For a long time, proponents of "green" living seemed sort of out there; the mere phrase conjured up granola-crunchy visions of yurts and not-so-effective toilets. Fast forward to 2011, and building materials and technologies have evolved so that what is "eco" is also effective, and often also luxe and chic.

Similarly, people from all perspectives have begun to embrace green living at home, out of concern for the planet, for their children’s futures, and for their pocketbooks.

Thinking about going green at home, but not sure where to begin? Here are three different, and complementary, approaches to creating a green home.

1. Green homes are efficient. Buildings use 39 percent of the energy and 74 percent of the electricity produced every year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And the average American household spends nearly $2,500 every year on water, gas and electricity.

Green homes can include bill-slashing, efficiency-boosting features like dual-paned windows that minimize leakage (they keep the cool in during the summer and the warmth in during the winters), low-flow toilets, tankless water heaters, and even solar energy systems.

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