What's an easy, eco-friendly habit that could help families save money?
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We save money and reduce our environmental impact with this one question… “Can I EASILY accomplish the same thing with less waste, expense and/or processing and transportation?”
Take something as simple as popcorn for example. Popcorn is a popular snack in our home. Once I started making and throwing away a bag or two of microwave popcorn a day I tried making it myself from kernels. I remembered my parents making it in a pan over the stovetop with a little oil. So I bought a bag of popcorn seeds which will last me usually at least a month or more for under $2.00. Throw in a shaker of popcorn seasonings and for the same price as box of microwave popcorn (which would be gone in less than a week) we had a month’s worth or more of popcorn supplies. Popping the corn did not take any more time or inconvenience as sitting watching a bag or two of popcorn in the microwave. So now we enjoy the same snack with much less waste, expense, and processing. Not to mention it is healthier too.
This same equation can be applied to just about everything. It goes way beyond the kitchen …
• Household cleaners – baking soda and vinegar can tackle most of what you use chemicals to clean. Even if you still want to occasionally clean with chemicals substituting vinegar and water a couple of cleaning a month will reduce environmental impact and expense.
• Egg trays for seedling trays.
• The library for books, movies, magazines and eBooks instead of the bookstore.
• Plugging in entertainment center equipment into power strips that can be turned off when not in use or leaving the house with one switch.
• Programming your thermostat to be warmer or cooler when no one is home.
• Reusing glass and plastic containers that come with your groceries.
• Buying second-hand. One second-hand big ticket purchase alone can save your household thousands of dollars and reduce environmental impact.
• Grouping your errand running by locations to save time and gas.
• When you are grocery shopping purchase a couple of easy dinner items so you can skip takeout the next time you are short on time or energy.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. If you are short on time or inclination start with just one simple change and when you see how easy it is to save money and reduce your environmental footprint without additional inconvenience or diminishing your quality of life you will want to do more. Pick a starting place that will give you the most personal satisfaction and go from there.
An easy, eco-friendly and FUN habit that helps save money is to make your own household cleaning products. With pantry items like baking soda and white vinegar, Castile soap, and essential oils you can make inexpensive cleaners that are safe for you, your family, and the planet. I find that using an essential oil such as Lemon, which has a sunny aroma, even makes cleaning fun! And, it's a great family activity too!
A family of 5 striving to reduce the amount of plastics we use, whenever we travel--be it a cross country flight or a quick drive--we pack what we consider essentials to avoid over-priced, over-packaged, over-processed products!
Using my own containers, I hit up the bulk bins to get my kids favorite snacks. I also take the time to make snacks that are more filling like granola bars and depending on the time we're leaving we'll pack a (cooler with) lunch or dinner to be eaten on the plane or at a rest stop! Along with the snacks, we take as many reusable water bottles that we can. If we're driving, we fill them up... if we're flying we wait until we get through security and fill them up at the water fountains (or get water from a soda fountain).
Not having to purchase food or drinks at the airport or at gas stations saves us from using single use disposable plastics AND lots of $$ :)
Embrace this truth: CONVENIENCE PRODUCTS AREN'T REALLY ALL THAT MORE CONVENIENT. Look at just about everything in your pantry, fridge, bathroom vanity, cupboards, and laundry room and realize that you can make your own version of pretty much anything in there, probably cheaper and with much less effort than you'd ever guess.
Instant oatmeal? Making your own takes 3 minutes instead of 90 seconds and tastes ten times better. Birthday cake and frosting? Google "one bowl chocolate cake" and "easy buttercream icing" and spend maybe an extra 5 minutes total, and you've got something inexpensive and much healthier (and you can sneak some whole wheat flour into that cake too, if you feel like it!). Slap some tomato sauce, leftover veggies and meat, and mozzarella cheese onto a piece of naan or pita and you've got personal pizzas that are way better than pre-made frozen ones. Canned veggies, like tomatoes and beans? Learn to can your own tomatoes and cook and freeze amazingly cheap dried beans in your slow cooker, and you can nix those. And speaking of the crockpot--you can make yogurt in it, a big batch, which you can then flavor with all kinds of things and put into reusable containers for school lunches. Those boxed "whatever-helper" meals or frozen dinners? Make friends with your crockpot: some veggies and possibly meat dumped in there with a jar of salsa or spaghetti sauce or whatever, in the morning, means a delicious ready-made dinner that night. Deodorant? Google that, and you'll find recipes from the simple to the complex that work just as well and don't involve rubbing aluminum onto newly shaved armpits with their proximity to breasts and lymph nodes. And lots of folks here have mentioned vinegar with essential oils (and if you don't have those, just drop the peels of some lemons and oranges into a mason jar of vinegar for a couple of weeks, and you've got essentially the same product) diluted in water as an amazing cleaning liquid.
