April 29, 2011

Green Ways to Save Money

I’ve always been a big reader and over the years I’ve read a healthy amount about how to be environmentally conscious. One of my biggest pet peeves about a lot of the advice out there is how unrealistic it is for regular people who don’t live in a major city, make a ton of money, or have many shopping options beyond Wal-Mart or Target. I read one book that could have been summed up on a single page with “go to this website for ridiculously overpriced ‘green’ cosmetics, this site for $100 organic t-shirts, and this centrally-located-in-places-where-you-can’t-even-afford-the-parking store for $200 worth of essential oils required to clean green.”

Green is simple. Green is easy. Green is cheap! Here are some of what I consider to be the best ways to save green while being green.

Stop buying cleaning products. You can clean your whole house with a few simple products like vinegar, baking soda, and peroxide. Cut up old t-shirts and towels for rags and you’ll save on paper towels and sponges as well. Cleaning green saves you money, reduces waste, and eliminates the need for chemicals that are harmful to you and the environment.

Prepare your own food. Pick up a morning coffee and buy some lunch and you’re easily spending $10 a workday. That adds up to about $200 a month, $2,400 a year! Invest in a thermos and brew your own coffee and you’ll break even after about a week. Plus, you’ll save all those throwaway cups. Pack a lunch (in reusable containers) and you’ll save money, avoid preservatives, and eliminate unnecessary waste (think of all those ketchup packets and napkins in take-out bags). Keep a stainless steel bottle of home-filtered water handy and you’ll save money on bottled water (which is often no cleaner than tap water) and cut down on waste.

Buy less. Instead of buying new books, CDS, DVDs, and video games, see what’s available at the public libraries in your area. Library consortiums allow you to borrow from the libraries in several neighboring towns. Used books stores are also great and often have more than just books. If there are none available in your area, Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble all offer used books as well.

Make your junk someone else’s treasure. Instead of throwing out clothes, furniture, appliances, tools, sports equipment, toys, books, and housewares, try selling them. Have a yard sale, use Craigslist or eBay, and check out local consignment shops. You’ll make money, while keeping those items out of landfills. Another option is to organize a swap with friends. Narrow it down to a category like clothes, home goods, or children's items, set a date and time, put out some snacks, and prepare to swap! Donate any goods you can’t sell or swap. Freecycle is a great online nonprofit that helps you to donate to people in your community.

Drive Less. We’re lucky that our family can get by with just one car. My husband takes his bike to the bus stop for work and I work from home. Now, I know this isn’t an option for everyone. But really think about it. Do you absolutely need as many cars as you have or any at all? Are walking, biking, carpooling, or public transportation options? Consider not only the car payments, but the money spent on insurance, gas, and maintenance. Check with your auto insurer. Some offer discounts for using public transportation (you’ll have to provide receipts) and/or for keeping low mileage on your car. Driving less will save you money, prevent ozone-depleting exhaust, and (if you walk or bike instead) improve your health.

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