Originally published on The Financially Independent Millennial and republished with permission
Sea levels are rising, landfills are filling up, and natural disasters are happening more often than ever. Climate change is happening, and the world desperately needs your help. In this article, I’ll cover ways people can save money while also saving the environment.
Going green often comes at an extra cost, but we’ve found twelve ways to save the environment that will put more dollars back in your pocket. Saving money while saving the environment is a win-win that we can all enjoy.
Ways to Save Money while Saving the Environment
12 – Reduce Waste by Meal Prepping
Meal prepping is a great way to save money because you can plan out what you buy. Since you already have the list of items you need to buy, you won’t buy as many impulse purchases. This cuts down on unnecessary spending, which can be a huge budget drain. And, thanks to the increasing popularity of services like Instacart, you can order your groceries online, and then you won’t make any impulse purchases.
However, it’s also great for the environment. For example, an estimated one-third of all food winds up in a landfill. This means that the food is wasted and the water, energy, and labor it took to produce the food. Such waste in so many sectors is terrible for the environment because we’re wasting precious resources.
But when you meal prep, you can reduce your food waste because you’re only buying what you need. This way, you’re doing your part to cut down on food waste and help save the resources it took to provide the food.
Also, make sure that you’re avoiding take-out. It can be easy to get take out after a long day at the office, but take-out is expensive and comes in disposable containers, which aren’t great for the environment. By meal prepping and bringing your lunches to work, it’s a great way to help curb the take-out urge.
11 – Growing Your Vegetables
Another great way to save money and the environment is to grow your own vegetables. It saves money because you’re cutting out the middleman – grocery stores – and you don’t have to pay for any upcharges. A pack of tomato seeds can get purchased for a few bucks, and you’ll have more tomatoes than you can fathom. Plus, growing only what you need is another way to cut down on food waste and save the environment. And hey, you know you’ll be eating organic, so that’s a plus!
It might seem like only a solution for those with a backyard space. Still, gardening techniques such as vertical gardening can take compact spaces like apartments and transform them into urban gardens. I recommend this book if you’re looking to start an urban garden. And if you don’t have space for that, even an herb garden could be a way to save money, eat better, and protect the environment.
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10 – Eat Less Meat
At first glance, this seems a bit unconnected to saving the environment. But a pound of ground beef takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce. In comparison, it only takes 200 gallons of water to make a pound of soybeans – a rich protein-packed plant-based alternative to ground beef protein. So choosing vegetarian meals adds up in the long run since it takes less water and other resources to produce.
Let’s say that the average family of four eats a pound of ground beef on hamburger night. If they choose a plant-based alternative, they could save 100,000 gallons of water a year, even one day a week. That’s a huge environmental impact.
And plant-based dinners, if planned correctly, are demonstrably cheaper than meat-based meals. So you’re saving the environment and caring for your wallet at the same time.
9 – Compost Your Food Scraps
Composting your food scraps is a great way to fertilize your garden and keep food waste from going to the landfill. Not only that, but composting is great for your local ecosystem. For example, worms need the nutrients provided by composting to create rich soils, which helps your lawn grow.
Composting is reasonably easy to start. But, while you can have a compost pile in the backyard, some inexpensive tools help you get started and eliminate some of the odors associated with composting. For example, you can collect scraps in a small composting bucket, like this one, and then deposit them into your garden when the bucket is full. Or, if you want to make fertilizer out of organic food materials, this option is a great choice.
Since food waste is one of the most significant contributors to the trash we put out on the curb, starting a compost pile might decrease your trash bill, depending on how your city runs its utilities. And even if it doesn’t, you’re still saving money because you don’t have to buy fertilized soil for your garden or lawn.
Related read: 14 Frugal Living Tips You Can Implement Today
8 – Replace Energy-zapping Items in Your House
Gas, electricity, and water are some of the highest household bills and directly impact the environment. It’s why it’s essential to invest in high efficient technology to help conserve water and lower your carbon footprint. While this might seem like a way to spend money, instead of saving it, the long-term investment in cost-saving measures on your house or yard will pay dividends.
