Today, going green is not just a way to help our blue planet but a concept that can help you save money, time, and maybe add some genuinely healthy aspects to your lifestyle. Adding a little “green” may bring back emotions long forgotten or a new sense of inspiration from the genuine contribution you are making to yourself and the planet.

Green (or sustainable) living refers to a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of Earth’s natural resources. When fully embraced, the lifestyle can offer smart consumer choices that benefit your health, your pocketbook, and the environment. It is these benefits of the lifestyle that make green living so rewarding.

So how do we get started?

One of the first priorities in living green is to reduce your carbon footprint. The carbon footprint refers to the measure of the impact your activities have on the environment. This can easily be reduced, starting with your home. Using energy–efficient lighting, appliances, and vehicles will not only minimize your carbon footprint but your monthly bills. Your heating and cooling system is one of the biggest contributors to your electric usage. Small adjustments such as an annual tune–up and cleaning or replacing filters monthly will improve its efficiency. Details such as turning off lights when not in use and closing blinds or shades on the south– and west–facing windows during the day will also reduce power usage. These small steps will spend less of Earth’s resources and provide you financial relief regarding your electricity bill.

Going somewhere? Why not ride a bicycle or walk? The human body uses very little energy, expels zero pollution, and is completely free. The health benefits of the exercise are endless, with firming, toning, and calorie–burning being just the beginning. The slower pace of biking, walking also enables us to experience the beauty of locale. And, who knows, you just may get reacquainted with Mother Nature and gain a new perspective on the importance of green space.

One of the healthiest aspects of the green lifestyle is “green eating.” And green eating’s most important tool is organic food. Due to the absence of non–organic pesticides and fertilizers, organic foods actually have higher nutritional value than conventional food, further boosting the health benefits of this healthy lifestyle. In regards to meat products, the animals must be reared without growth hormones or routine antibiotics. The food must be free of artificial food additives and is often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials, and conditions (such as chemical ripening). Also, it is required to be produced using energy–saving technologies and packaged using recyclable or biodegradable materials when possible. Organic food is also usually the product of local or nearby farms and food providers, and by purchasing the product you are boosting your regional economy.

These changes, coupled with the comfort that you are improving the environment and saving money, should make living green an exciting new challenge with plenty of rewards for those willing to participate.

By Carlos Jaramillo