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I recently saw a tweet about someone who used to buy paper plates because they were ‘cheaper’ and more convenient.
That person is obviously an extreme, but do you ever read some frugal living tips and just kind of…cringe, for the planet?
It’s 2019, and I think it’s fair to say that we as a generation are becoming more and more conscious of the effects our actions have on the planet. We’re waking up to the fact that cheap and convenient doesn’t necessarily mean best.
Your Money Is A Vote
On this blog, I talk a lot about living frugally, and while I’m all about getting the most out of my money, these days I prioritise spending my money on brands that are ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly first.
Even though it might not always feel like it, whenever we spend money, we’re making a vote with that choice.
A vote that tells that brand, that corporation, that big, conglomerate, that we’re OK with their current practices – whether that’s a company making a big push towards more eco-friendly packaging and manufacturing, or a company that uses non-recyclable products and zero goals to reduce their carbon emissions.
When we shop consciously, making a choice with our money to support the brands that are making an effort to be more eco-friendly, we’re using our money to signal that we support those changes.
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So while being frugal and saving money where you can is, of course, great, aligning how you spend your money with your values is arguably more important than ever.
How can I be eco-friendly and save money?
If you’re on a strict budget, you can absolutely still live an eco-friendly lifestyle. In fact, living a frugal lifestyle almost inadvertently lends itself to a more sustainable lifestyle in many aspects, and only becomes easier once you bring some awareness to the way you want to live your life.
Below, I’ve listed my best tips for being eco-friendly while saving money.
1. Reduce your meat consumption
Meat costs a lot more money than plant-based foods such as beans and legumes. The animal industry is also the biggest contributing factor to carbon emissions. So, cutting down on your meat consumption should be at the top of your list.
Not ready to go vegetarian or vegan in an instant? First off, I highly recommend at least doing some research into the animal industry and its impact on the environment. That way, if you continue to eat meat and consume eggs and dairy products, at least you’re making an informed decision to do so.
Secondly, even just reducing your consumption of animal products will make a significant difference. Schemes like Veganuary (going vegan for the month of January) and Meatless Mondays are all supportive communities that can be a great place to start.
Shameless plug, I have a second website where I share exclusively plant-based recipes!
2. Get a reusable water bottle
This is such a simple way to simultaneously save money and be more eco-friendly that I fail to understand how anyone can ignore this tip.
Spending your money on plastic water bottles is unnecessary and expensive. Invest in a good reusable water bottle, and get into the habit of filling it up and taking it with you before you leave the house.
If you need it re-filled, coffee shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars are only too happy to do that for you in my experience (plus you can always find a water fountain when out and about).
3. Cut down on single-use plastics
Most of you have probably seen first-hand how rapidly plastic straws have gone from a standard accessory for drinks, to a scandalous thing to ask for when out and about.
While, yeah, the straw ban is great – there’s more we can all do to cut down on our use of single-use plastics.
Ways to cut down your plastic use:
– bringing your own carrier bags when shopping (keep some bags in the boot of your car if you’re prone to forgetting)
– choosing loose fruit and vegetables rather than the ones wrapped in plastic
– shopping in bulk food stores if you have one nearby
– storing your leftovers in reusable containers rather than using cling film or plastic food bags
– get a keep cup for takeaway coffees
– request that takeaway places don’t give you plastic cutlery with your orders (deliveroo actually has this as a pre-selected option these days!)
– use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters
As you’ll probably notice, most of the tips above involve reuse – reusing containers, produce bags, stainless steel straws. Once you’ve invested in these things (all very cheap purchases), you’re pretty much good to go full-on eco-warrior frugal genius.
4. Take shorter showers
Lower your water bills and be more environmentally friendly by making a conscious effort to reduce your water usage.
This includes shorter showers, but also things like not leaving the tap running when brushing your teeth, filling a washing up bowl with water instead of just running the tap on full etc.
5. Walk, cycle, or use public transport
Walking, cycling, or using public transport to get around not only saves money on fuel but will also reduce your carbon footprint.
If these aren’t options for you, you could also look into whether your company has a carpooling scheme (or you could set one up!).
6. Get some DIY skills
If something in your house breaks, get into the habit of trying to repair what you have rather than simply throwing it out and replacing it.
The latter option might seem easier and more convenient, but it’s not exactly conducive to an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Besides, there’s a sense of frugal satisfaction to be gained from fixing something broken and making it last way longer than the price you paid might suggest.
7. Get green-fingered
Save money on your food shopping and reduce your carbon footprint by growing your own vegetables. I got an allotment at the end of last year, and it has been such a fun hobby to do (although, admittedly, more work than I first thought – but worth it!).
Home-grown vegetables not only taste better, but they’re obviously much cheaper and mean you can enjoy your veg and not worry about where it’s come from (and all the transport emissions involved in that).
8. Waste less & recycle
Being more frugal and more environmentally friendly is all about being more mindful about the way you live, and that includes wasting less.
I always recommend meal planning to anyone trying to stick to a budget, and this is one of the best ways to avoid food waste, too.
For the things you do need to throw about (both food and otherwise), think about trying to only buy things that you can recycle. You want the majority of your household to be recyclable waste if at all possible.
How you can save the planet
For a lot of people, though, saving the world is just too big a concept to wrap our heads around. When we hear things like the ocean being occupied by more plastic than fish by 2050, ice caps are predicted to be melted by x, and X, many of us might find the same thought cropping up: how could one person possibly change any of that from happening?
When I stopped eating meat and dairy products, I had a lot of conversations with people who still ate meat about my choices.
Most people were simply interested in what had triggered me to make such a big diet change and wanted to hear my thoughts. When I explained that amongst the many reasons I chose to go vegan was a profound concern for the environmental impact the animal industry has on our planet, many responses boiled down to one key come back: sure, that makes sense – but is you going vegan really going to make any difference.
Well, no, not really. But if I go vegan, and my old school friend goes vegan, and a few people that I know from University go vegan and inspire their friends to cut down how much meat and cheese they eat, and a neighbour feels inspired to cut down their meat intake, who maybe inspires their children to go vegetarian – who maybe inspire their friends to do to the same – well, we’re talking a much bigger impact.
That’s the point. You, as one person, can’t make a huge impact on your own – not enough to save the planet. But if all of us, as one collective, start taking steps to be more environmentally friendly, we could still reverse where things are going.