One myth about “going green” is that it’s more expensive, and while in some instances that is true – there are many ways you can go green and start saving money 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.
At 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 with minimalism, sustainability and living a more environmentally conscious life.
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 start to identify ways to reduce 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 also apply to your 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, this is even more impactful 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, shopping second hand can save you a fortune without sacrificing quality!
Repairing and maintaining what you own is almost always cheaper than replacing and it’s a green more environmentally friendly 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 a temporary repair can save you money while you shop 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?
Replacing a perfectly functioning item for a green alternative isn’t always the greenest option.
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 14 Ways to Save Money and The Environment
*read to the end for tips on how it pays to be environmentally conscious*
- Change your bank!
- Be an Impact Investor
- Shop your Values
- Choose Second Hand
- Repair Before you Replace
- Choose Quality over Quantity
- Ditch Fast Fashion
- Refuse Single Use
- Invest in an at home water filter
- Reduce Food Waste
- Bring “To-Go” Containers
- Start Composting
- Rethink your Coffee habit
- Conserve energy at home
Change your bank!
NOTE – Below is an affiliate link you can use to open an account with ATMOS. We only collaborate with services that are at the heart of our mission to make the world a better place.
Did you know the money in your savings account gets used by banks to invest in any and everything by using that money to lend out credit?
Things you may or may not want your money to be used for like…🏭 Fossil Fuel Extraction, Fast Fashion, Industrial Agriculture, or Generic Real Estate. But if you choose a sustainable bank, your money will be invested in things like… 🌲 Renewable Energy, Regenerative Agriculture, Building Electrification, and Energy Efficiency
The truth is that the finance industry has a massive carbon footprint. But that is changing and greener banks are on the rise!
We researched and vetted a lot of fintech companies and banks that labeled themselves as “green”, sadly, we were disappointed to find many were guilty of greenwashing. But ATMOS Financial is truly green with both checking and High Yield Saving Account (HYSA) options!
Moving to a greener banking option like ATMOS Financial is an excellent first step toward being an impact investor and they’re not only carbon neutral – they’re carbon negative!
All while offering amazing banking benefits like fee-free banking, cash back checking accounts, and a nationally leading savings interest rate!
Be a Socially and Environmentally Responsible Investor
How you use your money is one of the most powerful, and timeless, forms of activism!
Boycotts and making donations to organizations might be the first thoughts that come to mind. But how you invest your money is another important way to use your dollars to make a difference.
Many people worry that investing supports big corporations that pollute waterways, cut down forests and other environmental travesties. But that is changing.
In the past few years, environmentally responsible investments are now more mainstream and accessible than ever. ESGs or Environmental, Social, and Governance mutual funds or ETFs are a great place to start if you are interested in a more environmentally friendly portfolio.
Shop your Values!
We talk a lot about voting with your dollars, being an impact investor and getting a greener bank are all powerful forms of activism.
But so are your daily shopping habits!
Paying a little more for products from companies that practice socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing is a powerful investment! Shopping with companies that use vegan or recycled materials, all organic farming, etc.
Every time you choose to patron a business that has values and strong ethics you cast a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.
Define the values that are important to you and rather than going with the easiest “Free 2-Day Shipping” option – go for the slightly more expensive, but more sustainable option and invest in the future.
Choose Second Hand
Shopping second hand not only saves you money – but keeps items from going to the landfill and reduces the demand for manufacturing.
Not only can you buy items that still have plenty of life left in them, but your style will be unique and you will save a ton of money! Home goods, furniture and dishes are some of my favorite things to buy vintage or secondhand and they are better made compared to their modern equivalents. I recently purchased a desk and lounge chair at a fraction of the price of buying new.
But what a lot of people don’t think about often enough – is second hand outdoor gear!
We’re avid hikers, bikers, climbers, travelers, etc. and buying second hand is a great way to keep items out of the landfill and save on expensive hobbies! From mountaineering boots to skis, jackets, backpacks and more – buying used gear is a great way to make your adventuring more sustainable by lowering the demand for new manufactured goods and you keep items from winding up in a landfill.
Have some gear you’re not using any more? Sell it on eBay or Facebook Marketplace! It’s a great way to make a little extra money while making the outdoor adventures more sustainable and accessible for others.
Repair before you replace
There is little in life that will save you more money and keep things from hitting the landfill than learning how to repair things rather than replace them. Thankfully – with growing access to information via Google and YouTube you can learn to do a lot, for free!
Sticking with the example of outdoor gear – learning to repair small holes and tears can save you tons! A little tenacious tape here – a little seamgrip there – replace a buckle etc. etc. you can extend the life of your gear and save a ton of money.
Don’t feel confident repairing things yourself?
Here are a few ways you can have gear repaired for a fraction of the cost of replacing it…
#1) Warranty and Repair Departments through the brand
A lot of people don’t realize this – but most outdoor brands stand behind their gear and provide warranties for their products. Most of the time there’s a full department specifically for customer gear repair.
When you shop with brands like Patagonia or Osprey your gear has one of the best warranties in the industry! Even if the damage doesn’t fall under warranty which means your gear is repaired or replaced for free, the repair department will still likely be able to fix your gear for a small reasonable fee.
