It’s a common misconception that what’s sustainable for the planet is not sustainable for your wallet. But I’m here with some good news for you—that’s not always true.
Sure, earth-friendly clothing brands may rock a few more dollar signs, and laundry detergent sheets may cost a few extra cents per load, but you can also learn how to be eco-friendly on a budget (in fact, sometimes you can even save money by choosing the more sustainable option).
How to Be Eco-Friendly on a Budget
Join a Buy Nothing Group
A Buy Nothing Group is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—a group of people whose goal is to buy nothing. You can often find these groups on Facebook. Most major cities will have one, but several smaller ones are popping up as well.
In these groups you can give away items you no longer need. Everything from food to furniture to random decor is eligible. They’re a great alternative to dropping a box at your local Goodwill since many items in those shops go unsold and eventually end up in the landfill. A Buy Nothing Group ensures your item is going to someone who will give it a good second life.
On the flip side, if you’re in need of something specific (like say, yarn, for your new knitting hobby) you can also turn to this group to find it. You never know what odds and ends people are looking to get rid of.
Borrow or swap clothes
Before clicking “add to cart” on that new dress, consider asking some of your friends or family if they have anything you can borrow. It’s a great way to spice up your wardrobe without making another purchase—especially for those “one time wear” pieces.
Pro-tip: don’t be afraid to ask your friends if they know anyone else who might have something you could wear. I once borrowed a dress for a wedding from a friend of a friend. If all goes well, you could find yourself in a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants situation.
Pick up trash while you walk
The next time you head out for a stroll around the block, take a plastic bag with you (don’t lie, I know you have a bag of bags waiting to be used). This way if you see any litter around you can simply throw it in your bag and dump it in the trash on the way home. It’s an excellent way to be eco-friendly on a budget that also gets you some exercise and fresh air.
Request eco-friendly changes from businesses
It is crucial that large corporations play their part in fighting climate change. But how do we get them to do that? We demand it. You can do this by writing to one of your favorite companies to request sustainable changes. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this letter writing guide.
Store your food correctly
Each year, 108 billion pounds of food gets wasted in the United States. Most of that waste ends up in the landfill where organic matter releases methane, a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. To help prevent this waste, you can extend the life of your food by simply ensuring that it’s stored correctly. Check out these handy tips to get started.
Unsubscribe from junk mail
I’m not sure that anyone is a fan of junk mail, but I’m 100% certain that the planet isn’t. American adults receive about 41 pounds of junk mail per year, and an estimated 44 percent of that is thrown away without even being opened. That equates to millions of catalogs and credit card offers “you can’t miss out on” ending up in the trash.
If you wan to lessen your contribution to the landfill, you can head to DMAchoice.org to say “it’s a no from me” to the mail you no longer want to receive. There is a $2 fee, but once you register your name will be off the mailing lists of your choosing for ten years (well worth it in my opinion).
Swap single-use items for reusables
Reusable items may cost a little extra money up front, but you’ll see massive savings in the long run. For example, dishwasher-safe silicone bags serve as a long-term replacement for plastic Ziplocs, while a few good rags or my personal favorite, Dream Cloths, will greatly reduce the amount of money you spend on paper towels. A few of my other favorite money-saving reusables—my Leaf Shave safety razor, beeswax wraps, and exfoliating cloth.
Grow food from scraps
In the U.S. it is estimated that conventionally grown food travels about 1,500 miles before it gets to your plate. That means there are quite a lot of greenhouse gasses being emitted to get you your next meal.
One solution? Grow your own food. Or at least some of it. Produce like green onions, lettuce, potatoes, celery and more can easily (emphasis on easily) be grown from their leftover scraps. Talk about a budget-friendly and delicious way to be more eco-friendly.
Hang your clothes to dry
Dryers are responsible for approximately 6 percent of the average home’s energy use, so hang drying when possible is a great way to conserve energy and money.
In fact, a household that runs a dryer 200 times a year could save nearly half a ton of CO2 by making the switch to air drying.
If you don’t have the space to air dry everything (I get it, girl who spent four years living in a shoe box here) then just try it out with a few things. Air dry whatever you can fit on your drying rack (or your shower rod) and machine dry the rest. With fewer items, the load should take less time to dry and therefore less energy.
Just like storing food, it’s possible to recycle incorrectly. If too many non-recyclables (think, plastic bags, greasy pizza boxes, wire hangers) end up in the recycling bin, it can send the whole batch to the landfill.
But this can be avoided by simply researching your local recycling guidelines. A quick internet search of “what is recyclable in [city name here]” can prevent perfectly good recyclables from ending up in garbage-filled grave.
Simply talking about climate change is a great way to help solve the problem. The more people we have chatting about it, the more people we’ll have searching for solutions. If you’re feeling apprehensive about bringing it up in conversation, here are some tips for effectively having climate change conversations.
If you enjoyed learning how to be eco-friendly on a budget and are craving more sustainable living tips, then sign up for The Eco Edit! You’ll be joining hundreds of other pro-planet enthusiasts who are passionate about bettering the world through small, sustainable steps.