Eco-friendly doesn’t always mean expensive
If you are thinking of going eco-friendly, but you are afraid it is going to be expensive. I have good news for you! There are actually eco-friendly products and actions that will be saving you money immediately or in the medium-long run. Maybe you won’t be able to make a big investment and put a solar system in your house right now, but there are many other actions that with small or no investment will save you money.
Why are some eco-friendly products more expensive
Of course, there are eco-friendly products that will cost more money than other non-eco-friendly commercial goods. But usually, the eco-friendly alternative will offset its cost in the long run. Why are these products more expensive? There are several reasons for these products being more expensive.
- Quality of eco-friendly materials used in production. Eco-friendly products often times use materials that are sustainable, renewable, organic, natural, and often more expensive. For example, commercial cotton is harmful to the environment. To lessen the impact, eco-friendly products will use certified organic cotton. This is better for the environment, but it is definitely more expensive.
Often, the quality of the materials used will have an offsetting effect on the cost because the product will last longer than non-eco-friendly commercial brands. There is an old saying I have heard that says: “buy cheap, buy twice”. In the end, you might spend more money buying cheap stuff, and create way more trash. Better buy one quality item that will last much longer, this way saving money in the long term, and help saving the planet as well.
- Longer and more labor-intensive processes. Many eco-friendly options are produced in a more labor-intensive way, in order to avoid the use of shortcuts like chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.
For example, to create bamboo fabric from a bamboo plant you can either use chemicals: not-eco-friendly. Or use a mechanical process that will just take more time and work but will be eco-friendly. More time and labor will translate into higher costs.
- Fair labor and ethical practices. Many eco-friendly companies will also have fair trade principles as one of their values. These companies will ensure that every person involved in the production of the final product is fairly compensated and his or her labor conditions are adequate. No child labor, no poor wages, and poor working conditions. This costs more money.
- Lower demand. As right now, the demand for eco-friendly products is lower, consequently the price is higher. When more people start purchasing eco-friendly products, more investments will be done to lower production costs. Eventually, the price will decrease. Your individual action matter.
Saving money and the planet
In this section, I will give you specific actions to take to save you money, while saving the planet. You don’t need to and shouldn’t get rid of all your not eco-friendly items in order to immediately buy eco-friendly options. In my opinion, if you already have an item, it is much better to wait until it is unusable and then switch to a more eco-friendly option. With the exception of items harmful to your health or harmful in any other way while still in use. In that case, dispose of it in the best possible way and replace it with an eco-friendly option.
1. Not purchasing
Most eco-friendly minded individuals will think thoroughly about every purchase. Do I really need this item? Will I be using this item often? Can I use something else I already own for the same purpose? We weigh the pros and cons of each product. We try to avoid any unnecessary purchase and any purchase that is harmful to the environment. This will obviously save you money!
2. Sourcing second-hand items
Most times, instead of buying a brand new item, we first try to find what we need second-hand. This helps the environment because we are using an item for a longer period of time, so it gets used up before discarding it. When fewer new items are purchased, fewer new items are produced, fewer items end up eventually in the landfills. Second-hand items are cheaper than buying new items. Sometimes, you will find great quality products for a fraction of its original price.
I mentioned this in another article, but in our apartment, we only have two items of furniture that were brand new when we got them: the sofa and the bed. Everything else is something our family members were not using anymore and we renewed it, or we bought second-hand. We have beautiful even antique pieces that have a long way to go before they are no longer usable.
When something is broken, don’t throw it out immediately. Try to find a service that can repair it. More power to you if you can repair it yourself. This will cost you less than purchasing a new item, and it will make the item last longer, have more use before its time is really over. You can do this with your electronics, appliances, and even clothes.
Some products you might have bought very cheap to start with, might not have the option to repair them. Many cheap products are produced in ways that they will break quickly and repairing them might cost more than buying a new cheap item, or not even be possible. This is where buying quality products pays off as well, as they will not break down easily, and when they do, they usually have a way to repair them.