#2) Local repair Professionals
You ever find a pair of shoes you absolutely love – but in some cruel twist of fate they are no longer sold or made? Or maybe most of the shoe is in good condition, but the sole is starting to peel off and give out?
Well good news – there are still some amazing cobblers and independent repair professionals who can help with that!
We love Dave Page the Cobbler for our technical footwear. From mountaineering boots, approach shoes, climbing shoes, you name it he can repair it! His work is incredibly impressive and again – repair fees are reasonable compared to the cost of replacing your item.
This same concept can be applied to anything you own such as your vehicle or tech! Keep up with repairs and invest pennies on upkeep, to extend the life of everything you own and save a ton!
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 have a choice between saving up and buying quality items that last or giving in to immediate gratification and buying items that are more “affordable” but cheaply made. Sometimes spending more isn’t just a practice of good stewardship but saves you money over time. Our favorite example is furniture.
Years ago, against our better judgment, we bought an inexpensive kitchen island from a big box online store. It was cost effective and could be delivered – convenient!…until it wasn’t.
It wasn’t long before it started warping from general kitchen use. We wanted to replace it in no time.
Compare that to buying a solid piece of furniture that costs more up front, but that you love and will last you for years and years!
Investing in quality items is a greener option for one simple reason: supply and demand.
If we limit our demand for mass-produced furniture, we can help reduce pollution and keep more items out of the landfill. Not to mention decreasing the number of trees that need to be cut down and other resources needed to make furniture.
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.
While fast fashion stores seem like a great deal, you really have to stop and ask yourself, what is the real cost?
The fact is the continued need to replace cheaply made items is expensive.
Over time the out of pocket expenses often surpass that of a higher quality, well made item. So while you may need to save up first for more expensive clothing, it will last for years to come and still save you money in the long run.
Refuse Single Use
This tip bears repeating until I stop seeing single use water bottles out in the wild i.e. littering every trail, sidewalk and highway.
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!
These replacements for single-use are everywhere. Some save you money, others don’t. But they all help the environment!
Invest in an at-home Water Filter
A big reason people buy bottled water is water quality, so a solution that pairs well with your reusable water bottle, is a water filter system. A simple Brita filter is nice,and all but the constant replacing and throwing away of filters has a big impact on our environment and your wallet.
That is why our absolute top pick is the Big Berkey water filter! It makes drinking tap water actually enjoyable while also saving money and reducing waste.
Like our other suggestions, Berkey water filters have a higher upfront cost, but they will save you money over time. The filters need to be replaced every 6,000 gallons.
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.
Added benefit – 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. That’s $30 for every $100 spent! Decreasing food waste could save you $337 – $569 per person in your home each year!
Not only is this a waste of money, but food waste makes up a large portion of waste in landfills. That waste goes beyond the food thrown away. Add in all of the resources it took to produce that food, and the transportation from a farm in California to a grocery store in New York – only for you to buy it and throw it away!
Instead, save money and reduce food waste by creating a meal plan and grocery list. Dig 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.
Want to make life easier and still reduce food waste? Consider a meal service like HelloFresh! Yes, there is packaging and a carbon footprint. But it’s possibly still a lower impact than the grocery store – especially since you only get exactly what you need and nothing goes to waste!
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.
To-Go containers are the opposite of environmentally friendly. They’re made from Styrofoam, plastic, or non-recyclable cardboard – you only need it for a few hours before these single use items go straight to the trash and add to the landfills. Talk about a waste!
Instead, keep an extra Tupperware container 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!
Does this save you money? No, not directly. But it does make you stop and rethink your habits and mindset about “wasting money/food” at a restaurant vs. at home.
If you still don’t get to everything in the fridge before it’s too late, that’s OK! You can let nature take its course in a compost bin in your backyard or find a composting service in your area.
As we mentioned, food waste makes up 22% of the solid waste that leaves our homes and winds up in a landfill. So your savings come in the form of cutting back your need for trash disposal.
In our personal experience, when we started composting instead of throwing stinky food scraps into the bin, we were able to cut our garbage bill in half!
PRO TIP: 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
There are lots of ways you can save money by making your home more energy efficient. Which is a good thing because 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. They will keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. So your A/C or Heat will not have to work as hard, and neither will your bank account.
We saved the best piece of advice for last…
It’s human nature to look for a solution, something to do that will solve the problem or at least make things better. But the funny thing about this intersection of environmentalism and personal finance is that the best way to save money and the planet is to do nothing. At least do less.
The biggest problem hurting the environment and the personal finances of most Americans is hyper-consumerism.
We buy, spend and consume too much. That consumption is killing our wealth and our planet.
Our incomes and this earth simply cannot keep up with our appetites.
So we need to learn how to be happier with less, to be content with what we have, being mindful and putting an end to seeking outwardly for our happiness and fulfillment, we can live richer lives!
Not only will you be able to increase your savings rate and lower your impact on the earth, but your journey to a healthy planet and true happiness begins when you learn that it all starts from within.