Sustainability and living an eco-friendly lifestyle is often considered to be something only the most affluent citizens may participate in, but it does not have to mean expensive, organic foods, solar panels or electric cars. Going green can also translate into saving the green, meaning not just the planet, but money too.
What are some ways to limit your impact and save money?
Turn down your thermostat. Using less energy reduces both carbon emissions and your energy bill. Just turn it down in the winter and put on more clothing. In the summer keep your AC unit on a temperature you can withstand without completely over heating.
Take your reusable bags with you to the store. Some stores take a certain amount off your bill for each reusable bag you bring, such as Target, CVS, Whole Foods and Giant. Depending on where you live, bringing a bag can also save you money because some places, like Washington, DC, charge you for plastic bags in order to reduce plastic bag consumption.
Recycle household items. There are many things that we purchase that have more uses than just what is intended. Save plastic containers and reuse them instead of buying Tupperware and research food products that can be used for other things, such as beauty products, household cleaners,and more.
Recycle in general. Most neighborhoods make it part of the trash fee anyway, so recycling doesn’t have to cost any additional money. Even if you live somewhere where a recycling company does not normally visit, ask local stores if you can use their recycle dumpsters.
Compost. Use food scraps, coffee grounds, paper towels, grass clippings and leaves to start a compost. It is easy, cuts down on trash and can provide enough nutrients to your garden so you don’t have to buy fertilizer or topsoil.
Obtain a rain barrel. Sometimes there are programs that give out free rain barrels that are easy to install, which can reduce your stormwater runoff. Large amounts of contaminants from air pollution accumulate on your roof and then wash down during a rainstorm. With rain barrels, you can help clean local watersheds and the water collected can be used to water your plants, saving money on the water bill.
Make your own baby food. This can help cut costs by making baby food in bulk. Here are some tips to get you started.
Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up at home. Buying bottled water can add up in costs and contribute to plastic consumption. The EPA has higher water quality standards than the FDA, so most of the time bottled water is not much better than the water that comes out of your faucet.
Buy Energy Star Appliance. If it is time to get a new appliance, buy one that is Energy Star certified. This can save you energy costs in the long run.
Keep your car as light as possible. Keeping heavy items in your car can add weight, using more gas.
Make eco-friendly gifts for birthdays and holidays. When you have a long list of people to buy for, look for creative things you can make with items that are already found around your home.
There are so many ways to go green that will not use up all of the green in your wallet. The most sustainable way to live comes from the example of how people lived long ago when electricity and cars did not exist. Or we can use other countries as examples on how to be minimalists and conserve our resources. If residents of other countries would live the way Americans do, we would need four worlds to sustain ourselves. We should all work on reducing our use of resources.
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Stephanie Siemek is a freelance writer whose work can be found on Examiner.com.