There are a lot of lifestyle and habit changes that will lessen your environmental impact and help you save money quickly, if not immediately.
Check out our list of ways you can be a better steward of your money and the environment!
Save Money and the Environment
One myth about “going green” is it’s more expensive, and while in some instances that is true – there are many ways you can go green and start saving money quickly, if not immediately.
But before we dig into the best ways to lower your carbon footprint while saving and even making money, let’s talk about the positive impact practicing good stewardship can have on your wallet and the environment.
The Intersection of Personal Finance and Environmentalism
Believe it or not, personal finance and environmentalism communities share parallel beliefs. Concepts such as money mindfulness, intentional living and informed financial decisions, align closely with minimalism, sustainability and living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
At this intersection, we base our decisions about how we spend or invest our money, on our values and find ourselves asking important questions like:
- Will this purchase add value to my life?
- Is this item high quality and will it stand the test of time?
- Does this purchase align with my values?
- Is this item necessary, or can I do without?
- Does making this purchase align with my goals for the future?
Just by answering these questions, you can identify ways to reduce both how much money you spend and your impact on the environment! From there you can start to dig even deeper into the principles of environmentalism and find more ways to save more money.
6 R’s of Recycling
Next, let’s look at the R’s of recycling and how they can help you save money.
The right mindset is at the heart of every good financial and environmental decision. Be mindful of consumption and your relationship with both “things” and your money. Ask yourself the above mentioned questions before making any purchase, rethink your definition of needs and wants, improve impulse control and practice mindful consumption.
Develop a habit of asking yourself “Do I need this?” and be honest with your answers. Work to clearly identify what qualifies as a need vs. a want. Practice saying “no” and refusing to spend money on things that are unnecessary. Saying “no” is the quickest way to save money.
If you can’t 100% refuse a purchase the next best step is to reduce your purchases. Focus on progress, not perfection, and look for ways to reduce how many products you consume and how much money you spend on unnecessary items, especially when it comes to single use.
Before sending things to the landfill, look for ways to repurpose or reuse things and give them a second life. The same is true for making a new purchase. Instead of buying new, consider shopping secondhand it will save you a fortune!
Repairing and maintaining what you own is almost always cheaper than replacing and it’s a far greener option as well. Instead of buying new, resole your favorite shoes, send damaged furniture to the upholsterers or break out your DIY skills and repair damaged items yourself. Even if it’s only temporary repair while you save money and shop around for the perfect, high quality replacement.
Unless you live in certain states that incentivize bottle returns, there is no financial incentive to recycle, but that’s why you should exhaust all of the above options first!
Is swapping to greener alternatives actually green?
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle is more mainstream than ever, so it is no surprise that “green” products are becoming common and are heavily marketed. But it’s important to stop and consider the impact of replacing items that are fully functional. In line with the “R”s above, refuse to replace something you already have “just because it is greener”.
First, assess the environmental impact of what you’re replacing. Let’s say you have a Keurig. Although it isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, it is fully functional. Throwing it away to buy a French Press isn’t an environmentally friendly or budget conscious choice. Instead consider trying reusable K Cups and using the item until your machine is no longer functioning and cannot be repaired.
Second, you need to assess the financial cost of using what you have versus replacing it with something new. Sometimes you need to make an investment to see a savings. For instance, if you were to replace a habit of buying single use bottled water with a reusable water bottle and a water filter. These purchases immediately start to recover the price of purchase, reduce your environmental impact and over time even start to save you money!
So before you invest in green alternatives, make sure that you’re checking in with the R’s of recycling first and not just replacing something with a greener version for the sake of it.
Now that we’ve explored the intersection of personal finance and sustainability…
Here are 15 Ways to Save Money and The Environment
*read to the end for tips on how it pays to be environmentally conscious*
- Use a reusable water bottle
- Invest in an at home water filter
- Reduce Food Waste
- Bring “To-Go” Containers
- Start Composting
- Rethink your Coffee habit
- Conserve energy at home
- Ditch fast fashion
- Choose quality over quantity
- Choose Second Hand
- Repair before you replace
- Invest in a Capsule Wardrobe
- Take mass transit
- Be a Socially and Environmentally responsible investor
- Change your bank!
Use a Reusable water bottle
An oldie, but a goodie. This tip bears repeating until I stop seeing single use water bottles out in the wild i.e. litter.
A single use water bottle may seem convenient – but is it really? The average person spends over $100 on bottled water each year. It might not seem like a lot, but compared to a reusable water bottle it’s significant. We’re big fans of Hydroflask! Our favorite is this 32oz. vacuum insulated bottle for $45. It will take a little time to pay itself off but depending on your habits, it could be saving you money within just a few weeks!
Invest in an at home water filter
One reason people buy bottled water is water quality. The solution that pairs well with your reusable water bottle is a water filter system. A simple Brita filter is nice, but our absolute top pick that actually makes drinking water enjoyable – is the Big Berkey water filter!
