With everyone shoving new eco-friendly and green products in your face it just feels like they cost you more money. I want to share 17 sustainability tips that will save you money. Saving money is great for many reasons, but for the wanderlust, it means more travel!
If you are new to sustainability and the series here you can start with How to Travel More Sustainably in 2019.
As mentioned there, sustainability isn’t easy or comfortable. It is a new way of understanding and interacting with the world around us. Sustainability is about making ethical choices about your actions.
There are three pillars of sustainability that are to be considered. What is the environmental impact? the social impact? and the economic impact? Are your daily needs (and wants) being met without negatively influencing the future?
The sustainability tips below range from small decisions you make in the kitchen to how you get to work in the morning. There is something on this list for everyone. After you are done saving some extra money in your travel jar check out Tips for Spending Less Money on Travel.
1. Compost in your yard
Composting removes items that would have typically gone into the trash (and later landfill) and creates a better environment for plants growing in your yard. Composting improves the water retention of the soil, helps degrade some pollutants, reduces the need for fertilizers, and adds more microorganisms.
This tip works perfectly with planning your garden and making food at home to help you close the gap of waste going into the trash.
2. Plant trees around your house
Shade can help reduce the cost of the air conditioning in the summer, and in the winter the trees can block the wind which reduces heating costs. Some estimates claim you can reduce your heating and cooling costs by 30% with this simple task. Do note that you should be mindful of which trees and where you plant them. Some trees have very aggressive roots which can cause problems years down the line.
3. Weigh your transportation options
This is a simple task and yes it involves more work. Instead of driving everywhere opt for walking or riding a bike to locations that are close by. This is better for the environment and your health. It is also far cheaper than paying for gas! This is also important when talking about travel. Some modes of transportation are not as environmentally friendly as others.
4. Cut back on meat and dairy
I am not preaching for vegetarianism or veganism, but more mindful consumption of animal products. Cutting back on meat and dairy is a powerful way to reduce your impact. If this is just a hard no for you then I suggest to try and purchase these items locally. Local farmers often sell in shops, participate in CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), or farmers markets. Small local farms are less likely to have large scale operations that can be harmful to the animals, environment, and in the end, you.
5. Be mindful about food waste
Recently in our household, we have been trying to be more mindful of food waste. With this, we are shopping more consciously and opting to make a big pot of soup when we have random odds and ends than ordering take out. Spend the next week noting down every time you throw out leftovers or rotten produce. It can be an eye-opening experience!
6. Stoping idling in your car
This is a new one for me. I didn’t realize how bad it is to idle your car. In just 10 seconds of idling, you waste more gas than restarting the engine. Especially if you have a newer car, there is no need to let it run for 20 minutes in the morning. It can be warmed up by easing into the drive. Idling your car for just 10 minutes releases one pound of carbon dioxide in the air.
7. Start a garden
It is cheaper than you think and even with minimal work can provide you with a lot of produce! If you aren’t too comfortable with keeping plants alive opt for easy plants (potatoes, onions, lettuce). Sometimes growing by seed is very difficult even after years of practice so for some plants, I buy them pre-grown and just put them in my garden. You can get a tomato plant for maybe a couple of dollars but then you have a lot of tomatoes which are not cheap in the store.
Did you know that maintaining a lawn can have negative effects on the local environment? Pesticides used on your lawn don’t just stay in one place, but rather seep into the ground and groundwater and have very detrimental effects.
8. Buy from secondhand shops
There are some excellent finds in secondhand shops, thrift stores, charity shops, whatever you call them. If you have the patience to dig through you can get gently worn clothing items that are just as good as new. You can find unique vintage pieces that no one else you know has.
There is also the possibility of finding very valuable things that were overlooked by the previous owners (designer clothing, furniture, collectibles). If you are good at this and motivated, you can find things to sell and BAM more money for travel!
9. Donate or sell unwanted items
Do not toss out your old clothes, blankets, furniture unless they are not functional anymore. But even then, do not toss them in any random trash. Clothes are easy to donate. Check into local donation boxes, churches, shelters, or non-profits that supply those in need. Blankets and coats are always needed right before winter at shelters.
Don’t be afraid to use sites like Craigslist or Facebook Market to post up free items. Every time I move I fill one room with stuff I want to get rid of and make a post that I have free items for the taking. I never have to throw anything in the trash. There are people out there who would be more than happy to take what they need.
For extra cash, just like mentioned in the previous tip, sell your stuff! There are so many sites and apps available today that help you sell your stuff with just a few clicks on your phone. That dress in your closet that still has the tags on it because you still aren’t quite sure? Money! The tents you bought swearing you were going to be the camping type but never used? Money!
10. Line dry your clothes
A lot of my friends and family tease me for this and Americans seem to think it is a very outdated way to dry your clothes. Sure it takes longer, but they do get dry and I don’t have to use my dryer. Depending on your appliance, your dryer can be using as much energy as all of your home appliances combined! Bonus points for no wrinkles on your line dried clothes.
