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Shop green, save green

Going green no longer means signing over your paycheck to a fancy specialty store. Saving the earth is coming at less of a price these days, particularly to families who want only eco-friendly items in their shopping carts.

Here are some tips to keep those greenbacks in check while going green:

TRY MASS RETAILERS

While buying environmentally sound products used to mean blowing wads of cash at high-end shops, the times are a-changing. Mass retailers such as Walmart, Target and Costco now offer organic clothing and foods and earth-friendly cleaning items.

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Costco sells its Kirkland brand of phosphate-free laundry detergent for about the same price as its regular detergent. Target and Winn-Dixie market their own brands of green cleaning products. Supermarkets such as Publix offer organic foods and other goods. Office Depot offers a line of environmentally friendly office products and Home Depot sells VOC-free paint.

COMPARE PRICES



Whole Foods Market, at the forefront of the green movement for some 30 years, has seen its price structure change as demand for environmentally friendly products has risen.

“Being green has almost become trendy,” said Russ Benblatt, regional marketing director for Whole Foods. “It’s the basic law of economics -- the higher the demand, the bigger the supply, the lower the price.”

Benblatt said this past fall, the prices of organic apples actually dipped below those of conventional apples because the organic supply was so large.

“Organic prices have come down drastically because there’s so much demand for it,” he said.

To appeal to the cost-conscious customer, Whole Foods offers a store brand of merchandise and sells many items, including grains, cereals, nuts and dried fruit, in bulk.

“To save money, look for products with the least amount of packaging,” Benblatt advises.

The stores also offer classes on topics such as how to make your own baby food and “Savvy Shopper” tours, to help customers identify ways to save.

“Being environmentally friendly has become mainstream and popular,” Benblatt said. “We’ve been doing this for 30 years. We’re just happy everybody else is catching up.”

CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE

For some families, the value of natural, healthful products for their families is worth it – at any price.

“When I buy organic produce, I don’t even look at the price because I don’t want to feed my family pesticides,” said Mylene D’Arelli, owner of Greendwellers, a Plantation boutique that sells organic and earth-friendly products for the home and body. “You will pay a little bit of a premium for organic.”

But D’Arelli says going green can still put some cash back into your pocket, if you choose products that will save electricity and water. Using items such as compact fluorescent light bulbs will lower your electricity bill. D’Arelli also sells low-flow faucets, water-saving shower heads and duel-flush toilets, which will reduce the water usage in your home.

“But it’s not only the products, it’s what you do – recycling, turning off lights and not letting the water run when you brush your teeth – that will save you money. It’s your lifestyle, too,” she said.

BUY LESS, REUSE MORE

Rebecca Carter, who blogs about everything green in South Florida, says her biggest money-saver is trying not to buy anything new.

Her favorite consignment store, Baby Posh Garage in Aventura, is a major source of toys, clothing and baby paraphernalia for her 10-month-old son, she said.

“These things can go through family after family,” Carter said. “And the best thing is when I’m done with something, I can go back, sell it and get half my money back.”

Carter has scooped up some great items online.

“There’s so much free and used stuff in fantastic condition, I think that’s the way to go, especially in this economy. It helps families and it helps the environment,” Carter said.

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