5 Ways to Get Paid for Protecting the Environment

Did you know that you can make some green by going green?

While recycling, saving energy and other kinds of eco-friendly actions are good habits on their own, a growing number of organizations are offering economic incentives to those who opt for greener ways to live their lives.

"I think basically anything that helps increase recycling is a good thing," said Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The incentives certainly work."

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From organizations that pay money for certain kinds of recyclable items to reward programs that give points that can be redeemed in grocery stores or pharmacies, she said incentive-based programs are shifting the thinking on recycling and leading to results.

"All of those things seem to capture the interest of the public and get them interested a little more than just the bins do," she said.

Here are five programs you might want to check out:

RecycleBank

In more than 300 communities in 26 states, RecycleBank rewards recyclers by the pound.

A microchip attached to recycling bins tracks how much each household recycles. Those pounds of recycled material translate into points that can be redeemed at a variety of retail partners, including Bed, Bath & Beyond and CVS pharmacies.

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"The idea is that while we all would love to recycle, and many people do, a lot of people need to be incentive to do it," said Melody Serafino, a spokeswoman for RecycleBank. "In this economy, offering people valuable rewards for doing something good and green is really beneficial."

She said each pound of recycled material equals 2.5 points and the average household accumulates about $400 worth of points in one year.

RecycleBank already partners with Chicago, Phoenix, Houston and Hartford and will launch a pilot program with Los Angeles later this month. The service has already diverted 208,317 tons from the waste stream and saved 5.1 million trees, Serafino said.

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TerraCycle

About 65,000 locations across the country are working with TerraCycle to turn non-recyclable waste into useful products, while earning money in the process.

The site collects a wide range of waste – from chip bags to empty glue containers to juice packs– and then uses those raw materials to create backpacks, cork boards, decorations and more.

Those products are sold in a variety of U.S. retailers, but for the month of April (Earth Month), Walmart has agreed to sell 60 products in stores across the country.

Although the service is open to anyone, all donations must end up in the hands of school or nonprofit. Those who contribute receive 2 cents for every item they submit. The payoff may sound small, but it adds up.

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Since the beginning of 2009, the site has donated more than $500,000 to charities, said Albe Zake, vice president of media relations for TerraCycle.

"One of our goals is to make going green really easy and fun and profitable, so that people will want to do it," Zake said.

Recycle Electronics for Cash

Is an old iPod or computer gathering dust in a closet? Are you hoping to retire a cell phone?

You can make some money off those electronics by recycling them through sites like YouRenew, BuyMyTronics or Gazelle.

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