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Slowly Going Green: Do this, not that!

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

CFL lights, faucets and toilets

Are you hoping to "go green" but have no idea where to start? Or perhaps the idea of "greening up" your life is a little overwhelming, like it was for me. We have solutions! Stick with me each week as I make suggestions for slowly going green, one baby-step at a time. This week, we'll discuss a few "do this, not that" ideas to cut down on your carbon footprint.

Switching to CFL bulb

Not all parts of greening up your life are fun or stylish. Have I told you about the big doctor's-office-esque water cooler I ordered so that I'd stop using so many water bottles? I feel like my dining room has taken on a bit of a waiting room feel. All I need are a few magazines on an end table and a fish tank.

However, going green isn't all about being trendy. There are many parts to living a green lifestyle that aren't fun, but very necessary. Scroll through the following and determine whether you can make any of these changes in your home to make it more eco-friendly.

1CFL bulbs

As your light bulbs burn out, don't replace them with standard bulbs. Instead, invest in CFL bulb -- compact fluorescent light bulbs. CFLs use 60 to 80 percent less energy than standard bulbs and last 6,000 to 15,000 hours. Standard bulbs last an average of 1,000 hours.

While CFL bulbs are more expensive, the saved energy and much, much longer life results in up to $30 of savings for each bulb used and 2,000 times its weight in greenhouse gas emissions.

Because CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, you shouldn't throw them in the trash if that is avoidable. See the EPA website for disposal options.

Get eco-friendly lighting solutions for your home >>

2Low-flow showerheads and aerators

Don't ignore the obvious. You can cut back on your water usage without having to shorten your shower time. We all like to get all of the conditioner out of our hair, right? Installing low-flow aerators in your faucets and replacing regular showerheads with low-flow showerheads saves water.

In fact, a low-flow showerhead uses 2.5 gallons per minute, compared with the six gallons per minute that a regular showerhead uses. I'm not a math whiz, but I do know that works out to a savings of 3.5 gallons per minute. If you shower for 10 minutes every day, you'll save 35 gallons of water per shower. That's a lot of water for a quick switch.

If your faucets were installed in 1994 or later, they should already have aerators. However, if you live in an older home, look into this and ensure that your faucets all have aerators.

3Leaky toilets

Check your toilets -- don't just hope for the best. Toilet talk is definitely the less sexy side of going green, but did you know that the EPA estimates a leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day? Suddenly, saving 35 gallons of water per shower doesn't seem as useful if you're allowing literally 200 gallons to flow down the toilet every day.

To determine whether your toilet has a silent leak, you can put enough food coloring in the tank to turn the water noticeably dark. Let the toilet sit for at least 30 minutes -- longer if possible -- without flushing it. If any of the colored water makes its way into the toilet, you have a leak. Fix it! (That's where my toilet advice stops. Tools and me? Don't mix.)

Learn other ways to stop wasting water >>

Making these changes isn't glamorous, but they are not difficult and they will definitely reduce your carbon footprint. Not all parts of greening up your lifestyle are fun (like picking out cute reusable bags), but they're necessary. Remember, one step at a time, you can commit to slowly going green.

Get More Slowly Going Green tips >>

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