If you’re on a tight budget, it can be hard to be more environmentally conscious. The cheapest items are usually the least eco-friendly, and there’s no denying that adopting a more sustainable lifestyle requires a certain amount of financial sacrifice.
But whatever your financial situation, there are probably more than a few ways you can reduce your carbon footprint without breaking your budget. Let’s take a look at some of the best options.
Best budget-friendly sustainable swaps
Here are some easy and affordable ways to be more environmentally friendly without straining your budget:
While buying paper towels isn’t a huge expense, it can be a significant source of environmental waste. Plus, there are plenty of free or inexpensive ways to replace paper towels.
If you already have enough extra towels, you can cut them into smaller sizes and use them to wipe your countertops. You can also buy a pack of bar towels or shop rags to use instead. Just wash them with your regular laundry.
Disposable plastic bags are convenient and fairly inexpensive, but they are bad for the environment. Instead of plastic bags, buy silicone bags that you can wash and reuse many times.
Stasher bags have become popular for their cute pastel palette, but these Homelux bags are also a great value. The initial cost will be higher than plastic bags, but you will save money in the long run.
Silicone bags come in different sizes so you can use them for sandwiches and snacks. If you regularly prepare meals, silicone bags can be especially useful.
Reusable coffee pods
Keurig cups are notoriously bad for the environment — and expensive, too, at 75 cents a pod. Instead of disposable K-pods, buy a reusable pod that you can fill with regular ground coffee.
Install a bidet at home to reduce the use of toilet paper. A bidet ensures that you need less toilet paper. Bidets cost just between $30 and $40 each and are surprisingly easy to install. Many consumers also report feeling cleaner than usual when using a bidet compared to using toilet paper alone.
The average woman spends $50 a year on tampons, but a reusable menstrual cup can cost as little as $25. Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years, making them much cheaper than tampons and pads.
Periodic panties can also be an affordable replacement for panty liners and pads. Period panties cost between $25 and $40 and can last between two and five years.
If you still use a manual thermostat, you could be wasting a lot of money. Smart programmable thermostats can help you save money on your energy bill and use less energy. By some estimates, you can save between 10% and 15% on your total heating and cooling costs.
Smart thermostats can cost as little as $50, and many utility companies offer significant discounts if you install one.
Reusable Makeup Remover Pads
If you use disposable makeup wipes or cotton balls, you can replace them with eco-friendly, reusable makeup pads. You will still have to buy makeup remover, but it will be cheaper than buying packets of wipes.
Buying beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap can save you money while still keeping your food fresh. Beeswax wrap won’t last forever, but it can last about a year before you have to throw it away.
Rechargeable batteries last just as long as regular batteries. Instead of throwing them away, just charge them like you would a phone or laptop. Rechargeable batteries cost about $3 each, depending on size.
Other ways to save money and the environment
Buy second hand
Buying new items is inherently more wasteful – and more expensive – than buying used goods. Before you buy anything new, see if you can find a used version.
Buying used items doesn’t have to mean spending hours scouring cheap thrift stores. There are plenty of high-end consignment shops where you can find gently worn items of clothing, furniture and decoration.
When buying electronics, look for refurbished items that are often 25% cheaper than brand new ones.
Repair and reuse
How many times have you thrown something away and bought a replacement without seeing if it could be repaired? Before you throw anything aside, be it a cookware or a pair of shoes, see if you can fix it. Even paying someone to fix it can be more cost efficient than buying a brand new item.
If something breaks, check YouTube for an easy fix. If it seems too complicated, call around and find a repair person.
Join Freecycle groups
One of the best ways to save money is also incredibly sustainable: finding items for free. There are numerous groups on Facebook that you can join to find free items that your neighbors are giving away. You may also want to consider joining your local NextDoor group for more opportunities.
Freecycle.org is a special bulletin board dedicated to people who give away free items. Freecycle is available in over 100 cities. You can post requests if you’re looking for something specific or search the wall for relevant posts.
Use the library
Your library offers many services that can help you reduce waste and save money. In addition to offering books and movies, some libraries also have a rental program for kitchen utensils and household items.
If you’re a library cardholder, you may also qualify for free e-book and audiobook rentals through Libby, Hoopla, and Overdrive. You can also stream movies for free with Kanopy.
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Zina Kumok (170 posts)
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. As a former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four, and everything in between. She was featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Learn how she paid off $28,000 in student loans over three years at Conscious Coins.
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