Here are some of the most cost-effective ways to upgrade your house and save money:
- Use a low-pressure showerhead. It saves money because it uses less water. And it’s better for the environment for the same reason.
- Repair leaky faucets. If you have leaky faucets, this is a must. Otherwise, you’re just spending money on resources that you’re wasting. And that’s not good for anyone.
- Change your lightbulbs to energy-saving bulbs. They save you money by saving energy and lowering your electric bill. Plus, these bulbs last a lot longer and won’t need to get replaced as often as other bulbs. Also, when you can, try and use natural lighting and save money and electricity that way.
- Use power strips. Power strips can turn off a whole host of items that are using phantom power when they aren’t on. By turning the power off by the source, you’re saving money, and you’re freeing up energy to be used elsewhere on the grid.
- Put a recycled plastic bottle full of sand in your toilet. Doing so saves water because it takes less water to flush the toilet, and better yet, it’s free to install – so you’re saving money without spending money.
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7 – Get a home energy audit
Many companies do energy-saving tests in your home for free. They go through your house room by room to locate weak points where you may be wasting energy and money.
Sometimes the fix is easy, like updating the weatherstripping on your house or resealing your windows. Small things like better insulating your home can add up because cool air stays trapped inside in the summer, and your house won’t be trying to heat the entire world in the winter.
Others might be more costly upgrades, like updating your thermometer control system or water heater. Still, in the long run, these purchases are likely to pay for themselves and be much better for the environment because they focus on conserving energy.
Suppose you want more information on home energy audits. In that case, the Department of Energy has a great primer called Ask Energy Saver that details why they’re important and how to find an audit specialist.
6 – Invest in reusable products
Another great investment that will save you money and the environment is in items that you can reuse. Reusable items are great for the environment because they reduce overall manufacturing needs. It means that by not partaking in a one-use product, you’re not only keeping that item out of the trash, but you’re not paying for the enormous amounts of energy it took to make that single-use item.
And you can save a lot by switching to reusable items. For example, the average American spends $5 on water bottles a year. By buying a reusable water bottle instead of buying one, you can save $260 a year.
Here are some other reusable products that will save you money in the long run:
- Glass Tupperware lasts years longer than plastic Tupperware and can be recycled.
- Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins can save you $50 a year.
- Using rags instead of paper towels is another excellent way to save since it takes another line item out of your budget.
- Grocery bags might be a little costly, but they keep plastic out of the landfills.
- Makeup clothes can save $500 depending on the brand that you buy.
- Bamboo toothbrushes are another inexpensive win.
- Reusable plastic baggies can save another $200 a year.
5 – Consider when you run your heating or air conditioning
Another interesting trick is that heating and air suppliers charge more during peak times to run their services. So if you find out what those hours are and elect to run during non-peak hours, you can save tons of money. Some gas and electricity companies even have special programs you can opt into and start saving money. It also cuts down on the overall drain of the grid during peak times, which means that the energy consumption is lower, and it saves natural resources. A win for the planet and a win for you.
And on the subject of heating and air conditioning, consider changing your thermostat when you’re not home. In the summer, set your thermostat higher when you leave. And in the winter, set it lower. For instance, if you usually keep your house at 68 during the summer while you’re at work, increase the temperature to 72. It’ll save money by using less electricity. And you can always drop it back down when you get home. There are even smart thermometers that you can program to make these changes automatically. You don’t even have to think about it.
4 – Take advantage of second-hand buying and selling
The rise of digital flea markets has been a great environmental boost to our life. Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other reselling sites have made it possible to find or sell items quickly and with ease. It’s great for the environment, too. Because you’re not paying for those production practices that are harmful to the environment, and you’re extending the life of an item that might have wound up in the trash.
It’s an excellent option if you’re looking to make some money, and you have extra things lying around your house because you can sell them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Poshmark. Of course, it won’t always be a consistent source of income, but it helps you declutter, save money, and protect the environment.