Make friends with Google Search, not to mention the other ladies on this page and all over the Internet. You don't have to do it all, of course; just try things one at a time, and add as you feel ready. You'll be amazed what you can do, with very little time and money. And repeat after me: ANYTHING THEY CAN MAKE, I CAN MAKE CHEAPER.
Ditch those rolls of wrapping paper and paper gift bags at holidays and birthdays.
Depending on how many kids you have, and how many friends they have, you might spend a lot of time and money at birthday parties. Wrapping paper, tissue and gift bags are insanely expensive for something that ends up in the trash before the party is even over.
Instead, use what you have to wrap gifts -- a basket or a beach bucket can be two gifts in one. Or use your child's artwork to make an extra special presentation.
Believe it or not, reducing food waste is one of the easiest ways to go green and save money doing it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 30 cents of every dollar we spend on food we end up throwing away because what we've bought spoils, or expires, or because we've just bought too much. The solution? Put leftovers in the front of the fridge, not the back where you might forget about them. Try to plan menus in advance, then grocery shop with an ingredients list so you buy what you really will use. Go to the grocery store just once a week - after "leftovers" night, if possible, and when the fridge is almost empty (which means you've eaten what you've bought). If you need to make an emergency milk run, do it at the local convenience store, where you won't be tempted to buy more than you need at the time.
Added benefit: the money you save wasting less frees up your budget to buy some delicious organic chocolate!
Make it a priority to make dinner just about every night. It always amazes me how much less trash our family of 5 produces each week than my neighbors of smaller families, largely because we do just that! Not only does it produce less trash, but you can control the ingredients better, so there are fewer chemicals involved in the production of that food. Plus, it is way cheaper, especially if you use a lot of ingredients from your own garden, and much healthier too. An epic win all the way around!
Shop used! This will reduce the transportation footprint (especially if you shop locally), keep items out of landfills, and double use of an item for the same manufacturing footprint.
Grow your own food and/or buy in bulk. The taste of homegrown produce is AMAZING, and it's a great family project. When local produce is in season, you can also preserve the bounty for pennies on the dollar compared to store products. We can, dry, freeze, lacto-ferment, root cellar, and use cold frames and a greenhouse for season extension. The kids are so proud of themselves when they share "their" fruits and vegetables with family and friends.
Simple is to turn off lights & power when not in use!
A step further: Separate garbage from recyclables and recycle as much as possible. You can recycle bottles and get money back. Involve the whole family by getting everyone to help and then guess on how much money you'll get back, the closes guess wins the pot!
Buy in bulk when possible. Less packaging and lower prices (Shampoos for example, buy in bulk and then pour into reusable containers.)
Reuse products when you can. Reusable water containers vs disposable water bottles. Refill ink cartridges for your printer.
Make your own household cleaners! You don't need all those icky chemicals to clean your house.
Vinegar makes an excellent countertop cleaner (and if you want, you could add some essential oils in there for extra antibacterial power and scent). Baking soda sprinkled on half a lemon or grapefruit is a great bathtub cleaner. Vinegar and water clean laminate floors like you wouldn't believe. And my favorite - Alvin Corn Glass cleaner (http://crunchybetty.com/battle-of-the-homemade-glass-cleaners) - uses alcohol, vinegar, and cornstarch and is the. best. glass. cleaner. ever. Hands down. I've never BOUGHT a glass cleaner that works as well.
Of course, there are a jillion other ways you can use natural ingredients to clean with - effectively - but these are just a great place to start.
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."
I spend a lot of time looking at all of the different ways individuals, families, and our greater society can choose to make an impact on their health and environment. It always comes back to keeping the "3 Rs" in mind.
What we choose to spend our money on and bring into our homes makes an enormous impact on our quality of lives. Going back to the basics of just what a truly eco-friendly life is will save all families money, time, and energy.
I believe in small steps toward permanent change. It starts with awareness and education. Realizing that every action has a consequence, either positive or negative, is a beginning. Realizing what those consequences are lead one down a path toward a more eco-friendly life.
Decide that you don't really need to buy something new, make the choice to reuse or recycle everything possible, and start becoming aware of what is possible.
Cut out store bought household cleaners. You can use lemons and vinegar for pretty much everything. Make sure you use a cleaning cloth that you reuse instead of paper towels. Vinegar will clean toilets, sinks, carpet, pet stains, stainless steel, granite, windows, it will remove paint, and more!
