5 “green” choices I make every day that save me a ton of money
- I’ve had earth-friendly habits for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized they also save me money.
- I buy everything used – including cars, clothes and furniture – and switched to bar shampoo.
- I also keep a pescatarian diet, recycle and use canvas bags at the grocery store.
I recently realized that many of the things I do to protect the planet also save me money. I’ve been doing these things for years, since my junior year of college.
At the time, I took an environmental science course. It was the first time I had heard terms like “zero population growth” and “acid rain”. My college buddy majored in environmental science, and since we’ve been living together, I’ve also learned more about the need to recycle, reuse, reuse, compost, and reduce waste in general. This all happened in the mid to late 80’s. Although my boyfriend and I didn’t make it, my desire to find ways to reduce my footprint on the planet did, and with these changes, the money I have saved has increased.
I currently have five habits that are helping the planet and my wallet, with plans to do even more.
1. We buy used cars and take public transport
One of the biggest savings I make is buying used cars. Buying something used means less manufactured product and also less waste. I’ve saved thousands of dollars buying vehicles that are five years old (you can save a lot of money buying a car that’s only one year old). Also, my husband and I buy cars that use a lot of gas.
Although we use public transportation when possible because it’s more climate-friendly, we still drive our car about 5,000 miles per year (Metromile reports that the average American drives 13,500 miles per year). Our fuel savings over the years have been considerable. With gasoline costing nearly $6 a gallon in Southern California, where we live, our savings are over $100 a month or more (savings improve with proper car maintenance – like oil changes oil, tire rotations and other routine maintenance).
2. I buy almost everything used
I also buy almost all items (except bedding, underwear and shoes) from thrift stores. My dining room table is second hand, my couch is second hand, my recliners are second hand, and most of the clothes in my closet had a previous owner. Buying used saves money and is also a way to keep valuables out of landfills.
When a pair of jeans can easily cost between $100 and $200, looking at clothes on social media and then heading to thrift stores to duplicate those clothes can quickly add up to big savings. Plus, you never know what other treasures you’ll find, and many people struggle selling thrift store finds on Etsy and other marketplaces.
3. I recycle and use canvas bags
Some habits I’ve had for years, like recycling cans and glass and using canvas bags at the grocery store, and all of these actions can save money.
Before my town had a recycling program, we used to take our cans and bottles to the recycling center and exchange them for cash (you can still do this in some areas). Where I live, grocery stores charge a fee for bags, so bringing your reusable bags saves money every time we shop.
4. I keep a pescatarian diet
The way we eat also impacts the environment and saves us money. I have practiced vegetarianism or pescetarianism (vegetarian + fish) for most of my adult life. I currently eat fish, but I only buy it once a month at Costco. So, it’s fair to say that my grocery bills are significantly affected by not eating meat and only occasionally eating fish. Even if you give up eating meat a few days a week, you can save a lot on groceries.
Some quick swaps for beef that will save you the most money are beans and other legumes. We eat a meatloaf substitute made from lentils instead of meat that costs a few dollars to make and provides several days of leftovers. Reducing meat consumption reduces greenhouse gases that warm our planet. So it’s another double win for the Earth and the wallet.
5. I swapped my personal care products
Recently, I’ve switched from bottled shampoos and conditioners to bars (they look exactly like a bar of soap). There’s no plastic bottle that could potentially end up in the ocean or a landfill, and the bar lasts me longer. The bars are cheaper than my old hair products.
Not everything that is eco-friendly is cheaper, but the number of things that are is surprising. I am currently considering switching from bottled laundry detergent to very fine swabs and from toothpaste tubes to tablets. I’m always looking for ways to reduce packaging, and I never lose sight of the financial benefits of what I consider to be my doubly good choices.