Our original idea for this article was all about going green in the lap of luxury. We asked our Facebook fans and Twitter followers what they would splurge on if they had unlimited funds, and we scoured the green sphere for the resources to make these dreams a reality.
We were surprised to find that eco-luxe isn’t all about extravagance and over-the-top indulgence. In fact, most green decisions and options actually save in the long run – from money to energy to the planet.
Luxe Dream #1: Energy Makeover
A total green home makeover was the top item on readers’ wish lists – by a landslide. But the talk was focused on saving energy and making big changes to offset consumption.
The Splurge: Off-the-grid power – It’s an idea that’s lackadaisically thrown around, but the reality is that creating a home that is completely energy sustainable is a big decision that takes planning, investment and commitment. But don’t feel overwhelmed. We have a step-by-step guide for going off the grid. Just remember: A change in thinking will go farther than any bill you pull out of your wallet.
The major up-front costs will be the installation of your alternative power resources, such as solar panels. In most states, solar incentives are still available for a variety of renewable energy technologies. Start with your local Department of Commerce Energy Office, which can provide a list of accredited retailers and installation companies.
What it costs: $15,000 to $20,000 per kilowatt for a typical off-grid photovoltaic system
What it saves: The average home spends about $2,200 annually in energy costs. Add up your total utility bills for the year – that’s the total amount you’ll save annually. We know you’re already reeling from all those zeros.
The Feasible: Energy-efficient appliances – There’s only one name you need to know: ENERGY STAR. For a quick, green upgrade that you will actually see on your bills, switch out your derelict energy suckers for ENERGY STAR-certified appliances. In September, we followed a homeowner as she remodeled her entire kitchen to be more environmentally friendly. Her big green kitchen remodel included an appliance upgrade. She dished out the extra money for the eco-certification, but it will save her in the long run.
How much it costs*: $550 to $1,800 (clothes washer), $550 to $8,500 (refrigerator), $250 to $1,650 (dishwasher)
How much it saves: $135 annually (clothes washer), $200 to $300 annually (refrigerator), $40 (dishwasher)
*Note: These figures are based on average retail prices listed on Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sears Web sites. Brands and models vary.
Luxe Dream #2: Electric Car
The average American commutes 40 miles daily, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It’s safe to say that your car is essentially your second home. As the automotive industry is evolving, automakers are looking to reinvent themselves, and it’s all about lower emissions, better gas mileage…and electricity.
The Splurge: Tesla Roadster – It’s the ultimate, electric luxury driving machine and a pioneer of the electric car industry. Forget the boxy hybrid we all know and love. With a sleek body style that screams speed, you’d expect this machine to go zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds, but you would never expect it to to go 244 miles on one charge. While you can expect to shell out what could be double your annual salary, Tesla vehicles qualify for the full $7,500 U.S. federal tax credit on battery-powered cars. You may also be eligible for state incentives, sales tax waivers and rebates.
What it costs: $101,500 (price includes federal tax credit)
What it saves: According to the EPA, the average American drives 12,000 miles per year. The current price of gasoline hovers at about $2.64 per gallon, and the average fuel efficiency for a passenger car in the U.S. is 22.4 miles per gallon, putting your annual fuel costs around $1,414.28 (and this on the low end). Considering the cost to power a Tesla is less than 2 cents per mile, the savings are significant – around $1,200.
The Feasible: 2011 Chevy Volt – It may not look as sporty and sleek as a Tesla, but we have to admit that the new Chevy Volt has got it goin’ on. Volt generates electricity from both its battery and the electricity it creates from gas. You can drive up to 40 miles on the electricity stored in the battery, completely gas and emission-free. But for that long commute or holiday road trip, the gas-powered generator kicks in automatically to provide electrical power. With an acceleration of zero to 60 in nine seconds, it may not be as exhilarating as a high-powered Tesla, but most of us are not making our daily commutes via the Autobahn, right?
What it costs: $30,000 to $40,000*
What it saves: Based on a projected cost of 10 cents per kWh, the Volt will cost about 80 cents per day to fully charge, an energy cost of just 2 cents per mile under electric power. GM estimates the when the internal combustion engine-generator is running, per-mile cost is still an economical 12 cents, a savings that works out to about a dollar a day.
*Note: This is an industry estimate, as General Motors has not committed to a retail price.
Luxe Dream #3: Full Eco-Wardrobe
Nothing says luxury like the world of high fashion and haute couture. But looking like you just stepped off the runway comes at a high price, and we’re not talking monetary. According to FutureFashion, “Fashion uses more water than any industry other than agriculture. At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles.”
But some designers have proved you can make a sustainable product that’s both chic and sensible. Replacing items in your wardrobe with sustainable materials results in a savings of valuable natural resources.
The Splurge: Stella McCartney’s Green Collection – A lifelong vegan, Stella McCartney set out to make her high-end style without using leather or fur in her collection. Plus, she’s a huge fan of organic products and eco-friendly materials in her denim, accessories and lingerie collections.
What it costs: $435 to $1,535
The Feasible: H&M Organic Collection – H&M’s business concept is to offer its customers fashion and quality at the best price. Take it from us, you would never equate the price tag with the clothing, as it’s always high-style and on-point with the latest trends. But while H&M has already made a name for itself among thrifty fashionistas, the retailer is now taking on the world of eco-fashion as well by currently using – and continuously trying out – new sustainable materials. H&M’s organic and recycled collections are denoted with green hang tags, explaining the origin of the material in your hand and its benefits overall environmental impact.
What it costs: $10 to $100 (approx.)