Sustainable living may seem like a great idea, but when you see its impact on your budget, you may have second thoughts. Although buying organic produce and other groceries can be pricey, some sustainable habits can actually help you save some cash. You may be surprised to find out how many small ways there are to go green and live sustainably on a budget. Check out these tips that will help the environment without wrecking your finances.
Why Is Sustainable Living Important
If you’re still not convinced that sustainable living is doable or not sure about the benefits of living lighter on the earth, some of the reasons why we think it’s worthwhile.
- The earth has finite resources. Some are not at all renewable, and once they are used up, they are gone. Others may be renewable but take a long time to be replenished. Each of us needs to do our part to conserve them to ensure there is enough for future generations.
- Climate change is starting to be irreversible, and if we don’t make changes now, we won’t be able to reverse course in many areas, such as sea rise and species extinction. Extreme hurricanes, drought, and unlivable areas may become the norm.
- Sustainable living is healthier for us as well as the planet. Health issues such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, and more can be aggravated by an unhealthy environment.
Lower Your Electric Bill
Your electric bill is a big expense, so doing your best to lower it saves you money and is better for the environment. Here are some ways to keep your electric bill low.
If you have avoided switching to LED lighting because you think it is too expensive, it’s time to reassess. With an average cost of about $15 per bulb, LEDs used to be expensive, but those prices have dropped in recent years to about $8. They still cost more than incandescent bulbs, but they can save you money long-term. They use less energy, reduce CO2 emissions, do not contain hazardous materials, their materials are recyclable, and they have a long lifespan. A budget-friendly way to go greener with LEDs is to replace them slowly as your other bulbs burn out, rather than all at once.
Even if you’ve begun the switch to LED lights, switching off the lights when you are not using them can save you money. You probably know to keep the refrigerator door closed, but keeping the freezer and fridge full can also save money. The food serves as insulation, so it doesn’t have to work as hard to keep everything cold. Installing thermostats with energy-efficient settings, turning the AC off when you leave, and changing your HVAC filters regularly also helps lower your bill.
Get Rid of Phantom Load
Many appliances run in the background of your home, using small amounts of electricity without you realizing it. Over time, this can add up. Things like cell phone chargers and microwaves may be using energy, even though they are switched off. Check around your house, and you may be surprised at the amount these items add to your carbon footprint – and your power bill. Make sure they are turned off, and you’ll end up saving money.
Regularly ensuring that lights, AC, and causes of phantom load are turned off doesn’t take any extra money but can save you some.
Use Recycled and Reusable Products
Too much waste contributes significantly to environmental degradation and damage. We’ve become so accustomed to disposable single-use items that we often forget that each plastic bottle, toothbrush, straw, and other disposable items will end up in landfills or the ocean.
Help the planet and save some money at the same time by reusing as many things as you can. Instead of purchasing bottled water, get a reusable water bottle with a filter. Bring your own travel-size products when you travel. Spend your dollars on products made from recycled materials and take part in swimwear recycling programs that offer credits when you turn in old swimwear. Many brands have these types of programs, and some retailers collect used clothing for recycling and offer store credit. Bring a reusable bag when shopping.
Look for creative ways to recycle items rather than throw them away after one use. Rethinking what you toss out and when may seem like small actions, but they can make a difference.
Green Your Transportation
Owning an electric or hybrid car is a worthy goal, but not everyone can afford them. And even if you drive a hybrid or electric car, they still emit greenhouse gases, and people often forget to plug them in. If you live in a city with a public transportation system, it might even be cheaper and easier not to own a car.
If public transportation is not an option for you, you can still green your transportation and save money. Reduce the number of short trips you take in your car, and walk or bike there instead. Join a carpool to cut down on emissions. You’ll get more exercise and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.
Buy Unpackaged Vegetables or Grow Your Own
We’ve gotten used to finding things packaged up and ready to go. Purchasing loose vegetables and only as many as you need not only reduces the need for recycling but also lowers your food budget. Just remember to bring your disposable produce bag. Increasingly, large retail chains stocking more produce from sustainable and/or local farmers, so the produce you buy at the supermarket may be more organic and sustainable than it used to be. Look for the local label on produce in your supermarket.
Another way to save on produce and make sure it is free of pesticides and other chemicals is to start your own garden or share a plot in a community garden. Lettuce and tomatoes are fairly easy to grow, so if you’ve never tried to grow vegetables, these are great ones to try first. Even planting your own herbs for cooking is a good start.
If you don’t have a green thumb and gardening isn’t your thing, but you still want fresh produce, try your local farmers’ market. The produce is generally less expensive than at the store, and you help support your local businesses as you reduce your carbon footprint.
Reduce Your Water Usage
Water shortages and drought are becoming increasingly common, so conserving now will reap big benefits later. And, of course, save you money on your monthly water bill. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth and after you have lathered up your hands when washing them, then turn it back on briefly to rinse. Taking a long shower uses up a lot of water – probably more than you realize. Try to take as short a shower as possible.
Another thing you can do is keep a bucket or container in the shower to catch the water and use it to give your garden or lawn a drink. This is called greywater – lightly used water from your shower, bath, or sink.
This also goes for washing the dishes. Fill up the sink and wash, then rinse. If you use your dishwasher the right way, it is more sustainable than washing them by hand. Most dishwashers use less water than handwashing. Be sure only to run it when it is full and use the shortest cycle. The same goes for your washing machine, use the shortest cycle, and wash in cold water as much as possible. If you have a lawn, put your sprinklers on a timer so you don’t leave them running for extended periods. Also, if you set them to water at night between 2 am – 4 am, you save water from being lost through evaporation.
Use Homemade Household Cleaners
In addition to wanting to help the environment, a growing number of people are worried about their home environments. Some of the chemicals in household cleaners are bad for the environment and may even be harmful to our health.
However, it can be difficult to find cleaners that do the job without containing some chemicals that are less than eco-friendly. Making your own household cleaners can save you money and do a better job. White vinegar is a time-honored ingredient in household cleaners and can also be used as a fabric softener. Baking soda, lemon juice, and olive oil can also be used. Adding essential oils to the mixture will make your home smell clean and fresh.
You can also clear clogged drains with this home recipe, keeping even more chemicals out of our environment. You may even already have the ingredients in your kitchen. You’ll need boiling water, 1 cup baking soda, and 1 cup lemon juice or white vinegar. Boil the water and pour it down the drain. Then pour the baking soda down the drain. Follow this with lemon juice or white vinegar. You should see some fizzing and bubbling. Cover the drain so that the baking soda can do its work. Leave the drain plugged for 30 minutes. Uncover the drain and pour more boiling down to flush out the clog.
Watch Out for Packaging Claims
The most important thing to know about sustainable living on a budget is to ignore the claims on labels and use your common sense when making a decision. Products that say they better for the environment or “green” on their labels may not be as green as we think. Ignore the label and do your research, then use your common sense as you make better choices for yourself and for the environment. The more you do so, the more intelligent and money-saving ways you’ll find to live sustainably in ways that are good for your bank account and the planet.