4. Sell your unwanted items
As the saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If you are no longer using something, and it is still in good condition, sell it. This way you make a little money, but also you are giving this item a new life, more time before going to the landfill. This might require a bit of your time, but it is worth the effort.
5. Reusable napkins
With one little investment, you save on ever buying paper napkins again. You can make these at home, it is very easy with or without the sewing machine. Use linen, organic cotton, or other eco-friendly fabric. I made 2 napkins per family member + some guest napkins in one afternoon. I spent 10 dollars on the fabric, I am never spending on paper napkins again, at least for several years. If you can’t make it yourself, buy a set from Etsy or another store. It might cost more than 10 bucks, but you will start saving money very soon.
6. Reusable cloth towels (Unpaper towels)
If you reach for a paper towel every time you spill something, you are tossing your money into the garbage, literally. And you are not doing the planet any favor either, sending the paper to the landfills. Again, you can either make these towels yourself or invest in a set and never buy paper towels again. Wash them when they are dirty, and reuse.
7. Reusable water bottle. Don’t buy bottled water
You don’t need a fancy water bottle, you probably have one or more at home right now. When you take water everywhere you go, you don’t buy bottled water anymore. This way you save money and save the environment from all the plastic bottles. Bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water and it is not typically safer than tap water!
If you are concerned with the water quality of your tap water, research the tap water quality in your area first. If it is not good enough, find the best way to filter your water, so you can still use it.
CAUTION: There are exceptions to this, there are definitely locations and places in the world where you should not drink tap water as it is not safe for your health. Please always do your research about water quality in your area and when you travel.
8. Eco-friendly water filter
If you need to filter your water, look into filtering it with activated charcoal sticks. These sticks are natural, effective, and don’t pollute the planet. They are inexpensive and in the end, you will pay much less than buying bottled water.
9. Reusable mug
If you love to get your coffee from a coffee shop, you should be carrying your own mug. Many coffee shops will charge you less for the coffee, so you will be saving some money, and as a bonus, you are sending one less cup to the landfill with every coffee you have. The single-use coffee cups are not recycled, because it is made of mixed materials: paper coated with plastic, so they go straight to the landfills.
10. Buy not perishable groceries or other items in bulk
Buying in bulk means two things. Groceries purchased in bulk cost less per pound. And usually, it means less packaging or better options for packaging. Many times, if you buy in bulk, the packaging might change from plastic to cardboard, paper, or cloth.
Depending on where you live, you could shop in wholesale stores, or find distributors for specific items in your area. You will spend more at once, but less per pound. You shop once and are done with it for a long time.
If you live in an agricultural area, you might be able to source many products directly from the producers and even talk to them about bringing your own big containers for the groceries you buy.
If you really get into buying in bulk directly from the producers, you could even create a small informal or formal co-op with your neighbors and buy for even better prices for more families. This way you would also save on transportation costs, as you would buy large quantities for more families.
Research the options in your area. As an example, our country house is located in an agricultural area, and there is a specific street where all the distributors are located close to each other. We can go there and buy 20-pound bags of flour, rice, all kinds of legumes, and other products at a much lower cost compared to the supermarket. These bags are cloth bags that can be reused.
11. Start your own garden
If your climate allows it and if you have space in your backyard or even front yard, you should stop investing in a lawn. Watering, mowing, maybe even using chemical products. Instead, you should start your own vegetable garden. Yes, it will require work, but it will be worth it. Your first year, start small, in order for you to learn some basics, later on, you can add more.
Investing in seeds or seedlings will be an upfront cost that will have big returns when its time for harvesting. You can also start collecting your own seeds from the veggies you grow, and you won’t need to invest in seeds next year.
Organic vegetables you grow are cheaper and have no related environmental impacts like chemical pesticides, fertilizers, transportation, packaging, etc. Moreover, they taste so much better!
11a. Worm bin / compost
As an add-on to the garden, you can incorporate a worm bin or compost in your home. This way you save on buying natural fertilizers, as you will make your own at no cost at all. You will use the food scraps from your kitchen and/or garden clippings to make the best natural fertilizer to improve the quality of your soil each year!
