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Seven ways to be green with money

Financial service providers are picking up the "eco" baton and running with it -- meaning consumers can factor environmental concerns into everything from utility tariffs, tax returns and even mortgages. Read on...

india Updated: May 08, 2008 14:25 IST
Jennifer Hill

Financial service providers are picking up the "eco" baton and running with it -- meaning consumers can factor environmental concerns into everything from utility tariffs, tax returns and even mortgages.

Here, are seven ways they can do it.

Use green energy
The 14 million households that have never changed their electricity tariff could save money -- and the planet.

They could save more than 1.2 billion pounds between them and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 million tonnes by swapping to the cheapest green tariffs, according to price comparison site moneysupermarket.com.

Website Greenhelpline.com allows people to search environmentally friendly energy tariffs, as well as source local food producers.

Energy from renewable sources is, however, generally more expensive than electricity from non-renewable resources and cost savings are generally only available to those who have never switched provider.

Greenhelpline.com, which makes a flat rate commission of 40 pounds per energy switch, from which around two pounds is profit, splits revenues 50/50 with energy providers.

This money goes into a scheme run by Greenhelpline.com to give cash-back, vouchers and discounts to those who switch to a greener way of life.

Make your home green
Households can save 367 pounds per year by "going green", according to Nigel's Eco Store (www.nigelsecostore.com), a retailer of environmentally friendly products.

Using energy-saving light bulbs, a radiator booster, "ecoballs" (instead of washing power to launder clothes), an "ecobutton" (a device that powers down your desktop computer every time you take a break), and a standby kit (a remote control that lets you switch off appliances completely so that they use no electricity rather than leaving them on standby) would produce those savings, it says.

Other steps to cut your energy consumption, according to price comparison service energyhelpline.com, include:

* Close your curtains at dusk. This could save you about 15 pounds per year and reduces yearly C02 emissions by 50 kg.

* Unplug your phone charger when it is not in use, and you will pocket an annual saving of 10 pounds and take 33 kg of carbon emissions off of your annual CO2 total.

*

Turn your thermostat down by just 1 degree Celsius. That will reduce your heating bills by 10 per cent -- typically 45 pounds per year.

Turn over a green leaf with your mortgage
Borrowers with a green conscience can now choose from as many as one in two mortgage lenders, as environmentally aware mortgages go mainstream, according to mform.co.uk.

It has identified around 39 mortgage firms -- equivalent to around 48 percent of the market -- offering loans direct to the public who have robust strategies for improving their environmental performance.

Some lenders are demonstrating that borrowers do not have to necessarily pay a premium for green mortgages, it says.

Its "green leaf" scheme identifies lenders who have demonstrated a commitment to the environment. They include household names such as Alliance & Leicester, Lloyds TSB and the Halifax, as well as smaller societies, such as the Norwich & Peterborough, Furness, and Barnsley building societies.

File online
As many as 25,000 trees -- enough to fill Central Park in New York -- could be saved every year if consumers completed their self-assessment tax returns online.

Legatio, a creator of online tax filing software, has calculated that 216 million pages of tax forms and information are posted every year.

Those who file online and in time could also save money: late assessments accrued penalties of over 90 million pounds last year, as each submission after the January 31 deadline automatically receives a 100 pound fine, as well as interest on the amount owed.

Recycle your mobile phone
There are around 55.2 million mobiles in circulation, with an average recycling value of 22.4 pounds -- although newer models can be worth as much as 80 pounds -- according to T-Mobile.

That means consumers could make 1.24 billion pounds -- either for themselves or charity -- by recycling their old handsets.

T-Mobile runs a mobile phone recycling scheme whereby anyone, irrespective of what network they are on, can return their old mobile via a freepost bag (available from T-Mobile shops), reducing waste and earning money.

Once bought back, phones are refurbished and given to developing countries.

Offset your carbon emmissions
A range of activities affect the carbon footprint of individuals, from driving to work and flying overseas to heating and lighting our homes and buying food from non-local sources; the higher the "food miles" before it reaches the plate, the greater the environmental impact.

There are now hundreds of carbon offsetting schemes that aim to help individuals and businesses reduce their CO2 emissions by offsetting, reducing or displacing the CO2 in another place, typically where it is more economical to do so.

They use the money to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects around the globe.

Carbon Catalog (www.carboncatalog.org) gives a directory of carbon offset providers worldwide that sell offsets online, rating 81 providers and 273 projects globally.

Drive a green car
Some two million motorists claim to drive an environmentally friendly car, according to Tescocompare.com.

"Green" cars, such as the Toyota Prius, can reduce your fuel consumption significantly.

However, consumers can pay 50 pounds more per year to insure such cars, compared to "non-green" cars of similar size and features, due to the higher costs of repairing them.