Many people consider it a priority to protect the planet these days as reports of climate change are frequently in the news.
While living sustainably can take planning (Where to start? What are the right moves to make?), it doesn’t have to be pricey. Learning how to be eco-friendly on a budget can be surprisingly simple with some motivation and practice.
Sustainable living isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription. One person may be all about composting while another would never try it. But the non-composter might bike rather than drive as often as possible or keep their thermostat in eco-mode year-round.
Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to figure out their preferred way to live a greener lifestyle. Remember, any adjustment can help the environment (and the wallet), so don’t feel intimidated.
Ready to learn more? Here, you can read up on:
• What is sustainable living?
• What are the practical benefits of living sustainably?
• What are the financial benefits of living sustainably?
• What are specific ways to live sustainably and save money?
What Is Sustainable Living?
Living sustainably means considering the environment when making daily decisions. It involves prioritizing actions that reduce your carbon footprint (the total amount of greenhouse-gas emissions your actions trigger). These moves, in turn, can benefit the environment.
Sustainable living is an all-encompassing umbrella term covering everything from how people shop and prepare food to how they allocate their money (say, with socially responsible investing).
What’s more, sustainable living can also help you reduce your expenses. Learn its basic principles, and it can help you to financially downsize.
What Are the Practical Benefits of Living Sustainably?
At first, a sustainable lifestyle sounds as if it may benefit the environment more than it does the individual. Certainly, it is focused on helping preserve our planet. However, practical benefits come with going green, including:
• Saving money. Sustainable living encourages people to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Consuming less and reusing can also cut back on living expenses, which is a good money-management strategy.
• Improving health. Depending less on a car can be an easy way to go green. Walking or biking to destinations can incorporate healthy living into everyday activities.
• Gaining knowledge. People may learn to reuse or repair things they already have, picking up practical skills. That could mean learning to mend clothes instead of buying something new or becoming a home gardener who grows fresh veggies.
• Creating community. As sustainable living gains steam, community groups may prove to be a way to meet like-minded people and make new friends.
What Are the Financial Benefits of Going Green?
Besides practical benefits, there are several direct financial benefits to eco-living:
• Tax benefits. Purchasing everything from eco-friendly appliances to electric cars can come with tax credits or federal rebates.
• Less consumerism. Since green living encourages reusing, people may be less likely to purchase new items.
• Lower bills. Simple things like turning up the thermostat a few degrees in the summer can lead to direct savings on utility bills.
• Reduced transportation costs. Biking, walking, or using public transportation can be considerably cheaper than driving a car or requesting a ride-share.
19 Ways to Save Money While Living Sustainably
You don’t need to go out and buy an expensive electric car to live sustainably. Learning how to be eco-friendly on a budget can be easier than it sounds. Read on for 19 affordable go-green tips. These creative ideas may help you save money while giving back to our planet.
1. Riding a Bike to Commute
Riding a bike to the office a few days a week is a win-win-win. With no emissions, riding a bike helps reduce harmful pollutants in the air. It’s also free (after the bike purchase), and as a bonus, it’s a form of exercise that can benefit your health.
2. Turning off Water When Washing Dishes and Brushing Teeth
Turning off the water when brushing teeth can save up more than 100 gallons of water a month. Conserving water during daily tasks could also lead to savings on the water bill.
3. Buying Items Second-Hand
Want to shop more ethically? Second-hand items are typically sold at a fraction of what their original price was when new. Perusing thrift shops could mean finding gently used, high-quality items for less. You might come across anything from brand-name kitchenware to clothing for much more affordable prices than buying at a department store or online. As a bonus, shopping for second-hand items gives them a longer life and saves them from the landfill.
4. Joining a Buy Nothing Club
Learning how to live sustainably on a budget can be easy when you snag a lot of things for free. Buy Nothing communities have sprung up across the country in the past few years. Members offer items they’re getting rid of for free, including everything from clothes to home decor. It’s a practical way to both give and receive items for free.
There are other similar organizations that have different names, and some people find that Facebook Marketplace or local groups, as well as Nextdoor have similar benefits.
5. Using Energy-Efficient Appliances
Swapping an old appliance for an energy-efficient one may cost more upfront but can save users in the long run. It could seriously lower energy bills and give you a tax credit to boot.
6. Eating Food Before Buying More (Reducing Waste)
The average American household wastes over a third of the food they buy, essentially throwing money down the drain. It also represents a waste of the energy and expense that went into the food’s production as well.
Making a conscious effort to eat everything in the fridge before another grocery run can be a good way to save money on food and help you cut down on waste.
7. Replacing Disposable Items With Reusable Items
Sure, disposable items are convenient, whether it’s a single-use plastic bottle of water or paper plates. Understanding the math behind cost per use is an important lesson in learning how to be eco-friendly on a budget.
For example, buying an insulated water bottle may be more expensive than a plastic bottle of water, but remember, once a reusable item is purchased, it’s used repeatedly. Its cost per use declines every time you reach for it, making it a better deal.