From vegan shoes to sippy cups, bookmark these Web sites for great deals and the all mighty coupon:
www.ecobunga.com is a comprehensive directory of giveaways and deals on green products and services, including sweepstakes, contests, coupons, rebates, sales, free shipping, and bulk discounts.
www.greenshopaholic.com and www.organicdeals.com offer frequently updated bargains on eco-friendly products and services.
Yes, they do make coupons for organic groceries. Log on to www.mambosprouts.com for free coupons for healthy, natural products. Whole Foods also has its own coupon book, “The Whole Deal,” which you can “clip” online at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons.
The massive crop of savings can be found through the ubiquitous “daily deal” sites. Greenies have their own place to save on sustainable and ethical products with sites like PureCitizen.com, LovingEco.com, Neerg.com, and GreenDeals.org.
With RecycleBank.com, you can sign up to get rewarded just for recycling! If your town participates in recycling rewards, apply the Recycle Bank sticker to your recycling bin and you can earn points good for discounts and freebies from brands like Kashi, Happy Baby, Nature Made, Seventh Generation, Clean Well, and dozens of locally owned businesses. Even if your town doesn’t participate in the program, you can still earn points just for joining and participating in online green living quizzes and surveys. I’ve gotten free magazine subscriptions, loads of coupons, and dozens of free products. An average recycler earns between $130 and $200 in reward value each year from home recycling alone.
No matter what you’re shopping for, always log on to www.ebates.com first to get up to 15% back on your purchases. This no-strings-attached site has gotten me close to $1,000 in cash back over the past six years! Also, don’t forget to do an online search for coupon codes.
Find these and more at www.spitthatoutthebook.com
Twice as good! When cooking, think how you can use the same energy for twice as many tasks. If you are using a steamer, use the bottom pan to cook rice or potatoes in when you are steaming fresh vegetables in the top. When you're cooking a casserole in the oven, why not pop in a few potatoes to bake for your next day's lunchtime snack. Another idea, when boiling water for pasta, pop in a couple of eggs, these will be ready to go the next day in a tasty sandwich or salad. Not only are you using half as much energy, you are saving time and money on your energy bills too.
I'm thrilled that more and more families are beginning to see the connection between protecting our environment and protecting our pocketbook. I believe that shifting to that kind of thinking is the most helpful habit we, as mothers, can model ourselves and inspire in others. Two great examples:
First, using inexpensive products such as hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, and baking soda as cleansers saves money on name brand cleaning products, reduces your family's exposure to harmful toxins, and keeps those dangerous chemicals out of our waterways and food supplies.
Second, drive less and walk/ride/roll more. With childhood obesity and diabetes increasing at alarming rates, adopting a more active-lifestyle approach to transportation saves money on gas and car repairs, provides an "excuse" for families to exercise together, and reduces natural resource depletion.
Cloth diapering! The commonly accepted figure for the cost of using disposable diapers is $1,500 to $2,000 by the time your child is out of them. If you decide to use only chlorine free diapers or biodegradable diapers, that number climbs to $1,600 to $2,500 (according to 2009 figures).
You can significantly reduce the cost of diapering by using cloth. After the initial start up cost to purchase the materials you need (In our case, it was around $150.), you can save several hundred dollars each year by committing to cloth. If you plan to have more children and reuse your cloth diapers, you will have saved a serious amount of money!
By making my own insect repellent for my family, I've found an incredibly effective way to keep bugs away. I love that the spray is safe, cheap, and easy!
Simply place a handful of fresh basil leaves into a glass measuring cup. Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over the basil. Let the leaves steep for two to four hours. Squeeze the basil leaves to get out as much of the liquid as possible. Pour the infused liquid into a spray bottle. Add 1/2 cup of vodka to the squirt bottle. Shake gently to mix the contents. Apply this all-natural insect repellent by spraying it on your skin.
Be sure to spray it where you’d like to repel mosquitoes … they may end up biting on skin that’s not coated with the basil mixture. While this mixture is safe, especially compared to DEET-based sprays, be sure to keep out of the reach of children.
You can read about other natural mosquito repellents on my blog, Accidentally Green, at www.accidentallygreen.com.
One of the best ways to save money AND be eco-friendly is to reuse / recycle what you already have! Save tons of money on storage containers by reusing glass and plastic food containers when they are empty. Baby food jars are the best for storing small items or reusing for other food. I have been reusing mine for years now for my home-made pesto (great way to share as well!) and applesauce or other sauces. Growing up, my Dad used the jars to organize all his nails, screws, nuts and bolts in the garage (yep, I now do that too - including buttons, pins, tacks, paperclips... ). We also reuse larger plastic containers (from things like rice, pretzels, peanut butter) to organize or hold arts and craft items, small toys, coins, odds and ends...Containers can also be reused as planters! (see related blog post)
Reusing containers and also packaging not only saves $$ but reduces the amount of waste (if they are not recycleable).