12. Make things from scratch
I love cooking and spending time in the kitchen. That’s why I do this a lot, and I am saving a lot of money this way. I make big batches of jams, fruit preserves, peanut butter, tahini, tomato sauce, ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, yogurt, plant-based milk, pesto, dressings, etc.
The cost of the ingredients to make these items is much lower than the price of the finished products. With fruits and vegetables, I wait until a specific ingredient is in season, so its the cheapest. Then I buy in bulk, and make a big batch and preserve it. The finished product can last for several months to come depending on the way of preservation. The added bonus is you know the exact ingredients you put in your food.
And how is this saving the planet? Well, you are not buying packaged goods. You will likely use recycled and/or used glass containers to preserve the final products, so one less plastic container to take care of!
I also make not food-related items from scratch, mainly soap and cleaning citrus vinegar. I would love to make toothpaste, but I haven’t find the ingredients I need yet.
13. Don’t waste food
Be mindful of what perishable groceries you buy and have in your home and used them all up before they go bad. Not wasting food is saving your money, but it is also saving all the energy that went to producing this food. Cook according to what you currently have at home. If you see that something might go bad and you can’t use it right now, try to preserve it by freezing or by another method.
14. LED lights
If you haven’t done this yet, you should definitely switch all your lights to the light-emitting diode (LED) lights. These are the most energy-efficient lights out there. They use up to 75% less energy than a typical light bulb. You will definitely notice this on your electricity bill. LEDs will last longer, up to 50.000 hours, that is almost 6 years (24/7) that the light can be on. This is 50 times longer than a typical light bulb.
The LED bulb might cost more when purchasing, but it will be well worth it for your planet and money-saving efforts!
15. Turn off the lights, unplug your unused appliances
This can make a difference in your wallet and it is better for our planet not to waste any energy we already produced. This is a simple habit of turning off all the lights when leaving a room or unplugging any appliances we are not using. When you leave your computer or your charger plugged in, it will continue to consume small amounts of energy even if it is turned off.
16. Walk / ride a bike
Using a car, or even public transport costs money and has a toll on the environment. Cars or public transport will emit greenhouse gases or use up energy that has to be made. Walk or ride a bike whenever possible, you will save money and the environment, and you might even get in shape!
17. Use less water
As with electricity, there are small habits that make sure you use less water. This is good for the planet, and it will also save you money.
Get into the habit of showering instead of taking a bath. But also, take a short shower, play your favorite song, and shower for no more than the duration of the song.
Collect the cold water while waiting until the water heats for taking a shower. Use the collected water to water your plants or for any other purpose you want.
Turn off the water every time you are not actively using it.
Investing in a more water-saving toilet might be expensive. Instead, you can put a brick in the water tank of your toilet and that way reduce the amount of water that is used each time you flush.
Investing in water-saving showerheads and faucets is not as expensive, and it will be saving you money in the long run, as they use around 20% less water than the usual showerheads or faucets.
18. Digital reading
Digital newspaper subscriptions and ebooks are usually cheaper than the paper versions, and are also more eco-friendly, as all that paper is not printed.
19. Invest in a stainless steel safety razor
All disposable razors will eventually go to landfills and they will pollute our planet. A stainless steel safety razors can last for decades, even a lifetime. You just need to change the blades, which are inexpensive and can be recycled. Make one investment that will save you many purchases in the future.
20. Switch to eco-friendly feminine products
A menstrual cup will cost you 20-50 USD and you won’t need to purchase anything else for years. The first few months might be more difficult as you will have to get used to it, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t regret it.
If you prefer pads, search for reusable, washable pads made of organic cotton. You wash them after each use and use them over and over again. One investment for years to come.
This is not an exhaustive list of what eco-friendly actions can actually save you money, there are more things that could be included. I hope you can get inspired and start with some of them today, or this week, or as soon as it is possible for you. From my own experience, I know that an eco-friendly lifestyle is not expensive, and it is actually cheaper.
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