25 Green and Cheap Ways to Live
by Sarah Lane at ProgressiveKid
As the struggle in the economic markets rages on, you can feel confident that your family’s particular financial concerns are pretty much irrelevant in any specific plans to slow down the slide of our economy into a likely recession. We regular people (a.k.a. nongazillionaires) are simply going to have to take care of ourselves and each other. And when it comes down to it, making like Buddha and saying to yourself (I’m paraphrasing here), “I don’t have any control over it anyway,” might be the healthiest strategy in terms of your own emotional and mental health.
Besides, there may be a green lining to all of this economic turmoil. I can’t think of any more effective way to get most Americans to change their lives than lack of cash. So let’s try—amid foreclosures, job loss, the costly (on so many levels) war in Iraq, salary freezes, skyrocketing health care costs and grocery, gas, and heating bills—to look on and for the bright side of things.
Instead of freaking out, join me in taking some sensible, healthy, positive steps toward change at home that are good for you and your piggy bank as well as the planet. It’s a win-win!
- Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water. See The Trouble with Bottled Water for all the reasons to break the bottled water habit. Also visit the New American Dream site for information on their Break the Bottled Water Habit campaign.
- Eat at home. It’s better for you anyway. Check out our post Stand Up for Your Rites for information about the benefits of eating family dinners. Besides, eating at home means you can better control whether your food is organic, locally grown, hormone free, and so on.
- Pack your family’s lunches. This way you can make them healthier and you can reduce the waste that comes with takeout.
- Get rid of cable. You don’t need it. Really. Rent movies from Netflix or your local video store. That way you get rid of the ads, the paranoid news coverage, and negative media voices. And you’ll buy less stuff overall because you won’t be hearing the television ads that make you think you need more than you do.
- Go to the library. Most of the time you don’t need to own a book in order to use it. And your decision will have an effect on the publishing and paper production industries.
- Hang up your clothes to dry. Find yourself a space-saving drying rack like the $20 one at Ikea. We put ours by the wood stove in the winter and in the sun in the summer. Save money, save energy.
- Use the air dry setting on your dishwasher.
- Grow your own food, organically, using your own compost. You don’t have to have a 20-acre farm. Even growing a few tomatoes on a balcony will save you a little money, green up your outdoors, and give you some nutritious food.
- Make your own cleaning products. Vinegar and an eco soap will do just about everything you need in the cleaning department. They’re eco friendly and affordable.
- Use fluorescent bulbs. They’re better for the planet and more cost effective. Bonus!
- Invest in a nonelectric carpet sweeper for the carpets and use a broom or a dust mop for the floors. Use the electric vacuum just once a week or every other week. That way you give your vacuum a break, extending its life, you cut down on electricity use, and you spend less on vacuum bags and filters.
- Use cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and paper towels. Paper products are expensive and deplete our natural resources.
- Put your appliances on power strips that you can easily turn off when not in use. The ideal places for power strips are the stereo cabinet and the TV/VCR cabinet. Click off the whole system when you’re not using it and save money and energy.
- Get your news from the Internet or the radio. You don’t need a newspaper. Or read the free paper in the waiting room, at the library, on the ferry, in the train station. Get a copy at work and share it. Or, if you must have a paper (confession: I kind of have a Bad Greenie weakness for the newspaper), then use the paper post-read in myriad ways before you recycle it. Line the rabbit’s house, use it to soak up spills, use it for protecting items in packages that you send.
- Brew your own coffee. A French press combined with a grinder makes good shade-grown, fair trade coffee fast. It’s easy! It’s more affordable! C’est magnifique!
- Buy clothes at resale shops. Learn to make your own. You can get a good sewing machine for under $200. Threadbanger is a great site for diy sewing advice and ideas. If you have to buy new, limit your purchases to a few, good quality, styling eco items that will spiff up your wardrobe.
- Carpool. Share the cost of gas. Share your kids and the job of driving them around.
- Look for affordable fun things to do. The local pumpkin patch/hay maze is affordable and fun. Start a movie night with friends and take turns hosting. Go for late afternoon walks. Do art projects together. Visit national parks and forests. Play games at home. Card games and board games are not that expensive. Our latest favorites are Mille Bornes and Parcheesi and Stratego. Don’t forget cooperative games.
- Save your money for the really important stuff, such as making sure you’re not getting poisoned by lead in your lunch or BPA in your drinking water. Spend some money on a good water bottle and a good lunch bag, for example. I know a place, ahem, where you can get these.
- Combine car trips. With some simple planning you can avoid taking a trip into town or to the strip mall every day. Do it once or twice a week. Try to incorporate the bus or a bicycle into your errands or your commute.
- Color your own hair if you’re just not ready to go gray. By coloring it yourself, you can stay away from the chemicals. Use one of the para-phenylenediamine-, ammonia-, peroxide-, resorcinol-, and paraben-free brands on the market like Act by Nature.
- Make your own cards and giftwrap from recycled paper. Use fabric scraps and leftover paper, newspaper, and magazines to decorate or to wrap. Go digital for invitations.
- Trade with others. Swap graphic design work for piano lessons with your local piano instructor, for example. Share tools with a neighbor instead of buying your own expensive tools for just your own use.
- Visit your farmer’s market. Eat locally which is in some ways even better than organic and more affordable.
- Take your own garbage and recycling to the dump and recycling center if you have the option. That way you’ll be motivated by the savings on garbage service to cut down on your waste and to increase your recycling. In our house we’ve got the dump runs down to about two cans only every two or three weeks.
One final word of advice: Chocolate. Do not under any circumstances deprive yourself of chocolate in these difficult times. But even though non-fair trade chocolate is cheaper, don’t go there. You don’t want a guilty conscience, and knowing how most chocolate is made and by whom will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Pay a little extra for the fair trade stuff. You can make it go farther by using fair trade chocolate chips in cookies.
It would appear at least so far that we can’t really control economic troubles of this scale. But we each can control how we respond. And we can choose to see our economic troubles as an opportunity to take one giant leap forward toward greening our lives. When we find ways to save money in intelligent ways we often also are taking steps to save the planet.
Image by Squeaky Marmot, 2007, Creative Commons license.
Filed under: consuming, living green, social issues Tagged: | Act by Nature, BPA, Break the Bottled Water Habit, cheap ways to live, cooperative games, economic downturn, economic markets, economic turmoil, fair trade chocolate, foreclosures, French press, make your own cleaning products, New American Dream, nonelectric carpet sweeper, paraben-free, power strips, recession, resorcinol, shade-grown coffee, Stand Up for Your Rites, The Trouble with Bottled Water, Threadbanger