Americans have been hearing the phrase "recycle, reduce, reuse" for decades to limit the impact modern society has on the environment. Earth Day 2012 occurs on April 22 and there's still time to make a long-term commitment to your savings account and the planet by going green.
The advancement of technology over the years has given consumers many ways to go green and get environmental tax credits, monetary rebates or ongoing savings in return.
Whether you checked the following items off your green list last year and intend on claiming tax incentives for this tax season, or plan on saving money on utility expenses each month, you've already done your wallet and the world a great deal of good.
1. Plug-in Electric Cars
The environmental tax credits from the Bush era on hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius expired at the close of 2010. However, as automotive advancements continue, drivers can still take advantage of federal tax credits on newer plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles.
Chevrolet's latest plug-in car, the Volt, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf still provide handsome tax credits of up to $7,500 on federal tax returns.
Additionally, these eco-friendly vehicles extend their financial benefits into certain states like California and Tennessee with incentives such as tax credits or rebates.
2. Home Insulation
All homes likely have some form of insulation, but there is an equally likely chance that most are not as energy efficient as they can be.
By re-insulating walls to meet Energy Star standards, homeowners may be eligible for the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit, which accounts for 10 percent of insulation costs in 2011. This credit, however, does not include the cost of labor.
3. Solar Energy
Homeowners who are serious about finding ways to go green can save thousands each year by installing solar energy devices into their homes. For instance, solar panels use the sun's light energy and convert it into useable electricity. Similarly, solar water heaters use the sun's thermal energy to heat the water throughout the residence. Both of these solar-induced technologies provide homeowners with a Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit of 30 percent of costs.
With regard to the solar water heater, it's important to keep in mind that they're used only to heat pools, and jacuzzis are not eligible for this credit. However, unlike the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit, this tax incentive generally includes labor costs into the equation.
4. Unplug Electronics
While you won't get a pat on the back in the form of a tax credit from Uncle Sam, unplugging your home electronics and appliances can save you cash. Items like laptops and coffee makers can be racking up utility bills without you even knowing it. These vampire electronics suck in energy even if they're not actively in use.
To avoid throwing away $130 each year on wasted electricity and to make a pledge for Earth Day 2012, unplug your electronics and kitchen appliances before leaving home. If that's too cumbersome, there are smart power strips on the market now for $30-50 that can detect when a device is on standby and completely halt electricity flow.
5. Plant Native Flora
To feel the rush of money flying back into your pocket, consider replacing your lawn's high-maintenance plant life with native plants. Plants of their own region are naturally tolerant of the area's temperature and environment, thus needing less tending, less fertilizer and less water. Kentuckians, for example, can turn to the local Bluestar for blue blooms that don't cost a fortune to grow. This can also double as a fun family activity for the kids and teach them how their hard work is helping to run an energy-efficient household and helping the Earth in the process.
Make Earth Day 2012 Count
As shown above, there are many ways to go green regardless of your budget. Whether it's purchasing an environmentally-conscious vehicle or cutting down how many times you water the lawn each week, Earth Day 2012 can be a year-round effort that saves you money.
Jennifer Calonia writes for www.GoBankingRates.com, which provides readers informative personal finance and investing content, as well as the best interest rates on financial services nationwide.