Looking at changing over to a more sustainable lifestyle and using sustainable products can seem like a financially daunting task, but I’ve found that my tendency to live frugally is what led to my choices being more sustainable and better for the environment. Here’s how.
Reduce and Reuse–forget about Recycle
Okay, don’t really forget about recycling, but leave it as the last resort. The first two “R’s” are what will actually have a bigger impact on your life.
Reduce consumption, spend less money
I’m not reinventing the wheel here as it’s a pretty basic concept, but stuff is causing a problem on the planet. One thing we can personally do is start to say no to buying things. I started saying no to shopping because I didn’t want to spend the money, but it also happens to be great for the environment.
ThredUP has a pretty shocking statistic on their site that states: “If everyone in the US bought just one item used instead of new in 2019, it would save nearly 6 billion lbs of carbon emissions–the equivalent of taking over half a million cars off the road for an entire year.”
If you reduce the amount you go shopping for clothes, you’ll spend less money and reduce those carbon emissions. While the ThredUP statistic is about buying used, the moral of it is about not buying new. There is the option to just not buy something.
According to Stats Canada, in 2017, the average Canadian household spent $3,430 on clothing and accessories, which is just under $66 per week. If you were buying one $20 shirt per week and stopped doing that, you’d save $1040 per year. So changing our shopping/spending/consumption habits can have a huge impact on both the environment and our pocketbook.
I personally hate wasting things. That’s my frugal nature showing. It’s why I do things like make vegetable broth out of my food scraps. If you aim to reduce food waste, you’ll use more of what you already have and spend less on needless groceries.
Respect Food has a food calculator on their site that lets you see how much food the average person wastes in a year and how much this costs. The crazy fact is that 1.6 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year globally and 3.3 million tons of CO2 are created by this food waste.
The food calculator tells me that, as a single person, I’m likely to waste 458 lbs (208 kgs) of food this year. Reducing this waste could save me as much as $627 (407 Euros). The statistics are based on UK numbers, so I’ve converted the dollar amount to get a general idea.
While throwing out a bowl of leftovers or letting fruit go bad may not seem like a huge deal, globally it compounds to a substantial impact. And personally, I’d love to have that extra $627 in my pocket!
When I reduce my energy usage, I also reduce my carbon footprint and save on my bills.
The study that the above quote is from actually talks about how there are far more impactful things that can be done for the environment than turning off a light bulb; however, there is an argument to be made for small, consistent lifestyle changes having a large scale impact when multiplied over a group of people. After all, every dollar is made up of pennies and every journey starts with one step, right?
Simon Fraser University’s Creative Sustainability Campaign documents the impact of lowering the thermostat just 1-2 degrees Celsius one winter. That small act resulted in saving $1,440 and 9 tonnes of carbon emissions.
If you’re curious about ways to reduce your energy consumption, BC Hydro has a cost calculator which allows you to calculate energy usage and the cost of it. There is also an ability to compare different items in your house to see where you can cut back and save.
Reuse what you have, spend less money
A part of living a sustainable life is creating less waste, so it makes sense to reuse things before tossing them to the trash or recycle bin. But reusing items will help you save your money too. I’ve talked about some of the items I regularly reuse in previous posts. While these things are fantastic for the environment, they also save me money. If I’m reusing glass jars for food storage, I don’t need to go out and purchase an alternative.
Wondering if these small choices actually make a difference? We saw above how one shirt per person can add up to half a million cars. Here’s a look at how quickly small, daily savings can add up over one year.
But what about those sustainable swaps?
Living a sustainably focused lifestyle often means swapping out non-eco items for more environmentally friendly ones. Here’s a list of a few swaps I’ve made in my home. I made these swaps because they actually save me money, but they are each also better for the environment and make sense for a sustainable lifestyle.
1. Soap–ditch the pricey body wash and the large amount of plastic that comes with it. Soap can be as cheap or expensive as you choose it to be.
2. Reusable Bags–stop paying for plastic bags at the check out (I’d also suggest that you try to stop using plastic). Paying for those plastic bags is a pointless waste of money. I’ve received most of my reusable bags for free as promotions from different businesses. Keep an eye out for them!
3. Paperless Paper Towel–in other words, cloth instead of paper. Have an old towel you can cut up? Some sheets? You can purchase something to replace your paper towels or you can reuse something you already have. Krista found these cloths on Amazon* that she loves. I found someone selling a bunch of tea towels online for a fantastic deal and now use those as my “paper towels.”
4. Handkerchiefs–again, cloth instead of paper. I repurposed some facecloths as tissue for when I’m around the house. They are a little bulky to pack around outside, but even with using them part of the time, they’ve saved me from spending on boxes of tissues.
5. Second Hand Anything–buying second hand extends the life of an item, keeps it out of the landfill, and also saves you from paying full price.
What ways have you found going sustainable has actually saved you money?