How Living Sustainably Saves Big Money

30 May

Ever since “being green” became more mainstream and trendy over the past decade, it’s naturally followed that companies and advertisers have gotten on the bandwagon to create products and services that capitalize on this trend – for a price. When you look at it from a marketing standpoint, it sometimes seems as if it costs a lot more money to live in a more eco-friendly way. There’s all the new stuff to buy, and these products are often more expensive than the previous, traditional ones.

But with a little education and awareness, you can avoid this. First of all, along with the very good aspect of more consumer awareness about sustainable living, comes the not-so-good “greenwashing” that’s been happening more and more: companies that just throw in a few terms or some little thing that doesn’t really make a difference, in order to market themselves as environmentally friendly when they really aren’t – again, at a price of course.

The reality is that living sustainably isn’t new or trendy – it’s extremely old-fashioned.

It’s the same lifestyle that our grandparents had. Plastics, processed and fast food, wasteful packaging and more chemical products are all incredibly new aspects of human life. These modern conveniences, which are largely unhealthy for both our planet and ourselves, are also tied with affluence. People getting by on less are typically living much greener; not wasting food, taking public transportation, watching their AC and heating use, etc. Scarcer resources mean virtually nothing is thrown away or wasted.

I started reading a great book called Shift Your Habit by Elizabeth Rogers. Shift Your Habit is all about the tie between living more sustainably as well as less expensively. The book goes through hundreds of ideas and practices that you can implement to live a much lower-impact lifestyle – but the cool thing is that virtually all of these things save big money. I also learned of, a website where you can buy fully recyclable, eco-friendly products.

In the midst of the hundreds of planet-and-money saving habits, along with real case study examples of 15 families doing them, Rogers identifies what she calls the Super Shifts – the 15 top changes that have the most impact and save the most money. The shifts in blue are the ones I already do; in green are those I am starting to implement or improving with this project. Everything is followed by the average yearly savings of the shift.

The Super Shifts

  • Install a water filter or use filtered pitcher; use refillable water bottles instead of store-bought plastic bottled water. Saves $885
  • Trade in paper towels for reusable cleaning cloths. I do use kitchen cloths, along with paper towels (go through only about one roll per month). I am now moving completely away from paper towels. Saves $130
  • Trade in paper napkins for washable cloth ones. I’ve never done this, but am starting now. It’s also prettier and more elegant! Saves $50
  • Replace conventional cleaning products with natural ones. I have used Meyer’s for years, alongside traditional glass and bathroom cleaners. I am now replacing all of those with natural homemade cleaners. Read the next post for some great recipes! Saves $85
  • Get away from disposable baggies, lunch sacks and aluminum foil. Pack school or work lunches in reusable containers and avoid individually prepackaged foods. Saves $540 on daily lunches
  • Use canvas tote bags at the grocery store. I’ve done that for years, but am taking it one step further to use them with all my shopping. No more plastic bags from anywhere! Saves 600 bags per year
  • Replace your showerhead. Use a low-flow model instead. Saves $180
  • Install low-flow faucet aerators on bathroom faucets. Saves $30
  • Use displacement bags in toilet tanks, if you don’t have a water-saving toilet with low and high flush options. Saves $35
  • Replace incandescent lightbulbs with CFL (compact fluorescent lights), and turn off lights when you aren’t using them. Saves $275
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of single use. Saves $60
  • Shut down your computer every night. My guy always does this (in fact he shuts it down every time he gets off it, which is a little excessive to me). I always avoided this – takes so long to get it back up and running to all the programs and windows I use constantly. I never thought it was much of an energy suck, but it helps. Saves $55
  • Pop Quiz: Is it better to put food waste in the trash or garbage disposal?

    Don’t rinse dishes before putting in dishwasher, and don’t hand-wash if you can help it. Instead scrape food remnants into the compost bin or trash; and big surprise – a dishwasher is much more water and energy saving than washing dishes by hand! Saves $40

  • Always wash full loads of clothes only, and use cold water as much as possible. Saves $150
  • Sign up for paperless billing and use online bill payment. Saves $60

Total potential annual savings: More than $2,500!

An easy “green” rule of thumb to remember is what I call the 3 Ps:

Simply avoid as much as possible, anything that comes in Plastic, is Processed, or individually Prepared.

3 Responses to “How Living Sustainably Saves Big Money”

  1. Meg June 1, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I’ve always found the marketing of green consumer products to be mildly disturbing. Surely the idea behind sustainable living is about buying less …

    I love your 3 P’s … a good rule of thumb for living lighter on the earth!!

  2. Sushanta Bhandarkar June 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Great article! Looking forward to reading the book but love The Super Shifts!
    Will be sharing this article soon on my environmental awareness Facebook page – EMPOWERING WORLD CHANGE. Do join us. Your thoughts/comments/participation will be much appreciated.

    Thank you,
    -Sushanta Bhandarkar
    Founder, Empowering World Change.


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