You could even upscale old things to breathe new life into them and then use these types of online forums to market your goods. Who knows? It might turn into one of many great side hustles!
Buy Nothing groups are also a great alternative to shopping in stores – and bonus – they’re free to partake in! You search for items people are giving away and then go pick them up. Same if you list items, and it’s easier because they’re usually porch pick up, so you don’t even have to be present.
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3 – Change your cleaning habits
Another easy change you can make to your lifestyle that will save you money and protect the trees is to change the way you clean. Instead of buying harsh chemicals and disposable cleaning wipes, look for alternatives.
For large batch items, like laundry detergent or cleaning solutions, there are easy and inexpensive recipes you can use to make your own. It only takes a bit of time but will save you a lot in the long run. For example, a store-bought batch of laundry detergent can run you anywhere from $11-$17, but you can make a similar amount of detergent for $3-$5. It’s a quick fix and is great for the pocketbook.
For cleaning wipes, cut up old ratty t-shirts and give them new life as cleaning rags. You’ll save money because you’re not going to buy something new – and it keeps fabric out of the landfills, which is excellent for the environment because textile waste is a massive contributor to global warming.
And make small changes, like hand washing larger pots and pans that take up extra space in the dishwasher and waiting to run it until it’s full. You can also skip the heat-dry cycle on your dishwasher and allow them to dry naturally.
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2 – Change the way you do laundry
If you’re looking for more small fixes that make a big impact, check on your laundry habits. Unfortunately, laundry is an area that people often forget to check up on when looking for ways to cut costs and protect mother nature. But there are some easy things you can do that achieve both goals.
- Wait 2-3 “wears” before you start up the laundry machines. Clothes don’t need to get washed after every wear, and overwashing your clothes is bad for them. But use your discretion because no one wants smelly gym clothes lying around. But if you just wore the shirt to work, it’s probably okay to “wait a wear” or two.
- Make sure the washer is full before you run a load of clothes. Washing clothes before the washing machine is full creates more work for you because you have more loads of laundry, and it also has a negative environmental impact.
- Switch your water to cold water. Most fabrics don’t need to be washed in hot water anyway, and you won’t have to heat the water, which is great for your wallet.
- Hang dry the clothes instead of machine drying them. You can get a retractable clothesline from any outdoor store inexpensively. And it’ll save you money in the long run. Because air-drying them means you don’t use electricity from your dryer, and any time you don’t use electricity is a win for the environment.
(As an aside, air-drying your clothes increases their lives, since dryers are harsh on softer fabrics. You won’t have to buy clothes as often, which can be an expensive line item in your budget. )
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1 – Use alternative modes of transportation
It’s probably the most significant impact on the list, but also, it’s the least accessible. But if you’re a non-disabled person living in a metropolitan area, considering using alternative modes of transportation is a great way to cut back on your impact on global warming.
Some great ways to save money on gas:
- Bike to work. A decent bike on Facebook Marketplace will run you 250-300, but by biking to work 1-2x a week, you will make that money back by not spending gas. And the more you bike, the less your car gets used and the further you can push out routine maintenance, like oil changes. And if your grocery store is close, biking there for small grocery runs might not be a bad idea either.
- Walk more and drive less. If you live in a walkable area, try things like walking to your kids’ soccer game instead of driving there or walking to return books to the library. It’s another excellent way to avoid using your car and can be better if you have a family who can’t bike altogether.
- Carpool with coworkers. It’s excellent, even if you don’t live in an urban area, because you can always catch a ride to work with a coworker who lives near you, and you can take turns driving, so the gas bill gets distributed evenly. Plus, it still keeps at least one car off the road – maybe more if you carpool with several people.
- Use public transportation when you can. Although America’s infrastructure for public transit isn’t the best, there are still many areas that have metros or bus systems. Using them to run errands instead of your car is a great way to participate in emission-reducing activities. And bus and rail systems are much more inexpensive than maintaining a car, so the more you can avoid driving, the cheaper owning your car will be.