrees can add $114 in savings a year. Unplug appliances and save $94. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or take shorter showers to save $72.

Replace old appliances with Energy Star ones to save $50 per appliance.

Planted trees and shrubs around the house can save $177 a year on heating and cooling costs.

Shopping. Buy in bulk at the store and save $800 a year. If you make your own cleaning products, you could save $580 annually.

Purchasing one less bottled water a day can add up to $500 in savings in a year.

Another way to save is to grow your own produce. Packing lunch instead of eating out can save $2,250 a year.

Investing. Once you save some “green” money, consider investing it in a green company. Green investing is investing in socially responsible or socially conscious companies that try to improve, or not damage, the environment through their operations, Koonce said.

Do your homework before investing, whether it is in a green company, a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund. And don’t invest your entire portfolio in just one area. Diversification is still important.

“Not everyone can make all of these lifestyles changes, but we can all make a few changes and save some money and the environment,” Koonce said.

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