Living green doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of green.
Does a green lifestyle seem opposed to a cost-conscious one? Does sustainable living seem like code for expensive? If you’re looking for ways to care for the environment in your day-to-day life without breaking the bank, the experts behind the green living blogs Sustainable Jungle and Going Zero Waste both say living more sustainably doesn’t have to mean spending more money.
“Yes, it’s absolutely possible to live sustainably on a budget,” said Kathryn Kellogg, founder of Going Zero Waste. “In fact, when I started trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I didn’t even know what I was doing was considered more eco-friendly because I was coming from a budget standpoint.”
Check out these seven ways to go green on a budget.
Think micro improvements.
Taking small steps toward a sustainable life is the best way to start a lifestyle shift that sticks. “It’s important to realize that living sustainably is not a black-and-white achievement–it’s a spectrum of lifestyle choices that can move you towards a less environmentally impactful life or a more carbon-conscious life,” says Lyall Mabin, co-founder of Sustainable Jungle. “It’s more accurate to say that you can live more sustainably even if you’re on a budget. The point is, we can all make micro-improvements no matter our personal circumstances. It’s about progress, not perfection.”
Opt for reusable products.
Using reusable products rather than disposable ones is one of the hallmarks of sustainable living, but it’s also a budget tip, Kellogg says. From water bottles to cloth grocery bags, opt for items you can invest in once and reuse again and again, rather than buying disposable alternatives that contribute to excess waste and add up in your budget. For instance, Kellogg bought a $40 package of cloth towels, and she’s used them for the past eight years. She estimates that the equivalent in paper towels would have cost her upward of $1,000.
Do you really need that item you saw on your Instagram feed or that product you spotted on the way to the checkout line at the big-box store? Maybe not. This tip is simple but effective: Buy less. “It’s amazing how much we don’t really need,” Kellogg says. “I recommend everyone wait 30 days before buying a non-necessary purchase. What you’ll find is you really don’t need a lot of the things you think you need.” In addition to protecting your pocketbook, you’ll also be doing your part to decrease emissions and pollution.
Tap your community.
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. So, before investing in that next purchase, why not reach out to your community, Kellogg suggests. “I’m always so shocked how many things I’ve gotten for free just because I said I needed or wanted it and a friend or family member has it and says, ‘Oh, I have one of those’ and just given it to me.” She’s received a handful of products that way, including a crockpot, camping supplies and more. In addition to asking around, you can join a Buy-Nothing group or hunt social media for freebies or thrift stores and yard sales for low-cost goods.
Gas is not cheap these days, and it’s also not the best for the environment. If you’re looking to save money and aid the environment, consider logging fewer miles in your car. To get to the places you need to go, look into public transportation options. If you want to attend nearby restaurants or attractions, consider walking or biking. Not only will you burn less on gas (and conserve some cash), you’ll also burn a few calories, which is a win-win.
Make an eco-friendly swap.
Americans purchase and use different products each day, so taking one step in the right direction could be swapping out your usual bathroom cleaner or article of clothing, for instance, with a more eco-friendly version.
“We consume every single day of our lives,” Mabin says. “And today there are more eco-friendly brands and products that are also budget-friendly than ever before. Making the effort to switch to these will go a long way to reducing your impact and support and encourage an economic model that cares about more than just profit. By doing so, we can increase demand for a better, greener status quo.”
Be mindful with your AC.
It can be tempting to turn the dial on your thermostat when the temperature goes up, but you can save some serious cash on your utilities by cutting out the AC — or at least using it sparingly or with moderation. You also might want to invest in a smart device, which can help you make the most efficient use of your energy. Note that this will likely be a front-end investment that can save you money (and reduce your carbon footprint) in the long run.
7 ways to live green on a budget:
— Make micro improvements.
— Use reusable products.
— Buy less.
— Tap your community.
— Drive less.
— Make an eco-friendly swap.
— Be mindful with the AC.
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Update 07/20/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.