With the school year starting up we try to instill in our children that we can use and consume less. We use cloth napkins, re-usable snack and sandwich wraps, and stainless steel water bottles. We also make sure that we don't throw away utensils and instead bring them home and use them again. This helps us save money in the end by not having to buy wasteful plastic bags, utensils, paper bags, and juice boxes for lunch.
Swap everything! Clothing, toys, books. New-to-you is just as good as new and passing on stuff means less goes into landfills. Start with Halloween and swap costumes as part of National Costume Swap Day!
Ditch the disposables and buy reusable products instead!! Use washable lunch sacks or containers instead of plastic baggies, cloth napkins instead of paper, rechargeable batteries instead of single use, microfiber mop cloths instead of the throw away kind. The list goes on and on....
Stop buying plastic water bottles, Reuse cardboard for craft projects, Turn lights off when not in use.
Don't buy things you don't need!!! Really think about what you need and then try to find it second hand.
Reduce waste and reuse as often as possible! Getting rid of anything disposable would be a great first step, and was one of the first big steps my household made. First, we got rid of paper towels, napkins, plates, and silverware - we use cloth everything, and all of our cleaning cloths are made from repurposed old t-shirts! Most of our household uses family cloth instead of toilet paper as well, but that's not something I enforce as I don't want to leave a bad vibe regarding eco-friendliness on an unwilling husband or children. After getting rid of the obvious, start looking for other things you can stop wasting. For example, purchase an eco-friendly water bottle and refill it with your choice of beverage instead of buying it in small plastic bottles . Use Pinterest and your own creative juices to reuse or perk up old household items instead of purchasing new ones.
The key, in our house, is to not buy as much stuff that can be tossed and don't toss as much stuff that can be reused. We reduce and reuse just about everything we can get our hands on!
Line drying clothes. Electric clothes dryers are the second biggest energy consumers in the home (after the fridge). If everyone line dried clothes, not only would you see a substantial financial savings on your energy bill, but we'd be consuming a whole lot less of our precious resources to better the environment!
Re-use gift wrap, or buy or make cloth gift bags for every occasion!
If EVERY Canadian family wrapped just three gifts in re-usable wrapping it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks!
I'm working on an eBook addressing this exact question! With the tough economy affecting all of us, making money is hard so saving what we have is important. But to save the planet while keeping some change in our wallets? Even better!
Here are some suggestions from my eBook.
The easiest habit to break to help save money is to replace disposables with REUSABLES.. You are literally throwing away money out with the trash when you use disposables. The simplest ones to start with are:
1. Plastic Cling Free Wraps –use Glass Lock system that come with lids
2. Zip Lock Bags – there are a ton of snack bags available now that are made with cloth. For storing or carrying foods, use reusable containers instead
3. Paper towels – cut old cotton t-shirt in the size of paper towels. Use them and gather them up at the end of the day and throw them in the wash with your regular laundry.
4. Paper napkins - same as paper towel. You love cloth napkins in restaurants, why wouldn’t you want to use them at home? You'd be amazed at how many sheets of paper napkins we throw away. And not all of them are even that soiled.
5. Hand Wipes – there are so many ways to make all natural reusable hand wipes that are chemical free. Using cloth will save you a ton of money.
6. Kleenex – learn from your grandmother and use a hankie.
7. Disposable Plastic Utensils – wrap utensil in a cloth napkin to use for lunch of picnic. Why buy plastic ones and then, throw them away? Again it’s throwing money out the window.
Making your own cleaning supplies is so economical and so safe that it makes no sense to buy commercial ones. If you don’t know the formula, wait until my eBook comes out. I'll have all the cleaning solution, including shampoo, formulas in the book. But to tell you a little peek at what are the basic ingredients...they are baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, Tea Tree Oil, essential oil (optional), Castile Saop, Borax, Washing Soda, and Witch Hazel. These inexpensive ingredients will do wonders for non-toxic cleaning AND your wallet.
1. Lower (or raise, depending on the season) your thermostat.
2. Unplug appliances when not in use.
3. Turn off water during brushing or shaving.
4. Turn down the water heater thermostat.
5. Print only when necessary (and print double sided when you do) and save documents in pdf.
6. Cook from scratch and buy food in bulk.
7. Don’t throw away food and use up all the leftovers
8. Eat less meat. Besides the fact that veggies are cheaper, the health benefits from less-meat diet will prevent you from illness, which will cost you later.