Opting for single-use items will likely be more expensive in the long run and worse for the environment. Consider swapping reusable items, like:
• Water bottles
• Sandwich bags
• Shopping bags
8. Taking Shorter Showers
The average shower can use about 20 gallons of water or more. Cutting down shower time will save water and the monthly water bill.
Or, instead of shortening shower time, try a “Navy Shower,” which is when a person gets wet, turns off the water, lathers, then turns the water back on to rinse off. A Navy Shower can cut water usage dramatically.
9. Using Smart Power Strips
One of the cheap ways to go green is hunting down the “phantom energy” or “vampire loads” in a home. These terms refer to appliances that continue to suck up energy, even when they’re not in use. It’s been estimated that this kind of load represents 7% of all energy use in the U.S.
Power strips that have “all off/all on” switches can keep devices like smart TVs or printers from sucking energy and raising your electricity bill in their sleep mode.
10. Buying Used Over New
When it comes time to make major purchases, you may want to think used instead of brand new. The quest to buy used but still super functional items can be a good way to control spending money and be kind to the environment.
Buying, say, a used car or laptop, can definitely save money, as the item is likely to cost a fraction of its original price. It also encourages reuse. That car or laptop won’t wind up being junked if you swoop in and snag it.
11. Waiting to Run Laundry Until You Have a Full Load
When it comes to how much electricity home appliances use annually, washers and dryers are at or near the top of the charts. Cutting down on laundry loads saves on electricity and can help lower your bill. Aim to wash clothes only when there’s a full load, and consider running the washer on cold to save more electricity.
Upcycling is finding a second life for an item that typically goes in the trash. Let’s say you have an empty salsa jar. Rather than trashing it, you can use it to store leftovers in your fridge. And if you have an old door in the basement of your house, why not transform it into a desk or table that you might need?
Upcycling keeps items from being dumped into landfill and can save you money since you can buy less.
13. Going Meat-Free a Few Times a Week
Buying less meat at the store cuts down on the grocery bill, and going meat-free on a regular basis can reduce greenhouse gases — the gases in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. Cows and sheep emit methane, a greenhouse gas, as they digest grasses and plants, and ever larger amounts of land are needed for beef production, which is also a factor. Going plant-based for just one day a week can cut someone’s greenhouse gas footprint about 5% annually.
Composting is a process that takes what we typically consider waste (food scraps that usually go into the garbage, leaves that have fallen from trees) and turns it into fertilizer that can benefit the land. Creating a home compost or enrolling in a city collection program can divert food waste from landfills and have it perform a positive action for the environment. It also, of course, can save on garden maintenance expenses.
15. Avoiding Having Your Car Idle
When driving is necessary, avoid idling when you pick someone up or are waiting in a lot. Idling can produce harmful pollution. What’s more, it unnecessarily burns off fuel, costing you more at the gas pump.
16. Hanging Laundry to Dry
As previously mentioned, dryers are the most energy-consuming appliance in the home. Hanging laundry to dry saves electricity bills, and gentle drying outdoors could prolong the life of your garments.
17. Using Rechargeable Batteries
Disposing of single-use batteries in a landfill can lead to chemicals leaching into the soil. While rechargeable AAA or AA batteries are more expensive than single-use, they can be repeatedly recharged. As mentioned above, the cost per use gets lower and lower over time.
18. Opting for Slower Shipping
Global shipping accounts for 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The rise of free and fast shipping can contribute to rising overall emissions. The rush to get the product to the consumer could waste more natural resources as well.
When possible, opt for slower shipping and choose bundling items so they arrive together in a single package versus multiple ones. That slow shipping might also deter impulse purchasing.
19. Utilizing Local Libraries
Visiting the local library helps cut spending and encourages lending instead of buying new. Local branches may offer everything from books to tool rental, cutting down on buying new or purchasing something for a single use.
Going green (meaning being eco-friendly) and saving green (as in your hard-earned cash) don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sustainable living encourages spending less overall. With a little practice and planning, learning how to live sustainably and benefiting your budget could become second nature.
Another way to save money while living sustainably? Open a bank account online with SoFi. When you open Checking and Savings with direct deposit, you won’t pay any account fees, and you’ll earn a competitive APY so your money could grow faster. Go ahead and opt for digital statements to help save the trees, too.
Can living sustainably cost more money?
Some sustainable choices may cost more upfront, but ultimately, the goal is to cut down on costs as well as minimize purchases that harm the environment.
How can I live sustainably if I do not make much money?
There are cheap ways to go green that don’t involve spending more. Shopping for second-hand items vs. buying new, for example, can save you a considerable amount, as can riding a bike or using public transportation rather than owning a car.
Am I living with financial integrity if I don’t live sustainably?
It depends on an individual’s outlook. For those who prioritize protecting the environment, financial integrity and a sustainable lifestyle probably go hand-in-hand to some extent. Spending sustainably would likely be very important. Others, however, might feel that finances and sustainability are two completely separate concerns.
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