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10 waste-saving ideas under $10

Sometimes it feels like being green means shelling out a lot of green.

Don't be discouraged if you can't afford a Prius or solar-paneled rooftop. These tips for your home all cost less than $10, and most of them will actually end up saving you more money than the original expenditure. Many are aesthetically pleasing as well.

• 1. Set your water temperature to 120 degrees or below. If you're not sure how, call the Energy Trust of Oregon, 503-220-2360, for help. If you have kids, this also is a great safety measure.

• 2. Make sure dormant computers are in low-power or standby modes. This saves about 70 percent of the overall energy used by the computer. Laptops use much less energy than desktops.

• 3. Keep refrigerator coils clean and dust-free - your fridge won't have to work as hard or use as much electricity.

• 4. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. Although they can be more expensive than traditional bulbs, they last longer and are much more energy efficient.

The Energy Trust of Oregon has teamed up with local retailers to encourage use of the bulbs, commonly referred to as CFLs, by offering them for as little as 99 cents through the end of November. Participating stores are listed at www.energytrust.org/residential/ehp/swat.html.

• 5. Unplug anything that 'stays on' even when it's off. Your stereo, television, VCR, DVD, phone charger and anything with a remote control still use energy when they're turned off.

One way to make this easier is to plug several electronics into a power strip, so you can turn them all on and off with just one flick.

• 6. Buy a Nalgene water bottle. Sure, you can reuse a Fiji or Crystal Geyser bottle a few times, but the plastic isn't meant for extended use and could grow mold. Even if you recycle the bottle, energy is used both making and recycling it.

Nalgene bottles are made from a combination of polycarbonate, polyethylene and polypropylene. They're dishwasher- and microwave-safe, keep drinks either hot or cold longer than regular plastic, and come in lots of shapes, colors and sizes, including sippy cups and flasks.

Just about every outdoor store in Oregon carries the bottles for $7 to $10, or order directly from www.nalgeneoutdoor.com.

• 7. Use fabric grocery bags - not only are they more attractive and easier to handle, they save an immense amount of paper and plastic.

Collect several for big shopping trips. Until you're in the habit of using them, keep a couple in the car. Use the same bags for other purchases, like books, clothes or drugstore items. The added bonus is not having tons of bags to clutter your home or fill up recycling bins; supermarket plastic bags are particularly pesky since they're often too flimsy to reuse and can't be recycled curbside.

A good, sturdy bag made specifically for groceries is the EcoSpun, sold at www.clothbag.com. They're made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled soda bottles spun into fiber and range in price from $4.25 to $6.75.

• 8. Buy reusable plastic bags and food covers.

Mirador (503-231-5175, www.mirador-pdx.com) sells plastic produce bags that can be washed and reused indefinitely. Packages of 10 come in three sizes, ranging in price from $4 to $9. Throw a bunch in your new fabric grocery bag for produce shopping.

Mirador also carries washable plastic bowl covers to put over leftovers. They look like little shower caps with pictures of fruit printed on them. The built-in elastic makes them easier to use than plastic wrap - they just pop right over the bowl. A set of six in a variety of sizes costs $1.50.

• 9. Purchase nuts, pasta and other dried goods, as well as oils, cleaning supplies, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and gel soap, in bulk.

Reuse your bulk containers (when you're done with current bottles of shampoo, lotion, honey, olive oil, etc., wash and reuse them). To make the process easier, gather a bunch of receptacles and go to New Seasons, or another store that stocks bulk products, and have all your containers weighed. Use a grease pen, label or masking tape and stick the weight right on the container.

Then you won't be charged for the weight of the container, and you won't have to bother with getting them weighed each time you go shopping. Throw a little pad and pen in your (fabric) grocery bag, in case you need to write down cooking instructions.

• 10. Make your own cloth napkins and dish/cleaning rags with recycled cloth.

Go to a thrift store and buy old sheets, fabric or curtains that you like (or use fabrics you have at home) and cut them up. If you can sew, hem them. Mix fabrics or make patterns.

They'll look fun and original, and they'll be a great dinner-party conversation piece.

- Brooke Myers