The economy is bad, gas prices are high, food prices are rising and many green families may be wondering how they can afford organics, costlier natural items, and some of those green gadgets that cost more now and end up helping you save later. I have gotten several emails this week from moms asking about how to make this process more affordable.
I DO understand that it is cheaper to buy that 99 cent sunscreen tube from Walgreen’s instead of the safer but more expensive brand the EWG recommends. It will surely be cheaper to buy the conventionally grown strawberries instead of the organic ones. But when you look at the green/organic/natural versus conventional debate outside that narrow frame and look at the larger picture I think you might see why going green really won’t cost you anything more…in fact going green will save you some green. It is a lifestyle…not a series of one or two choices at the grocery store and it does balance out…at least in my experience.
I decided to write up some of the ways you can save money going green. With all of these cost savings it becomes easier to see why buying organic or buying more efficient appliances, or green gadgets should be able to fit in the budget. It was written of course for people relatively new to the green process. If you are already living very simply and frugally and still can’t afford some of the higher ticket items…the cash flow is what needs to change.
Consume Less –Green and frugal living means buying less. If you ask before every purchase do I NEED this, you will find that much of what you buy is a want…not a need. Doing without many of the small “wants” can allow you to save up for the bigger green items you have your eye on.
Reuse- Stop buying disposable plates, cups, napkins, paper towels, plastic water bottles, etc. All of these items are convenient but they cost more than making do with reusable products. Your budget and your green goals are worth the extra elbow grease. Cloth diapers and alternative menstrual products will also save you money. When buying new products consider the reusability factor.
Recycling for Money Savings – Recycle products to give them a new use and replace things you might otherwise buy. An example would be glass jars. Save that tomato sauce jar and use it as a drinking glass…you will never need to buy glassware again. Use another jar as a piggy bank, a vase, or a storage container. Jeans are another example….cut up those worn jeans and make a purse….you recycled and you have new purse. Stained clothing can be tye dyed instead of tossed.
Green Cleaning– Cleaning products are expensive but natural cleaners are NOT. I read once that the average U.S. household spends $600 annually on chemical cleaning supplies. For only $25, you can replace every one of those cleaning products with a safer, non-toxic, biodegradable homemade version that use common ingredients like baking soda, club soda, vinegar, lemons, castile soap and salt! They work just as good but they cost a fraction of the price and they are safe for your family. Yes, you can buy green cleaners too but maybe if you made your own, you could easily fit some more organic groceries into the budget.
Energy Savings– Greenies consume less energy and this save money on energy bills. Here are simple ideas for increasing energy savings:
* Turn off the lights and power strips when not in use. There are also smart power strips that can do this for you.
* Use motion sensor lighting so that lights never get left on accidentally. We LOVE these.
* Turn your heater thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in the summer. Use a programmable thermostat.
* Wrap your pipes and hot water heater with insulation to make them more efficient.
* Compact fluorescent bulbs save energy and money. Yes, they have mercury in them but with proper care this shouldn’t be a big deal. LED bulbs would be even better but they require a heftier initial investment.
* Hang your clothes to dry on a rack or outdoor clothes line instead of using the dryer.
* Use inexpensive low-flow shower and sink attachments to save water. I also like my smart showerhead.
* Collect rainwater to use elsewhere or in times of drought. It is easier if you have a nifty rainwater collection system but garbage cans or plastic storage bins work too.
* In the summer use window fans to blow cool air into the house at night. Turn them off and close the windows when it starts to get warm. I have a thermometer right outside the window to make this process easier.
* Use weatherstripping and window quilts to keep it warm in the winter.
Driving –Greenies usually drive less or at least more efficiently. It helps with fuel efficiency if you maintain your car and tires well, use cruise control to maintain speed, drive the speed limit, and of course carpool, ride a bike, or walk whenever you can. Green cars like hybrids use way less gas and griesels use waste vegetable oil instead of gas. I would LOVE to be able to convert an older diesel to run on veggie oil.
Thrift Shopping –Green shopping might mean…buying less of course but also buying used whenever possible. Vintage or second hand clothing is preferable to new. Freecyle, Craigslist, Ebay, and clothing swaps all help us to find great deals. Some greenies even dabble in Freeganism or dumpster diving.
Eating for Less – Check out my post on ways to make organics affordable. But here are some general tips:
* Grow your own food
* Buy in bulk – Saves money and reduces packaging
* Eat less meat – Meat production is devastating to the environment and it is costly
* Cook at home instead of going out
* Drink tap water
Coupons!! – Use coupons like crazy to get money savings. You can usually visit the web sites for the products you like and print or request coupons. Mambo Sprouts has some awesome coupon books for organic and green products. Kiwi magazine and other organic friendly mags have coupons in the back. Also ask on Freecycle for the coupon section of the monthly paper or recent issues of magazines that have the coupons you need in them. I know one gal that did this every week…she never had to buy the paper and got TONS of free coupons.
Beautify for Less – Beauty products can often be made at home using simple ingredients. Here are recipes for homemade toothpaste and deodorant. Trying the No Poo method of haircare will save you a ton as well. Getting rid of your conventional beauty products should make some room in the budget for that slightly more expensive but safer sunscreen.