Although it does have a higher upfront cost than your grocery store water filter, the Berkey has one huge advantage – filters that only need to be replaced after 6,000 gallons have passed through them. Meaning you can fill that 1L Hydroflask more than 22,000 times before needing to buy replacement filters. Bringing your cost for truly purified water to only $0.02 per Gallon. Want to save even more? Purchase one from the availability in the (Scratch and Dent) department.
Water from the Berkey Filters is also some of the best tasting water you will ever have in your life. Friends and Family members who have made the investment, immediately noticed that they are drinking more water and are benefiting from being better hydrated than before!
Reduce Food Waste
On average Americans waste 30% of their food. Not only is that a huge waste of money, but it also makes up a large portion of the waste that ends up in landfills. Add in all of the resources it took to produce that food, and have it transported to the grocery store – only for you to buy it and throw it away!
Instead, save money and reduce food waste by digging through your pantry and refrigerator before heading to the grocery store. Take an inventory of what you have on hand that is close to going bad and build a meal plan and a grocery list around those items. Buy exactly what you need from the bulk section. Decreasing food waste could save you $337 – $569 per person each year.
Bring your own “To-go” Containers
Who has been to a restaurant that serves way too large portions? Halfway through the meal you cannot eat another bite, so what do you do? Well, you paid good money for that meal and you read about the food waste problem, not to mention “there are starving kids out there!” so you ask for a to-go container.
But To-Go containers aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Commonly made of Styrofoam – this single-use item will exist in our environment until the end of time, but you only need it for a few hours. Talk about a waste! Instead, keep some extra Tupperware in your car. By refusing single use to-go containers and instead using your own, you can take home all the delicious left-overs you paid for and none of it goes to waste!
Still didn’t get to everything in the fridge before it was too late? That’s OK! Let nature take its course in a compost bin in your backyard or find a composting service in your area. Savings come in the form of cutting back your need for trash disposal. Food waste makes up 22% of the solid waste that leaves our homes and winds up in a landfill. So by composting instead of throwing stinky food scraps into the bin, we were able to cut our garbage bill in half and go down to once a month pick up.
We tried a few composting methods and our favorite is the vermicompost. Not only is it fascinating, but if you’re a gardener it produces some of the best fertilizer available and takes little to no effort. The worms do all the work for you!
Rethink your Coffee habit
We know – we know. A personal finance blog coming after your latte – so original! But hear us out. Yes, we are absolutely fans of making your own coffee and saving money on expensive hot drinks. But we also believe another great reason to forgo the habit is sustainability. Maybe you don’t drink bottled water, but a disposable cup for your Pumpkin Spice Latte is just as wasteful.
So kick the habit, save $11-$20 per week (or $572 and $1,040 a year) by brewing your own coffee that will save you money and produce little to no waste. We’re big fans of the French Press for a zero waste option that makes delicious coffee, and the grounds can go straight to the compost! You can get a great one for about $15-$30 and it will last a lifetime.
Conserve energy at home
Energy prices aren’t going down anytime soon. If you pay bills, it’s probably safe to say that you’ve experienced the horror of a shockingly high gas or electric bill. Rightfully so, it takes a lot of resources to create the energy we use to run our utilities. Putting a lot of strain on the environment by polluting the air and water, and heavily using natural resources. But finding ways to save energy at home will save you money while also decreasing your carbon footprint.
One of our favorite and incredibly effective ways to cut your energy bill and save money month after month is to install energy saving curtains on windows. You can buy energy-saving curtains anywhere you would buy regular curtains, and they will keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Meaning your A/C or Heat will not have to work as hard, and neither will your bank account.
Ditch Fast Fashion
The fashion industry is one of the dirtiest industries in the world and reportedly it is responsible for 20% of the world’s water pollution. Popular fast fashion companies like Shein and H&M are some of the worst offenders, they make cheap trend specific clothing that doesn’t last and winds up in the landfill soon after purchase.
So while it may seem like fast fashion stores are a great deal, you really have to stop and ask yourself, what is the real cost? The fact is the expense of replacing cheaply made items quickly adds up. Over time the out of pocket expenses often surpass that of a higher quality, well made item. So while you may have to save up first, it will last for years to come.
Choose Quality over Quantity
“You get what you pay for” While that isn’t always true, there is a big difference between something that is a “good value” and something that is “cheap”. As consumers we all have a choice between saving up and buying quality items that last or giving in to the need for immediate gratification and buying items that are more “affordable” but cheaply made.
But believe it or not, sometimes spending more is a practice of stewardship not only of the environment but your wallet. By choosing to buy products from companies that practice socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing to produce higher quality products that are meant to last!
Our favorite example here is furniture. Most furniture just isn’t made like it used to be. But that doesn’t matter if you buy high quality or even an antique! Furniture brands these days can’t hold a candle to the craftsmanship and character you can find in an antique store. Whether your style is mid-century modern, French country, or contemporary you can curate a home filled with furniture that needs a new home. You could spend a fraction of the cost versus buying new and you definitely won’t have to replace these pieces like you do cheap mass-produced furniture.
How is this good for the planet? Supply and Demand – if we limit our demand for mass-produced furniture, we can help reduce pollution and keep items that have already been made out of the landfill. Not to mention decreasing the number of trees that need to be cut down in order to make furniture.