Turns out that saving the environment and money are one and the same.
Living a more sustainable lifestyle often means going back to basics. Doing things ‘the way grandma did them’ is good for the planet, and it turns out it’s good for your savings as well. That’s because making the eco-friendly choice to reuse, recycle and reduce all mean you ultimately spend less money.
Of course, making any kind of change is hard. No matter how motivated you are. So, take it easy. If you try to make too many changes all at once, you’ll find yourself getting overwhelmed and stressed. You won’t feel good, so chances are you’ll abandon your mission altogether. An outcome that’s good for neither the environment nor money saving.
Instead, make one or two small changes today and wait until they feel like second-nature before you tackle another one or two. Repeat until you’re satisfied that you’re doing what’s needed to live a more sustainable life that benefits both the environment and money in your pocket.
To get you started, here are X ways living greener is also good for the green.
1. Line dry your clothes
Make no mistake, your dryer is a money-sucking, energy-wasting beast. An average 6kg dryer costs $1.17 a load to run. So, if you’re doing three dryer runs a week, you’re paying $182.52 a year for the privilege.
2. Switch off the #%$ lights
Your dad (it’s usually dads for some reason) probably drove you nuts as a kid telling you to switch off the lights the moment you left the room. Ahem, Dad had a point. A power point. Make sure you’re also using energy-saving bulbs in the first place, and install dimmers where you can. Keeping the lights dim at night is better for your sleep.
3. Go easy on the air-con
No matter where in Australia you live (whether that requires more heating or cooling), your air conditioning is costing you a pretty penny each year. According to CHOICE, it’s actually costing you up to 58,600 pretty pennies. That’s right, up to $586 a year. You can add the environmental cost on top of that.
To put this figure on ice, try:
- reducing the size of your AC unit (a smaller 4kV unit costs up to $492 a year, almost $100 less)
- running an energy-efficient model (remember, the higher the stars, the lower the costs)
- improve the energy efficiency of your home (block drafts, double-glaze your windows or cover them with thick curtains, insulate your roof)
- cool or heat only the rooms you are using
- dress appropriate to the season and then cool or heat your home (ie, if you’re wearing a tank top in Melbourne in winter, you’re spending way too much on heating)
Turning off the central heating at night is also a good way to save money and improve your sleep. Now that’s switching off at night.
4. Get out of hot water
Many homes have the hot water system set to a scalding temperature that’s way too hot for both safety and your hip pocket. Newer hot water systems won’t even allow these temperatures as plumbing safety regulations allow a maximum temperature of 50° Celsius. So, check your system and reduce the max temperature to save both money and your skin.
5. Cold wash your clothes
Don’t just turn your hot water down, use the cold water tap more regularly too. It costs almost three times as much to wash three loads of laundry a week on a warm wash than a cold wash. Enough said. For maximum clean, wash cold and then line dry in the sun (see above).
6. Always do a full load
Whether it’s the dishwasher or the washing machine, one of the easiest environment and money savers is to commit to never run either appliance unless you’ve got a complete load. Unless your machine has a particular setting, half-loads are just a complete waste of energy and money.
7. Visit farmer’s markets
Buying organic, in season produce direct from the grower will save you money. You’ll also be getting the freshest possible food from a trusted source who is committed to sustainable farming practices. Find your nearest farmer’s market here.
8. Grow your own
Even better if you can grow your own organic veggies. Growing your own food means you’ll cut down on waste and know you’re eating quality food. There’s zero transport impact and you know for sure that the workers growing your food are well treated (because it’s you!).
If you currently buy organic produce, growing your own will undoubtedly save you a packet as well. You’ll have some upfront costs to get started, but they needn’t be huge. You might also find yourself ditching your expensive gym membership once you start digging and ploughing in the garden on the daily.
9. Or at least grow your own herbs
Growing vegetables might feel daunting, but growing herbs is simple. It’s also super-cost effective because gram for gram, herbs cost more than most veggies at the supermarket. Plus you always end up having to buy more than you’re going to use. In fact, herbs cost a ridiculous amount considering you have to buy a whole bunch just to add two tablespoons to a recipe. The remainder so often ends up as food waste, which has a massive environmental impact.
Try these easy-to-grow herbs in the garden, pick what you need when you need it, and save up to $4 a bunch:
10. Cook from scratch
The more work you do yourself in the kitchen, the less you’ll pay someone else to it and the less packaging you’ll be responsible for. So skip the plastic-wrapped cut green beans and slice your own. Cooking from scratch is easier than you think. Start with these recipes from SBS Food that will take you less time than it takes to order a takeaway.
11. Eat less meat
The production of meat has a huge, unsustainable environmental impact. But whatever your ethical or sustainable beliefs, budget-wise alone it makes sense to go meatless as often as possible. Not only will your health thank you for it, your hip pocket will too. In fact, researchers at Deakin University found that the average family could save up to$1800 a year by making more sustainable food choices.
12. Shop your pantry
Food waste affects both the environment and your savings. Every other week try to cut down on your weekly shop by using what you already have – or even skip a weekly shop altogether. Get creative with menus that use up your pantry staples and especially whatever you’ve got stored in the freezer. Not only will you put an entire week’s worth of grocery money back in your pocket, you’ll also reduce overall food waste.
13. Stop buying bottled water
It’s wrecking the planet. Full stop.*
* Also, it costs loads of money and tap water is free. If you’re worried about water quality (and CHOICE says don’t be), buy a filter. Filters don’t have to cost much and work out far cheaper than buying plastic bottles everyday.
14. Reuse plastic
Try to use less plastic in general (take your own bags to the veggie section), but any plastic that does make its way into your home should be used again and again. That means you can stop buying plastic like cling film and bin liners and use what you already have instead. See, saving the environment and money simultaneously is very efficient.
15. Don’t use paper towel
Instead of stumping up for single-use paper towels, use washable rags instead. The great thing is, cloths rags do a far superior job at wiping up spills anyway. Keep a bucket in the laundry to throw used rags in and give them a wash when the bucket is full.
16. Eat less in general
Eat less food in general and save heaps – AKA the ‘don’t buy it diet’. Save money, save the planet, lose weight, feel great. You read it here first.
17. Make your own household cleaners
Cut down on expensive chemicals in plastic bottles and make your own household cleaners instead. There are plenty of sites that will show you how. Grandma would be so proud.
A few of my favourites are:
- All-purpose cleaner
- Bathroom cleaner
- Laundry detergent
- Washing up liquid
- Floor cleaner
- Grout cleaner
- Air freshener
18. Convert to solar energy
While the upfront cost of solar energy seems daunting, you’ll save money in the long-term getting your energy from the sun instead of the grid. The environment and money savings of making this important change know no bounds.
Check in with your neighbours to see if they are also interested in going solar. You should be able to get a discount if a supplier can fit all your houses out at once.
19. Insulate your hot water system
Wrapping your electric hot water tank in insulation material makes environment and money sense. A water heater blanket can be used on an electric water heater to help prevent it from losing heat through the tank walls. Make sure you follow all safety instructions, or ask a plumber to do the job for your if you’re not sure what you’re doing.
20. Half-flush each time
Most modern toilets have a ‘half flush’ option, but do you use it? Be sure you do and you’ll use half as much water and stop money literally going down the drain.
If your loo doesn’t offer a reduced flush, fill up a couple of 600ml soft drink bottles and drop them into your cistern away from the operating mechanisms. They’ll reduce the volume of water used per flush. Trust me, a half flush is enough for 99.9 per cent of occasions. If it’s not, see your health care professional…
21. Water wisely
Attach a barrel to your down pipe to collect water to use on your garden. While you’re there, install a drip-irrigation system to water your plants in the most water-efficient and cost-effective way possible. An irrigation system doesn’t cost much to set up yourself and you’ll make the money back in the water you’ll save in a year or two. Plus you’ll feel awesome as you sit in your lush garden knowing you’ve done your bit to drought-proof the country.
22. Take the train/bus
It costs a five-day a week Australian commuter $5,490 less per year to take public transport than to drive. Even more, depending on where you live. Imagine if you doubled down and walked part of the way as well. There’s your annual overseas holiday saved for right there. Something you can plan as you sit on the train with nothing to do but relax, dream and feel smug for taking one more car off the road. Oh, the luxury of having someone drive you places!
23. Car pool
When a friend offers to give you a lift somewhere, accept it graciously. Then arrange to make it a regular thing. You drive one week, they drive the next. You’ll basically halve your travel costs, take a car off the road and strengthen your friendship all in one.
24. Run just one car
With all the car pooling and public transporting you’ll be doing, chances are you can get by with one family car. According to the RACV, even a small car wracks up monthly running costs of $928.64. Upgrade to a SUV and that goes up to $1804.61. So, you could either downgrade your larger car to halve your running costs, or ditch the second car altogether and save stacks. The environment will thank you for either of these choices.
25. Buy second hand
Try not to buy new as often as you can. Op shops, Gumtree, eBay, Facebook Marketplace – it’s all there, waiting for a new owner. You can even buy high-end fashion second hand through sites like Revoir, The Closet and Blue Spinach. Whatever you need to do to remove yourself from the environmental disaster that is fast fashion.
26. Rent, don’t buy
Instead of spending hundreds on a dress or pair of shoes you might only wear for one or two occasions, rent your dream outfit instead. You’ll look fabulous and be making an even more fabulous contribution to the planet. There are load of places online that will kit you out, try these:
27. Barter, don’t buy
Unless you’re mad-keen, you don’t need to keep a garage-full of camping equipment, sporting paraphernalia or fishing gear. Most of us only use this kind of equipment from time to time, so arrange to borrow what you need from your neighbours and friends instead. The same goes for things like lawn mowers and other gardening tools. Work out what your neighbour has and you keep what they don’t have. Swap when you need things.
28. Use the library
Buying books, magazines, toys and movies is expensive, which is why it’s so great that you don’t have to. Your local library will let you have the lot on loan for free. Check your council website to find out how you can sign up and start saving both trees and money.
29. Stop the junk mail
Not only is junk mail in your letter box a huge environmental drain, it also drains your no-spending willpower. Reduce both environment and money impact by stopping the junk mail avalanche altogether. First, put a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on your letter box. That should be enough to stop the postie putting catalogues and other unaddressed mail into your letter box. For addressed junk mail, get your name on the ADMA ‘do not mail’ register. If companies continue to bash you with addressed junk mail, you can contact ADMA and complain.
30. Just. stop. buying. stuff
If you’ve ever contemplated renting a storage facility, or your guests sleep in the study because the ‘spare room’ isn’t accessible, or you can’t fit the car into the garage, this one is for you. Australians are drowning in excess stuff and it’s killing our planet and our bank balance.
So do the right thing for both environment and money and stop buying all the things. Especially things you don’t need. Which is any more than one white shirt or an upgrade to a perfectly working phone/PC/sound system, etc. Step off the over-buying train once and for all.