You want to go green, but without spending a lot of green. Many people feel they have to buy a lot of organic or environmentally-friendly items to go green, but actually, one of the best ways to do it is to make lifestyle changes that reduce energy usage and waste in general.
Let me tell you a story to show what I mean. One day, my boyfriend and I were dumpster diving – in an area in which it was legal – mostly so we could find used clothing to donate to charity. In one dumpster, we saw heaps of clean, stylish women’s clothing shoved into trash bags, along with piles of used books. Along with the clothing, we found a reusable, pink shopping bag that said “go green” in lime letters.
The point is that buying green items won’t help anyone unless you take steps to adopt a green lifestyle. These 10 ideas should help you start living green while actually saving money. Several come from the Earthworks Group and the California Department of Conservation.
1. Pick up reusable shopping bags and reuse them!
Grocery stores like ALDI have long followed the policy of charging shoppers a few cents per bag to reduce waste. Now, more grocery stores are selling reusable shopping bags in all shapes and colors. Buy a large one with thick straps from your favorite grocery store, then leave it either by your front door or in your car to make sure you remember to bring it.
2. Unplug chargers when not in use.
This is another easy habit to get into. Cell phone, laptop, and other gadget chargers sap a little bit of power even when off-duty. Give them a vacation by unplugging them when you don’t need them. This can save you a little on your electric bill, and in this economy, every little bit helps!
3. Switch to paperless credit card statements.
Most major credit cards will let you view your statements online instead of getting them in the mail. It’s easy, secure, and saves trees, too. Sometimes, you’ll even get a small one-time reward for switching to paperless billing.
4. Waste as little food as you can.
Buying pricey organic food and letting it go to waste sure isn’t green. Whatever type of food you buy, make sure you use it. If you live in a big household or have kids, make it a house policy that everyone needs to either check with you before throwing out any food or write down what they tossed in a visible place. You may find that plenty of usable food is ending up in the trash can.
Think of creative ways to use food that might be wasted. If fruits or vegetables have soft spots, you can often cut around them and eat the good parts. If they’ve already gone bad, start a compost heap in the yard. It’ll be a great incentive to get into gardening. Old pita bread can be fried to make chips and old bananas can be baked into banana bread. Before tossing food, check to see what you can do with it.
5. Take the “One Mile Challenge.”
Want to get into shape, go green, and save money? The next time you’re going somewhere that’s within one or two miles, try to walk, ride your bike, or roller-skate instead of driving. Switching to all-natural products may improve your health in the long-run, but working out more is sure to improve your health now. Plus, you’ll spend less on gas.
6. Shop at thrift stores.
Here’s some old-school recycling! With the current buzz about 80’s fashions, like leggings and oversized sunglasses, your local thrift store is likely to have cheaper versions of what the mall is selling. Some thrift stores will offer discounts if you bring in your old stuff, too.
7. Stop washing clean clothes.
Let me tell you another story. I once had roommates who talked about how important green living was, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their daily habits. On a typical night, one of them might put on a clean pair of jeans before going out, wear it to a meeting for a few hours, then come home, change into sweatpants, and put them in the dirty laundry pile.
Now, were those jeans really dirty from being worn indoors for a few hours? Probably not! Washing clothing less often will reduce the amount of energy you use, which not only helps the environment, but lowers your utility bills. It also prevents clothing, especially black items, from fading as quickly. That cuts back on how often you buy new clothes.
Of course, you need to stick to common sense. Personal items do need to be washed on a regular basis. If an item is stinky or visibly stained, it’s dirty. Just make sure items in the laundry pile really belong there.
8. When you wash clothing, use cold water.
Yes, this author is obsessed with clothing! But really, washing your laundry on a cold setting is very helpful. According to Shawn Lindabury and Sharon Anderson of The Ithaca Journal, around 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes toward heating up the water.
9. Repair or repurpose old items.
“Repurposing” just means finding a new way to use something. For example, while we’re talking about clothes, socks with holes at the bottom can be cut to make toasty arm warmers for the winter. For examples of creative repurposing, visit Etsy.com, a craft marketplace. There are many online guides to repairing just about anything, too. Step-by-step examples on YouTube can help a lot.
Repairing and repurposing cut back on waste. You’ll spend less money buying new stuff, too.
10. Have a garage sale.
Having a garage sale is a fun way to get rid of your old items while making money. At the end of the day, donate the items that weren’t sold to charity. If you have kids, get them in on the fun by helping them set up a lemonade stand outside. This will bring in plenty of quarters on hot days!
Of course, buying sustainable products is great as well, but going green is really about changing your lifestyle. That may sound scary, but as the above strategies show, it can help you save money while having fun. Try to see how many of these ideas your family can put into action this month.
Katheryne Taylor is a social media advocate for the credit card deals website, CreditDonkey.