As we celebrate Earth Day, remember that many things you do help preserve our planet for future generations and will save money, too! Here are some suggestions for efforts you can make, big and small, to cut your costs and be kind to the environment at the same time.
Food and Packaging
Grow your own. You can nurture seedlings of herbs and vegetables in pots if you don’t have yard space. Try growing the vegetables that you consider pricey at the store – you won’t save much money on carrots or kale, for example, but you will if you grow some asparagus. Meanwhile you’re not contributing to the transport of vegetables from farm to warehouse to store to home. If you must buy fresh produce, do it at a farmers’ market where locally grown products are sold. You’ll often find lower prices and/or better food that didn’t travel far to get to you.
Reuse and re-purpose. Yogurt, salsa, margarine containers, etc. can store leftovers, and larger tubs can become small garbage or recycling bins for your car. Use clean, non-recyclable items like those foil drink pouches as art supplies for kids. Paper that’s used on only one side? Stick it in your printer, blank side up, for a second life. Carry a reusable water bottle or coffee mug with you wherever you go, not to mention reusable grocery bags, which could save you on future shopping trips as more and more areas ban the plastic shopping bag and charge customers for paper ones.
Buy less stuff. Ditch the chemicals and use vinegar, baking soda, and lemon to create cleaning products. Many room fresheners, dryer sheets, and all-purpose cleaners can be toxic and their costs can add up. Paper products like napkins and paper towels can be replaced by old socks and T-shirts (spruce them up by making it an art project for the kids with fabric markers), or you can stock up on reusables by collecting vintage tea-towels at yard sales and swap meets. While you’re there, collect cheap plates and utensils to keep on hand for parties instead of using paper plates and silverware. That saves you money and won’t add to the landfill.
Upgrade your car. Switching to a more fuel-efficient car saves a lot of money in gas and puts less pollution into the air. A zero emission car, fully electric powered by your own solar panels would be the ideal, and even though that carries a significant initial investment, it will save money over time.
Switching to energy-efficient appliances not only saves you money in the long run by using fewer resources, but you can also get cash rebates depending on your state. When weather permits, dry your laundry the old-fashioned way: on a line in your yard or a drying rack inside.
Get rid of your lawn. You can get creative with native drought-resistant plants or urban landscaping and still have a nice outdoor space. But the money you will save on maintenance goes hand-in-hand with conserving water and reducing use of pesticides to make this move a win-win. Also depending on where you live, your water district may have cash incentives for removing water-hungry grass from your yard.
With the Kids
Walk or ride to school. Save on gas by leaving the car keys behind whenever you are traveling to places close to home. If school is too far, even if you just park a few blocks away and scooter or bike or walk with your children, you are modeling low-pollution transportation.
Collect recyclable materials. Some people make it their business to explore neighborhoods and scavenge for recyclable scrap metal, but you can keep it simple at home by saving paper, electronics, and yes, bottles and cans, with your family. Check with your local recycling center to see what is redeemable for cash in your area.
Save water. We all know this tip, but it’s worth a reminder, and great to train your children — turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Take this tip farther by flushing toilets less frequently, using rinse water to irrigate plants, and bath water to fill the toilet flush tank. Every little bit helps conserve, and keeps your water bill down.
Kim Tracy Prince is a writer in Los Angeles who has a husband and two very environmentally conscious young sons.