You want to do your part to save the planet but it seems to cost an awful lot extra for all those organic and eco-friendly products.
And sorting through rubbish to separate out all the different things that can be recycled sounds very noble, but you were up half the night with the kids and you’ve been rushed off your feet all day and all you want to do is collapse on the couch.
And Captain Planet was great an’ all, but they had magic rings. All you’ve got is a screaming toddler and a sore back.
Still, you can’t help feeling that there could be a few simple changes you could make to reduce your carbon footprint without it being a burden on your energy levels or bank balance.
And there are! Here are some easy and effortless ways to save the environment… and most involve saving some money along the way too!
1. Re-usable bags
Plastic bags clutter up your home and clog up landfills. And let’s face it, they’re pretty flimsy.
On the other hand, you probably already have some sturdy canvas bags or unused totes lying around. You know, the ones that came free with that purchase you made, or that you got at an event, or that your local library gave you to tote your books back and forth. (Yet another reason libraries are the bee’s knees.)
If you don’t have any on hand and you have to buy one, you can find them almost anywhere, in any pattern imaginable, at incredibly affordable prices. Even your local dollar store (or equivalent) is likely to have some.
Or even grab a wicker basket and get your Parisienne on.
Keep them in your car so they’re always on hand when you’re out and about.
2. Refuse unnecessary packaging
If you like something and you know you’ll be using a lot of it, buy it in a bigger size instead of smaller, single servings to cut down on the amount of packaging. This has the added bonus of usually saving you quite a bit of money too.
And you don’t need to bag all your fruits and vegetables individually. Simply pop them all together in a reusable bag. I promise they’ll all get along just as well outside their plastic prisons. 😉
Another way to save the planet AND save money is to choose refills where possible. Examples include cleaning supplies, nuts and grains, baby wipes, some toiletries like shampoo, etc. Some stores even have refilling stations where you can bring your own empty containers and fill them up.
In our home, we buy refills for wipes and dish soap, among other things. It’s more cost effective, and cuts down on a lot of plastic.
And if you’re only buying one or two items, consider whether you really need a bag at all. It could be just as easy to carry them, or slip them into the handbag you already have.
If you do feel you need one and you don’t have a reusable bag on hand, enquire about a paper option.
If you can, leave the car behind. I know it’s not always possible, but seize every opportunity to ditch the gas guzzler and walk or cycle instead.
Or take full advantage of public transport if it’s a viable option for you. Fewer traffic jams, no stress about finding (and paying for) a parking spot, and you can read a book or stare at your phone all you please.
Perhaps you could even car pool with someone, with them driving one week and you the next. It’s one less car on the road, and one less trip to the petrol station.
4. Drop the disposables
List all the things you replace after one or a handful of uses and see if you can find a reusable alternative.
It’s something I’ve been diligently working on over the last few years. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but here are some examples of alternatives in my own home:
- Ziploc bags have been replaced by washable pouches
- Paper towels have been replaced by old rags and cloths (much to my husband’s dismay)
- We don’t use any plastic cutlery or paper plates
- We have reusable bottles/travel mugs instead of disposable water ones (though we do still keep some plastic water bottles on hand for overnight guests or in case our water goes out, and my husband still buys some drinks like Gatorade)
- I use washable sanitary pads instead of the disposable kind (when I first heard about these I was a little freaked out but decided to try them and am now completely converted)
- We buy refills for wipes and dish detergent, as mentioned earlier
- My daughter has reusable lunchboxes (instead of using paper or ziplock bags)
- We have beeswax wraps to replace things like cling film, tin foil, Press N Seal, etc.
- We use refillable containers we can take with us while traveling instead of buying travel sizes
I’m sure there are many more but those are the ones I could think of off the top of my head.
And again, this is going to save so much money in the long term.
5. Stop the samples
You probably have a little stash of samples or travel size items that you bought or got for free… and then hid away in a drawer never to be seen again. Yup, I’ve done that too.
They're fine if you’re using them to test something out, or for throwing in your travel bag. But the next time you’re offered one, be realistic about whether you’ll actually use it.
You might think it’s no harm to take one – it is free after all – but somewhere there’s a factory creating huge amounts of waste just so all those little samples can sit at home in your bathroom drawer.
Just say no.
6. Borrow or rent your items
Sometimes you only need something on a short-term basis, or you’re thinking of taking up a hobby but the equipment is expensive and you’re not sure you’ll like it. Instead of paying money for something that’s possibly going to sit there for most of the year, consider borrowing or renting it.
Find out if the store that sells them has a rental option, ask around your friends and neighbours, or look for local workshops that will let you test things out. (I’ve been considering buying a Circuit machine but don’t want to splash the cash until I’ve had a chance to try it. Thankfully, there’s a library not too far from me that offers free demos, so I’ll be booking myself in for one of those!)
You’d be amazed at how much stuff you can easily borrow instead of having to buy.
7. Don’t touch the thermostat
Despite what my husband might have you believe, you don’t have to head straight for the thermostat every time you feel a bit of a chill. Just get cosy instead. Put on an extra layer, curl up under a blanket or throw, and pull the curtains and blinds to exclude draughts.
Obviously there will come a point at which you’ll need the heat, but don’t always let it be your first port of call.
(The same goes for the air con in warm weather. First try removing a layer, having a cold drink, and opening a window.)
Speak to your local authority about solar panels or some other form of renewable energy too. There are plenty of grants and subsidies available so you may be surprised by how affordable it is, and you’ll obviously save a huge chunk of change off your electricity bill each month.
8. Switch things off
Even items that are on standby are using electricity.
If you’re finished watching TV, switch it off. If you’re leaving a room, turn off the lights (still trying to train my husband and daughter on this one). If you’re not going to be home all day, don’t leave the heating/air con on.
Almost zero extra effort, and savings to be made.
9. Choose energy efficiency
Change all your lightbulbs to energy efficient ones (our energy supplier just sent us a big package of free ones so it’s worth enquiring of yours) and, next time you need a new appliance, choose one with a good energy efficiency rating.
For appliances with the option, use the eco-friendly setting.
They’ll be much cheaper to run, and will reduce your carbon footprint significantly.
If you have your own eco-friendly tip, please leave it in the comments for us planeteers. 😉 And if saving money is high on your priority list, here are some other posts on that topic: