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The eco starter kit costs $97, but can save you up to $260 a year on your utility bills.

Eco Hatchery greens your home, wallet

Going green can be overwhelming. You've got social pressures compounded by the boundless sea of information on the topic, as well as the less-than-friendly price of procuring energy from places other than your 50-year-old furnace.

But forget for a moment about solar panels and geothermal heating plans. While wonderful, those costly options aren't for everyone -- at least not right away. Inducting yourself gradually into greenness can often come with even higher rewards, and lower levels of stress.

The somewhat obscured truth about eco-friendly practices is that they are often as kind to your pocketbook as they are to the planet. Adam Borut's Eco Hatchery is a great example. His Milwaukee-based company makes a series of eco kits, effective "fitness programs" for the earth that combine easy-to-use tools with practical instructions, education, and online programs for measuring individual and group progress toward CO2-reduction goals.

Borut says they're great for greening up your home, and your wallet.

"When we developed this product our initial goal was to provide people with the tools and activities to reduce their impact on the environment. As we developed the products and the tools, we found that the savings relative to the investment was profound."

That's because the fundamental DIY changes Eco Hatchery advocates with its eco kits have proactive paybacks, ranging from immediate to two years. Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, for example, can save the average American household $120 a year in utility bills, and that comes with replacing only high-use bulbs, about 50 to 60 percent of the home's total.

The eco starter kit costs $97.50, but Borut says it can save the typical American home $260 on utility bills when implemented.

The physical kit includes things like toilet leak detectors, faucet aerators, pipe insulation, compact fluorescent bulbs and weatherization sealer, but the online programs are probably the most rewarding; that's where you get to calculate exactly how much dough you're saving, because, face it, we all need a little monetary motivation from time to time.

Customers begin with the carbon calculator, a step-by-step guide to calculator your personal and household carbon footprint. As they complete the kit's energy-saving activities, users track progress online and create a roadmap with personalized recommendations for future savings beyond the kit. Other options include joining eco-communities (Join OnMilwaukee.com's community here) to work together toward a common goal and geek out on green.

You can calculate your carbon footprint here:

In time for Earth Day, the Eco Hatchery released two new budget-conscious kits; the energy efficiency kit ($60, yearly utility bill savings of $220) and the green and healthy home kit ($50, yearly utility bill savings of $165).

All three kits are available via Eco Hatchery's Web site.

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