Green is here to stay, but adopting an environmentally friendly lifestyle can be daunting for families on a budget. Sustainable fabrics can be expensive, and eco-friendly cleaners aren’t always the most affordable option. Faster than you can say, “Sure, I’d love to live a greener more sustainable existence, but gosh darn it, it’s just so expensive,” we’ve pulled together the best seven ways to cut costs when you’re trying to be environmentally conscious and keep a bit of extra green in your pocket.
Green your food and save
Invest in a home soda-making machine like SodaStream, a green product that allows seltzer/soda drinkers to eliminate the packaging consumption and reduce the costs that come with purchasing carbonated drinks. The average American drinks around 600 bottles and cans of soda in a year. Eighty percent of those bottles and cans never get recycled. SodaStream still gives drinkers their soda kick, but without the carbon footprint and cost of store-brand carbonated drinks. It conveniently carbonates water in reusable, BPA-free plastic or glass bottles. The empty CO2 cylinders that power the machine go back to SodaStream to be cleaned, inspected, refilled and reused. With a Sodastream machine, soda ends up costing only 25 cents per bottle!
Green your clothing and save
Instead of shopping, try swapping! Chief Mom Carly Fauth of thredUP kids (an online kids’ clothing exchange) suggests swapping instead of shopping. At swap sites like thredUP, you’ll prevent sending clothes to landfills by shopping in someone else’s closet for a fraction of the cost.
When you wash those clothes, make your laundry practices sparkle, too. Modern laundry machines use copious amounts of energy. Washing clothes in cold water can save up to 90 percent of the energy in the washing machine cycle. Then, hang as many clothes to dry as possible, indoors or out. You’ll eliminate carbon emissions, increase the life of your garments and save money — up to $116 per year — by avoiding the dryer for five laundry loads per week. Washing in cold water and line- or rack-drying half your laundry can prevent a combined 795 pounds of carbon release.
Need to bring your wardrobe up to date? According to Jennifer Schwab, director of sustainability for Sierra Club Green Home, using the services of a tailor may be a greener and less expensive option than buying a new wardrobe. Alternatively, shop vintage and give clothes a second life from thrift stores. You’ll be surprised with the fun, unique items you can have for pennies on the dollar.
Green your entertainment and save
Be conscious of post-party waste. Michael Baker, owner of Bakers’ Best Catering in Boston, offers these tips:
- Compost kitchen scraps.
- Have untouched leftovers picked up by a food pantry
- Use biodegradable packaging (e.g., cups made from corn plastic, potato starch utensils).
- Avoid individually wrapped items like cream, sugar and bottles of water. Instead, use reusable serving ware such as wicker baskets lined with colorful linen for baked goods and with marble slabs for fruit and cheese displays.
Green your cleaning routine
Purchase green cleaners. Saying no to conventional cleaners reduces the amount of chemicals that wind up in our environment. J.R. Watkins and Seventh Generation both offer home care lines that often provide a bigger bang for your buck.
Green your energy use and save
Change a light bulb. According to Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Freedom Debt Relief, LLC, if every US home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy-Star-qualified CFL, we would save enough electricity to light more than 3 million homes for a year (that’s up to $600 million in energy costs!). And the reduction in greenhouse gases would be equal to taking 800,000 cars off the road. CFL prices have come way down: They cost as little as 50 cents each at many discount retailers. Each bulb will save $30 or more in electricity over its lifetime.
Go Green when it comes to gifts
Consider a Fair Trade gift. Fair Trade combines elements of environmental stewardship with just treatment of artisans and farmers to help alleviate poverty, reduce inequality and create opportunity. You can find all manner of Fair Trade gifts, such as these eight handmade (thereby carbon-free) finger puppets made in Peru from Partners for Just Trade for $18; that beats buying the equivalent number of plastic action figures made in a Chinese factory for $34.