11. Recycle your old electronics
In 2014 it is estimated that 41.8 million tons of e-waste were created worldwide. Electronic waste, sometimes referred to as e-waste, is a global problem. Almost all electronics can be recycled and some of them, such as phones or lithium batteries, can have their rare earth elements extracted. The mining for these elements is controversial and affects the environment and local populations.
Check local retailers or government sites to see where you can recycle your e-waste. Some companies, such as cell phone providers, will often pay you for these items.
USA: EPA offers information about where and how to recycle electronics.
UK: Recycle Now is an amazing resource to help you figure out where to recycle anything.
Slovenia: Stores such as Spar, Bauhaus, Lesnina, or Bigbang will take electronics, batteries, or lightbulbs. If you are in Ljubljana you can check this page.
12. Think before you buy
Consider cutting back on buying the stuff you might not need. There is a simplicity and comfort in minimalism. When I lived in the US, I loved to buy anything and everything. It was easy! Walmart at 2 am, of course, I need these holiday-themed cups and plates. Becoming a nomad and relocating to different countries has taught me a lot about mass consumerism and showed me what I need. Refer to point #9 to help reduce the contents of your home.
13. Cook at home
My last visit to the US opened my eyes to how often people eat out at restaurants. Many told me they only cook once or twice a week! I was shocked to hear this as I prepare and eat the majority of my meals at home. I am a food lover and the first person to spend her entire bank account on food – with no hesitation – but it adds up fast.
If you don’t know how to cook, or maybe you aren’t very good, try choosing one recipe every week to ease yourself into it. Or try using a slow cooker – it is almost impossible to mess up a meal in one of these. Learning to make dishes from scratch is an invaluable skill and even more rewarding when you can use your products from the garden! See where I am going with this (;
14. Reusable shopping bags
It is 2019 and if you don’t have a reusable shopping bag yet then maybe you were in a cave for 10 years. Yes, there is an extra step involved – remembering the bags. Put them in your car where they are in your eyesight, repeat this until it becomes a habit. I always carry a bag that rolls up into itself in my purse so no matter where I am I at least have one bag with me.
If you do forget your bags, ask for paper which can later be used in your compost!
15. Stop buying plastic bottled water
This is a complicated matter and I will keep it as concise as I can. The best thing any of us can do in terms of sustainability is prevention. I am not saying to never buy a plastic bottle of water, but I am suggesting to be mindful of that purchase. Recycling bins are not everywhere you go. So now that you have this bottle are you willing to hold onto it until you find one or get home? Do you even have recycling at home? What are the recycling rates where you live?
There are some very interesting articles and videos about recycling and how little of plastic gets recycled. Because of this, it is better to keep a water bottle handy that can be refilled almost anywhere – for free!
This also applies to the water you buy for home. I was very guilty of filling up my recycling bin of plastic water bottles from sparkling water. Recently I discovered that my favorite water brand offers its product in glass bottles with a deposit-return system.
16. Borrow or rent instead of buy
Sure it is nice to have your own things, but some items we don’t use enough to warrant purchasing. There are some interesting programs around the world to facilitate borrowing or renting of items we don’t use every day. In the US, you can rent tools or equipment from companies like the Home Depot or borrow through a tool lending scheme, also check your local library for other items. In the UK, there is the Library of Things where you can rent tools, camping equipment, and more.
17. Vote and participate in politics!
Voting is a very easy way to participate in sustainability. How does this save you money? Well, voting for candidates that support sustainable development will encourage more sustainable laws to be made. Sustainability isn’t just about recycling but also about social policies such as living wage, affordable housing, and access to health care and education.
An article that interviewed 16 sustainability leaders asking the number one way we can help the environment and almost every single one mentioned talking to people, joining a movement, and voting.
Voting is the first step. It starts with researching which candidate is the best choice based on their record. The second step is following current legislation and voicing your opinion to the appropriate department. The ultimate goal would be having a politician who truly cares about sustainability so you can trust them to vote accordingly.
If you are based in the US, you can use a site like GovTrack to keep up to date on legislation. They have an Environmental Protection section to track all recent bills going through Congress. From here you can track everything about a piece of legislation; who sponsored it, which channels it goes through, and who is the relevant representative to contact.
Share your sustainability tips
There are 17 different ways in which opting for the sustainable option will actually save you money. Treating the environment with respect and knowing those involved with the creation of a product or service were also treated with respect is the real reward for me. The extra money for travel is the cherry on top!
There are plenty of ways to be more sustainable that will save you money and I would love to hear yours in the comments. Let me know your tips to help the world and humanity that also add more to your savings.
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Owner of wanderinghelene.com. Anthropologist, content creator, castle explorer, coffee drinker, and lover of markets and very old places!