9. Install rain barrel and use the water for the garden
10. Try to minimize high maintenance grassed area. Plant veggies and edible garden instead.
11. Use solar garden lighting lamps for the walkway.
I can go on……but I’ll end here.
I hope you'll stop by and check on the status of my eBook release.
Thanks for asking!
One EASY trick we use? Old fashion soap. You know, the kind that doesn't come in a plastic bottle. This kind doesn't have a pump either. It is just a rectangle that sits on the edge of our sink. We get them from our local natural grocers and they last FOREVER. No joke. And we never have to buy plastic, chemical laden, bottles or refill bottles ever.
Buy Less Stuff.
Probably the simplest answer for saving money. But definitely easier said than done.
Watching The Story of Stuff videos and having your kids watch them too can help everyone understand the purpose of these steps. Garbage Land is also a great book that teaches about the process of what happens to our waste.
I've found that the best thing to motivate almost anyone is a contest. See who can spend the least money each week, or who can create the least trash. How can you repurpose your garbage into something useful or cool looking? Do you really need to throw out one just to buy another? Who has the most creative reuse design?
I know it sounds simple, and a little too straight forward, but doesn't it just make sense? If you want to save money, stop buying so much stuff. It's something all of us can work on, and in the process you'll also help save the planet.
I know this sounds incredibly easy and almost silly, but turning off the lights when you are not using them, as well as putting your computers, TV's, etc. on a power strip and turning them off nightly.
I have a home that I'm trying to sell which is currently empty. Turns out that one light left on used 4 kw of electricity per day, which translated into approximately $10 for one week. (The light was inadvertently left on.) Quite shocking to think that one light could use so much electricity.
Also, computers, TV's, DVD players, and other electronics that are plugged in 24/7 are considered "energy vampires". They use energy even when we are not using them.
Green Living Expert
Pack kids lunches with fewer single-use items. Single-serve fruit cups are much more expensive than getting an assortment of reusable containers and larger jars of fruit. Buying a few metal water bottles & reusable drink bottles and filling with milk and juice is cheaper than sending in juice boxes or juice pouches. Cloth napkins (yes, in kids lunches) that go in the laundry are cheaper than paper that get thrown away (if you & the school janitor are lucky) and teaching your kids to bring their plastic forks and spoons home to go in the dishwasher and be reused saves on buying more all the time!
We provide all the how-to details on our blog, twice in fact! Attached is the post that talks specifically about making your own fruit cups (takes about 30 seconds) and a brand of resealable spill-proof cups that we've had a lot of success with.
Coming from me, the obvious answer is to use cloth diapers and cloth wipes! Even if you don't use cloth, or you don't have babies, you can save money (and the earth) with other reusable products.
Paper products are expensive (even with coupons) and wasteful. You don't have to have expensive, fancy products to replace them (though they are fun!) A few microfiber towels will do a better job at tackling your cleaning than paper towels. Keep a stack of dish cloths for cleaning up around the kitchen, just make sure to change them often to avoid spreading germs.
A stack of inexpensive washcloths make fantastic "cloth napkins" and work far better than paper at wiping messy hands and faces!
You'll also find reusable snack and sandwich bags, washable mop pads and more in our house!
You can spend a lot on beautiful, decorative reusable products, but you can also make the switch for less than a bundle of paper towels and napkins!
MAKE SURE THE DISHWASHER AND LAUNDRY MACHINES ARE FULL-Before running the dishwasher see if you can squeeze in that last dish or fit in that last fork. Can you throw in a few more pairs of socks into the washing machine?
Avoid using the permanent press cycle, which uses an added 20 liters (5 gallons) for the extra rinse. New Energy Star rated washers use 35 - 50% less water and 50% less energy per load.
WASH YOUR LAUNDRY IN COLD WATER-80-90 percent of the washing machines energy is used to heat the water. Your clothes will be just as clean-honest!
- learn to make your own, cheap, non-toxic household cleaners
- shop less, shop local!
- need something? First check Freecycle.org and the "Free" section on Craigslist
- buy multi-functional furniture pieces
- get moving boxes for free from stores like Starbucks or Panera
- use the kids programs your local library offers for free
- recycle cardboard, free address stickers, and toilet paper rolls for fun, green craft projects
- before you shop, go online and find coupons and discount codes, and use store cards
- no garden? Consider gardening with a single hay bale
- getting something at Starbucks? Also ask for a large cup of filtered, free water...
Should I keep going? :)
I save all plastic and glass containers and store them with my Tupperware. When people come over I give them these containers instead of my nice glass food storage containers.