Almost Effortless Ways To Save The Environment (& Money Too)

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!

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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.

Ways To Reduce Waste – Canvas Reusable Shopping Bag


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.

Ways to reduce waste – refuse unnecessary packaging


3. Walk

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.

Ways to reduce waste – walk


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.

Ways to reduce waste – reusable glass bottles


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.

Ways to reduce waste – refuse samples and travel sizes


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.

Ways to reduce waste – borrow or rent items instead of buying


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.

Ways to reduce waste – wrap up warm instead of turning up the thermostat


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:

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10 Comments

  1. Great ideas! I have been thrifting glass containers all week to convert my freezer and fridge away from plastic -especially disposable bags. Disposable bags are the latest on my “remove from our home” list. It is a work in progress. I love articles like this for new ideas and continued motivation. Just start with something and slowly convert over. The next on my “want to try” list are the silicone reusable baggies and the beeswax wrap.

    • Yes! It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Incremental changes over time can add up to huge improvements, and I try hard to show that it can be very cost-effective too.

      Well done on the glass containers! Over a lifetime, that will save a huge amount of plastic from being wasted. =)

  2. We do so many of these things. I wish we lived closer to town where we could ride bikes but we live in the woods. These are all great ideas Laura!!!

  3. If I had just a smidgen of your talent, dedication and charisma I would start a 30 day conservation challenge just like your superb cleaning challenge! Thank you for this post and so many others.
    Just a comment on reducing plastic waste and reducing CO2 output. In deciding between plastic and cardboard packaging, plastic is typically the greener choice – see the Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/mar/31/plastics-cardboard.
    A cotton tote bag is great BUT it needs to be used constantly to be worth it. In this NY Times article, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/29/climate/plastic-paper-shopping-bags.html, they state it needs to be used 131 times for every time a lightweight plastic bag is used to match the energy used in producing the bag. Properly disposed-of plastic bags, which hopefully have been used at least 10 times, are often a better alternative. Paper bags also need to be used many times before being a better alternative than plastic.
    Best, of course, is no packaging at all. Waitrose is trialing a package-free store in Oxford. I hope this is successful and the idea spreads! https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/1136029/waitrose-plastic-oxford-botley-packaging-free.
    Even better for reducing energy consumption is to look what goes in the bag – more veggies, less meat.

    • Oh my reusable bags have been on the go for several years so they’ve definitely proven their worth. =) And yes to less meat. Meat production is incredibly harmful to the environment.

  4. We switched to bamboo toothbrushes and I give them to everyone I know and ask them to just try and switch if they choose and, we just got a soda stream to help cut down on all of the cans of sparkling water we drink. I just add slices of fruit, cucumber,a little fresh lemon, or lime juice. I buy Dr. Bronners’ by the gallon, we use it to clean fruits, vegetables, our counters, and in the shower as a body wash and face wash-it really is amazing. I use 50/50 rubbing alcohol and water with a few drops of olive oil for a dusting spray.

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