Going solar is definitely pricey, but you can expect to spend a lot less than just a few decades ago -- as much as 90 percent less, by some estimates (and some states offer tax incentives and rebates). Plus, many states now require utility companies to charge homeowners for only the energy they consume beyond their solar production. And some solar panels produce enough electricity to allow users to sell energy back to the utility company. The amount of time it takes to break even depends on a number of factors -- like your household's energy usage, the number of panels needed, the orientation of your home to the sun, and the amount of sun the panels get over time.
There are a myriad of choices for countertops for the modern kitchen -- from granite to quartz to ceramic tile to laminate -- but for those looking to build a green kitchen, recycled countertops offer an alternative to stripping stone from the earth. Countertops using recycled paper, glass and aluminum offer a variety of looks and price levels. Another alternative is a concrete countertop, which can be tinted and is popular for its durability.
Compact fluorescent bulbs
Compact fluorescent bulbs are getting plenty of attention these days as the light bulb of the future. But in fact, they're not a new idea at all -- they're based on regular fluorescent bulbs, which cut energy costs during the 1970s oil crisis. Compact fluorescents are reshaped to fit most standard lamps, and some are even housed in traditional-looking bulb casings that are designed to counter the bluish tint that many people dislike about fluorescent lights. Compact fluorescents use a quarter of the electricity of incandescent bulbs and can last 10,000 hours (versus 800 to 1,000 for regular bulbs), which sounds great -- until you get to the hardware store and discover that they can cost $5 to $10 per bulb. Home Energy magazine advises trying out a few fluorescents in prominent places, like the kitchen. If you're OK with the lighting, you can convert slowly to avoid one big investment, or you can buy in bulk to lower the cost per bulb.