With utility bills and health safety concerns rising, environmentally-friendly home improvements have many benefits: They are kinder on the environment and can save money in the long run. But they can also be pricey. Here are five ways to save on popular “green” home improvements:

Landscaping

Xeriscaping replaces traditional landscaping and reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water. The idea is to use native plants that would grow naturally in the area where you live, in addition to other plants that require little (or no) water. Many cities offer rebates to residents who choose to xeriscape. For example, the Las Vegas Water District offers up to $1.50 per square foot of grass that is converted. Many local water districts offer similar programs.

The process of xeriscaping typically starts by letting the lawn die. That area is then filled with rocks and plants. The most cost-efficient way to xeriscape is to do it in stages, but that process can take years (and usually requires the support of neighbors who will have to look at an ugly yard as the xeriscaping process runs its course). The average cost can range from a few dollars per square foot depending on the location, size, plants, and local rebates offered. Xeriscaping can ultimately reduce landscape water use by 50 to 75%.

Window Coverings

Blackout curtains reduce utility bills and greenhouse gasses by up to 25%, according to studies. They can be found for less than $50 on Amazon, and other retailers offer these curtains at reasonable prices in almost every color, shape and size.

Paint

Zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint is ideal because it contains no toxins, making it better for people and the environment. But it can be costly, too. Low-VOC paint is just as the name indicates: It contains lower amounts of toxins yet is significantly safer than traditional paint and less expensive than zero VOC. Sherwin Williams offers a zero-VOC line called "Harmony" which has an anti-microbial ingredient that helps resist mold, is virtually odor free, and is designed to handle multiple washings. Sherwin Williams also offers a series of four-day only 40% off sales throughout the year; sales in the past were held late September, early November, mid-April, and mid-July. Sherwin Williams also offers free designer assistance. The company currently has a 25% off coupon available online that is good through Jan. 28. The retail cost of "Harmony" is $50.99 per gallon, but with the 40% off, the price drops to a little over $30 per gallon, which is about the same price you will pay for low-VOC paint. Watch local home improvement stores and online for zero-VOC paint sales for other brands.

Flooring

Carpet often tops the list of items to replace when it comes to green home improvements. Carpeting is considered a bad choice for the environment for several reasons: It wears quicker than other flooring options, meaning it needs to be replaced more frequently, it uses dyes that can contain toxins, and the manufacturing process produces a large amount of waste. Laminate flooring is an attractive alternative because it is more affordable, durable, environmentally-friendly and relatively easy to install. Lumber Liquidators frequently offers laminate flooring for prices as low as $0.19 per square foot. Heads up: When they are out of the $0.19 per square foot flooring, they may have some extra boxes left over from another special order to sell at deep discounts. They offered us a price of $0.39 per square foot for high-quality laminate ruminates, which gave us the look of real hardwood at half the price!

Faucets and Fixtures

One of the greatest reasons home improvements can harm the environment? All that discarded material that is thrown out to make way for upgrades. Many builders and homeowners take old pieces to centers where that old material can be repurposed and used for a new project. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore has more than 800 locations throughout the country. These stores have slightly used faucets, sinks, fixtures, lamps, cabinet doors, lighting and more for up to 90% off retail price.

This has been a guest post by Brenda from Las Vegas, NV
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