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Going -- and saving -- green on entertainment

Going green is a term that suggests two things: saving the planet, but spending more money to do it. When it comes to entertainment, it doesn't have to be that way.

By Stacy Johnson Feb 8, 2011 2:23PM

"Going green" often sounds like an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Organic foods and hybrid cars cost more than their "regular" counterparts, for example, and recycling takes extra effort and coordination.

But going green isn't always complicated and pricey. There are lots of simple ways to save the planet and your wallet.

 

I recently shot a video on ways to save green by going green on entertainment. Check it out and meet me on the other side for a recap and more ideas.

Now, let's put the advice from the story above into three categories, then expand on each one.

 

Keep what you have longer

Obviously not buying new stuff will save you money and consume less of the world's resources, so it's one of the simplest ways of going -- and saving -- green.

 

First, don't upgrade for every minor improvement in technology. We're already hearing about the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5, but sticking with the current generation means you save money, don't have to deal with potential kinks (remember the iPhone 4 "antennagate"?) and aren't expanding your local landfill.

 

Don't use minor defects or problems as an excuse to throw out the old stuff, either. Look into the cost of repair versus replacement. Sometimes you can do your own repairs for nothing but the cost of parts. But even if you need a pro, it may be cheaper than upgrading.

 

When it really is time to upgrade, try to trade in what you've got rather than throwing it away. If it still works, it probably has some value. In many cases, the money you get can be applied to a new purchase or put on a gift card for later use. It also means less waste.

And when you're buying, shop warranties carefully. Sometimes an extended warranty is worth it, and can stretch the life of the product.

 

Finally, on top of keeping what you have longer, don't buy what you don't need. For all but the most serious collectors, CDs and DVDs will end up on a shelf collecting dust, and then end up in a landfill. According to Worldwatch Institute, more than 45 tons of CDs and DVDs become "obsolete -- outdated, useless, or unwanted" every month.

 

Rather than buying, why not rent? It's cheaper to rent a movie for a couple bucks than to pay $15 for a DVD you'll watch only once or twice, and keeping more copies in circulation is kinder on the environment. Don't forget that you can often borrow CDs and DVDs from the library for free -- obviously the best deal for both you and the environment.

 

Go digital

Even better than renting movie DVDs is streaming them through your computer or home entertainment system. You're cutting out the costs of manufacturing physical copies, plus distribution, plus the gas you spend going to get a copy yourself. Instead, save the planet by being lazy: You can stream videos through Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix or Hulu.

 

You can obviously do the same thing with music: Skip the CD and download just the tracks you actually want from iTunes, Amazon MP3 or BigPond Music. As I mentioned in the video, even if you download an entire album, you'll spend 30% less than buying the physical CD.

 

For books, consider getting an e-reader -- less clutter, lower cost. I explained why you shouldn't buy an Amazon Kindle, but the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader are popular alternatives.

 

Getting a digital subscription to your favorite newspaper is also cheaper and more green than getting a dead-tree copy at your door. As Business Insider wrote, printing The New York Times costs twice as much as sending every subscriber a Kindle. Plus the digital version comes with links, slideshows, audio and video, so you get more information on the topics you care about at a lower price.

Gone are the days when you have to buy computer software or video games at retail locations. You can often download these from the publisher's website. Microsoft, for example, offers you the option of downloading Windows or Office, or of shipping you a copy. (Microsoft publishes MSN Money.)

 

Many video games can be purchased digitally at popular retailers like GameStop and then downloaded through a PlayStation, Xbox or Wii, too. And since many modern games are published on multiple platforms including home computers, digital distributors like Steam that offer frequent discounts are increasingly popular. Plus, the PC versions are often cheaper to start with.

 

Unplug

While going digital cuts down on the cost of buying entertainment, there are still the energy costs to deal with. So, for starters, make use of surge protectors or power strips so you can turn off multiple devices with the flick of one switch.

 

Many devices consume energy even when they're in standby mode or even turned completely off. The best way to check how much you're wasting is to invest in a device that tracks your electrical usage like a Kill A Watt. Rent one rather than buying, if you can. I've also written about devices that monitor your whole home energy use. Better yet, just completely unplug things when you aren't using them.

 

And don't forget your computer: Many people leave them on 24/7, and the EPA estimates you can save $75 a year by using sleep mode, and even more by switching them completely off.

 

While installing solar panels in your home might be a little much, there are cheap ways to go solar. One example? A portable solar charger for your smaller electronics. A FreeLoader portable solar charger costs as little as $40, and taps an infinite, free and environmentally friendly source of energy -- the sun. Solio also makes affordable universal solar chargers.

 

Here's one more option for saving on the electric bill when it comes to entertainment: Go old school. Make a one-time investment in some sports gear or board games and you're covered for cheap, eco-friendly family time both outdoors and indoors.

 

More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:

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