Eco-Savings: Go Green without Breaking the Bank

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WHITEFISH, Mont. -- The move toward living a greener life is gaining in popularity, but it can be a pretty expensive transition considering the price of solar panels, electric cars, and other eco-friendly products.

However, Caeli and Denny Gignoux of Whitefish, Mont., prove you can live very green and actually save money.

The young couple are committed environmentalists but without a lot of money to spend toward that lifestyle.

Still, they're showing with their own lives you can go green for the same cost or much less than those who use much more energy.

"We looked at our life and said, 'Okay, what in our budget can we do to sort of take care of our piece of the planet?' And we've managed to do that," Caeli told CBN News.

Eco-Friendly Travel

One of the ways the couple takes care of the earth is through Denny's position as a vice president at Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Company.

"We focus on eco-friendly travel," Denny said. "So we take people on backpacking trips and rafting trips, which have low impact on the environment they're in."

As a young single, Caeli led bike trips professionally all over Europe. When she settled down in Montana with Denny, she put that Euro-experience to use to help create Climate Ride.

The non-profit organization organizes an annual bike odyssey from New York to Washington, D.C., where riders bike by day and learn more about cutting-edge environmentalism in the evening.

"I almost never drive," Caeli said, explaining that living in the small town of Whitefish allows her to use bicycling as her main means of transport.

"I took the Two-Mile Challenge, so anything under two miles I use my bike to get to," she told CBN News. "It's good for me -- keeps me healthy, keeps the weight off."

Denny also bikes and drives the family's Toyota Prius when he can't.   

"I try to get between 45 and 50 miles per gallon," he said, explaining that careful driving can dramatically improve your gas mileage.

As for Caeli and cars, she noted, "I've probably driven a couple of thousand miles a year, compared to the average American, who drives about 15,000 miles a year. I feel pretty good about that."

Since they have a small child, they bought a chariot-stroller that easily attaches to their bikes and allows them to pedal around while toting young Luka and anything else they need to carry.

Home Energy Savings

The Gignouxs are also saving energy and money in their home by using programmable thermostats in the house.

"(It) really saves money, especially in the long Montana winters," Caeli said. 

She added a big money saver they have installed is, "insulation, great insulation.  Cheap thing to do."

In the midst of this hurricane season, safe building advocates point out the Gignouxs didn't just green their home -- they helped disaster-proof it.

During the summer, they take advantage of natural air conditioning.  

"In the night we open up all the windows so all the cool air comes in. Cools down the house," she said.

According to Caeli, leaving the windows open overnight usually gives them a morning temperature inside of about 65. 

"And then during the day we close them all up, drop all the shades, and it just stays nice and cool: usually around 70-75 when it's a 90 degree day out," she said.

They count on one small gas stove to heat the whole house because they use ceiling fans to move the heat all around to every room.

Regarding their kitchen, the Gignouxs opted to use technology rather than gallons of hot water to hand wash their dishes. 

"We bought a high-efficiency dishwasher and it was totally worth the price," Caeli stated. "Now we use something like a gallon-and-a-half of water to wash all of our dishes each day."

They saved more water and energy by buying a side-loading washer and dryer.  The washer only fills up with enough water to cover the clothes.

'Green' Baby Care

And they definitely need the efficient washer and dryer because of their choice in diapers: not disposables, but reuseables.

"I probably spent $200 on diapers," Caeli said of her early Mommy days. "And I'm going to save thousands of dollars in the end over using disposables."

The Gignouxs even found biodegradable baby wipes that go with much of their garbage to the compost. 

It starts in a covered can in their kitchen, then gets tossed in a hole in the ground where it eventually becomes rich food for their healthy and money-saving garden.

Buy Local, Cut the Beef

Caeli explained that to add to their own homegrown vegetables, "We go and buy a share from a local farmer, and that saves so much money."

"We're not having produce trucked in from California or Mexico or flown in from Chile," she added.

The tasty local fruits and veggies made one of the other green decisions easier for these once major meat-eaters. 

"Eighteen percent of all the world's carbon emissions are from the production of meat," Caeli informed CBN News. "So we looked at our diet and said 'Okay, why don't we cut out meat three nights a week?'" 

"Now, we've cut it out almost five or six," she said. "But that makes a huge difference, and it's cheaper."

Saving the Glaciers

Much of the Gignouxs' desire to be green comes from living just a few short miles from Glacier National Park, which scientists say is heating up twice as fast as any other area in the U.S. 

If that doesn't change, the park's glaciers could melt away in 10 to 20 years. 

"That was a big wakeup call for me, seeing it in our own backyard," Caeli said.

Denny shook his head sadly as he wondered, "What happens when there aren't glaciers in Glacier National Park?"

The Gignouxs are sad much of the green movement has become a political part of the debate over global warming.

They see living green as financially wise and good citizenship, freeing the U.S. from pollution and so much dependence on foreign oil. 

"This country was built upon Americans being a very self-sustaining and resourceful people," Caeli said.

The couple insists anyone who decides to live a green lifestyle not only does good for the earth, but good for themselves.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.