Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Save $Green$ by Going Green

Photo by MShades on Flickr using Creative Commons.
If you don't get it, try this.

In part because we're so often greenwashed into believing that the most ecologically friendly alternatives come from our friendly chain big-box store, many still believe that the greenest choices also require lots of $green$. In some instances (say, installing solar panels in your home) this may be true, but by far most of the options with the greatest opportunity for conserving our natural resources also do a fair job of preserving your personal financial resources.

Green Options for the Budget-Conscious:
  • Conserve water. Using less water means your water bills will decrease.
  • Reduce energy usage (for heating and air-conditioning) - ditto.
  • Purchase whole foods (not necessarily at Whole Foods) instead of their pre-packaged, processed cousins - generally this reduces grocery expenditures. Buy in bulk when possible, but not a) if you can't possibly consume it all, b) if your preferred store's idea of "bulk" is packing up a handful of the average-sized containers in more plastic, or c) if the bulk items are pre-packaged and processed. Rice, pasta, flour, grains, tea, spices, and other staples are examples of whole food staples often available in bulk.
  • Cook meals at home (and eat them there or pack them for lunch) instead of eating at restaurants or getting to-go meals, and you'll save exponentially.
  • Sell your car in favor of using public transportation (or biking to your destination) and you will undoubtedly reduce your monthly car-related expenses - no payment to worry about, no maintenance or repairs, no gas, no license renewal fees or speeding tickets...
  • Reduce your mileage (if you can't feasibly sell the car) or car-pool to save on $green$.
  • Reuse whatever you can. Would you rather splurge on that something special, or pay The Man every time you purchase another single-use item? I'm not necessarily talking about toilet paper here people (though there are certainly options for saving on that, as well), but glass sauce jars, old clothing items, and all sorts of other household items need not gather dust in your attic or contribute to landfill waste. By reusing every piece of paper that comes into your home, for example, you can ensure you'll never have to spend hard-earned ca$h for notepads. Learn to think first about what you already have when considering a new purchase - do you have something that could serve a similar purpose, perhaps if re-invented? Creativity counts.
  • Repair, rather than replace. While I've not been as ambitious as Fake Plastic Fish in my endeavors to repair broken, but otherwise perfectly useful, items, her example proves that in many cases even electrical items can be resuscitated. Learning to darn socks, sew buttons, remove stains, let out hems, and patch holes will extend the life of your wardrobe - just think of all the possibilities in home repair and car repair!
  • Borrow. At least where I live, library cards are free - that is, until I miss my due date and incur late fees. Fortunately the wonders of the internet and online renewals have virtually eliminated late fees, and I tend view the occasional late fee as my incredibly cheap membership dues for such an awesome service. Bonus - many libraries will allow you to reserve materials online, for convenient pick up at your local branch when the book/CD/cassette/magazine/VHS/DVD/videogame has arrived.
  • Swap. Clothing swaps are becoming en vogue with green fashionistas across the globe, but swaps aren't just for girls (or for clothes, for that matter). Host a book swap or a soup swap, or a swap for any old thing you find you're tired of. Go "shopping" in the comfort of your own home - or your friend's closet.
  • Buy used. What is it about Americans and our phobia of used goods? We've even coined a new term (which means pretty much the same thing): "pre-owned". In many other cultures, "antiques", "relics", and "heirlooms" are prized. In fact, when inspected properly (which I sense is our major concern), used items may out-perform their newer counterparts. New solid wood furniture is nearly impossible to come by these days, but most antique and vintage items are constructed precisely that way. Used cars have already done a significant amount of their off-gassing, too - a bonus for your health. Oh yeah, and used goods tend to be less expensive.
  • Barter. Services are sometimes tough to price, especially when in trade for other services or even goods, but if you have a skill to offer, try offering to trade it for an item you need. Because this tactic works best with artisan items or used items, you're likely to not only save a pretty penny, but also a few trees (or endangered species, or humans...whatever your environmental cause du jour happens to be). But of course you were already planning to buy used... ;)
  • Pay it Forward. This concept, from the book and the movie, defers payment to a later time and a future person, in the form of a good deed, of sorts. Applied to a green lifestyle, the good you do today can multiply its effect well into the future. Planting a tree or garden, volunteering, and teaching a child about the importance of respecting our Earth are all ways in which you can manage to invest nothing more than time and energy and yet manifest powerful change.
  • Give Consumable Gifts. Not only are consumable gifts (food items or experience gifts like theatre tickets, dance lessons, or a canoe trip) often budget-friendly, but they leave very little footprint. Don't forget to wrap them in the pages of your Free Times magazine (or local free paper - one you've already read or is outdated, of course), paper you salvaged from a received gift, or not at all.
  • Install CFLs. I know, I know - if you hear one more suggestion to buy CFLs you're going to puke. But seriously, CFLs are one of many eco-options which will save you in the long run. Though sometimes the start-up cost may be greater than that of a conventional item of the same type, the long-term savings is significant.
  • Research Options. Clever marketers have come to learn that many of us can be made into impulse-buyers. Clever budgeters (and greenies) know that the most efficient (financially and ecologically) options generally require some forethought and a bit of comparison shopping. Questions to ask yourself if caught in the act: Do I already own something that can fulfill this purpose? Is there somewhere I can get this item for free (and used)? What do I really think this item can do for me? What do I really hope this item can do for me? Are these two things realistically related?
  • Simplify. The number one way to save the planet and your pocketbook at the same time is to reduce your needs, and yet this is also the most difficult change for many to make. Living in a culture of increased consumption makes this tricky - but by no means impossible. If you are living on a fixed income or starving artist's wage you likely have a higher incentive to take this step, but I believe we can all find ways to simplify our lives - and thereby to instigate swifter and more powerful change. Take a good look at your lifestyle - what can you eliminate? What can you reduce? Do you really need 5 different lotions (one for body, one for hands, one for feet, one for face, and one just because?)? Is your desire for a commodity one of necessity, or of sheer desire? What do you hope this thing can really do for you? These questions aren't meant to judge or to chastise, but to provoke deeper investigations into what is necessary and what is extraneous.
This is by no means a complete list, but a an ever-expanding body of collective knowledge that I hope not only to bring to you, but also to share with you in its creation. What are your experiences with going green on a budget? Do you have any favorite low-cost green tips?


cnsathya said...

Iam very much impressed with this blog because of regular posting. Iam a software engineer I resigned my job going to start a small business with products with organic, natural and handmade products. Regarding napkin I am going to manufacture menstrual cloth napkin dyed with Turmeric. Turmeric is powerful antiallergenic and antifungal. I like to know about your comments and ideas.


GreenYogini said...

Thanks so much, cnsathya! (Although, clearly it's been a while since I wrote any regular posts...but don't worry, I have some "in the works"!)

I haven't heard of turmeric's properties as an anti-fungal, but I do know it makes a beautiful natural dye. :)

I wish you best in your business endeavors.

Green Yogini

cnsathya said...


Thanks for you wish.

Sorry to ask are you practitioner of yoga? Or Indian origin.


Eco Friendly said...

Great blog, you touched on some great points! I really enjoyed reading your post.

I'll definately be back!! Great info!!