Green for less: Eight eco-friendly products from the dollar store

There's an old saying that "necessity is the mother of invention" and the necessity, in this case, is to save our planet from the hitherto wasteful and thoughtless ways of its inhabitants.

Thankfully, there's an answer for most of the environmental problems we've inflicted on the earth. With that in mind, here are some buck or two solutions from the dollar store.

Bioplastics are made from renewable sources such as vegetable oil or corn starch, as opposed to petroleum based plastics. I can buy a box of ten biodegradeable 20" x 22" plastic kitchen bags for $1. Compare that to Wal-mart's Great Value brand that you'll pay $5.27 for to get the same number of biodegradeable bags.

If your municipality has a kitchen compost program, you can buy 17" x 16" compostable kitchen organics bags at the dollar store for $1 for a package of six. Wal-mart sells the same size compostable Glad bags for kitchen organics for $4.97 for a package of 20. That's about 25 cents per bag as opposed to 17 cents per dollar store bag.

I found a 16" tote bag that's reusable and recyclable and folds up to 7 1/2" to tuck into a purse or pocket when not in use. It cost $1 at the dollar store, 97 cents at Wal-mart. This tote's a good size for shopping at the dollar store, or if you only need a few things at the grocery store.

By now, everybody knows that compact fluorescent light bulbs save on energy use. A 9-watt bulb, which produces the light of a regular 40 w bulb, is only $1 at the dollar store. My local dollar store, Dollarama, now carries 13 watt compact fluorescent bulbs, too. These are equal to regular 60 watt bulbs and cost $2 each. Still a good deal when you consider that a package of 2 - 13 watt compact fluorescent costs $4.96 at Wal-mart, or about a buck more than buying two at the dollar store. However, if you want to buy a larger package of 13 watt bulbs at Wal-mart, you can save about a penny per bulb by buying Great Value brand. A package of 6 costs $11.96 or about $1.99 per bulb.

Saving water is high on the list of earth-friendly things to do. One way to do that is with a kitchen tap aerator. The one I found at the dollar store swivels 360 degrees and can be easily adjusted to provide either a jet spray or a wide angle rinse spray. A similar kitchen tap aerator at Wal-mart costs $9.98.

Instead of tossing all of those empty plastic water bottles, why not save money, as well as the environment by buying a refillable water bottle? Most of the regular size plastic water bottles I've tried from the dollar store were not leak proof, but the 70 oz. plastic water jug that I bought recently, is. If you fill this up in the morning and it's empty at the end of the day, you can be sure you've had your eight glasses of water for the day. It has a built-in handle so it's easy to carry and might be an option for taking to work with you each day. I also found a leak-proof, 13.5 oz. metal water bottle for $1.25, perfect for a biker or hiker as it has a loop in the twist on lid so you can attach it to a belt or backpack. Wal-mart has a 74 oz plastic water bottle for $3.47 or a 13.5 oz. metal water bottle, for $2.98.

Fabric softener is not really a necessity. Dryer balls, at 2 for $1.25, will help to fluff your towels and reduce static in your clothes. A pair of dryer balls can cost as much as $10 anywhere but the dollar store.

Got a clogged drain? Try a drain snake for $1.25 from the dollar store, before you reach for those harsh chemicals. However, it's only 3' long, which would be okay for some jobs, but you might want to invest in the more sturdy 15' one at Wal-mart, which costs around $20.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas for home decorating using only items from the dollar store.

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