One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding sustainability and carbon footprint reduction is that it is expensive. We’ve all heard the complaints: organic food costs more; nobody can afford to trade in their gas guzzler for the newer electric or hybrid model. The list goes on and on. It is this misconception that keeps so many people from even trying to “green up” their lives even a little bit, which is a shame because going green can save people so much money!
Every day more and more states and cities make changes to their industry codes and regulations to make sustainability cheaper for residents. For example, Texas and some other states deregulated their energy industries. This means that electricity providers need to compete with each other to win business. The result is that consumers no longer have to resign themselves to paying extra for energy from renewable sources. They can shop around for better deals. They have the power to choose a sustainable/renewable plan that fits their budget instead of the situation being the other way around.
Another big change is that more towns and states are working to improve their infrastructures so that people have multiple options when deciding how to get around. Transit and shuttle services that are powered by biodiesel and electric vehicles are popping up in towns that used to be car-only. Improvements and extended efforts to accommodate bicyclists is also a growing trend.
And that’s just on the big side of things. Even small steps you take within your own home can save you money–a lot of it! Check it out:
Forego the dryer: Even if you live in an apartment building, skipping the dryer in favor of air drying your clothes is a great way to save money. A simple air drying rack costs less than twenty dollars and you’ll likely earn back that initial cost within a month of hanging your clothes to dry. If you keep doing it you could save at least a hundred dollars per year (if not more!).
Grow Your Own: Gardening is a great way to relax and de-stress (and we an all agree that these are very stressful times!). It is also a great way to save money both at the grocery store and on the gas/transit money you’ll need to get there. Even if you are yardless, container gardening is always an option for those with balconies and porches. And for those who have neither, it is still possible to grow fresh herbs and spices in window boxes. Remember: just because you can’t grow your own broccoli or have an apple tree is no reason to forego the task altogether!
Creative Recycling: Sure, in some states you might make a couple of bucks a month by turning in your used soda bottles to the grocery store. Let’s go a little further, though. There are so many items in your home that can be repurposed it might shock you. For instance: those egg crates work well as ad hoc soundproofing and as starters for seedlings for your garden. Old clothing can be repurposed into dust rags, wash cloths, placemats, even rugs, bags, and toys! Extreme recycling can be a lot of fun and create some excellent wiggle room in your budget.
Choose Your Bulbs Wisely: Everybody knows that CFL bulbs are better for the environment than incandescents. They last longer and require less energy to put out the same wattage. Even so, it’s okay to admit that you hate them. CFLs are annoying! They take a while to “warm up” after you turn them on, they have weird tints to them and their savings is negligible. LED lights, on the other hand, last literally years longer than CFLs and require even less power for equal wattage. Plus, they’re bright right away! Sure they cost a little more so don’t run out and buy a bunch at once. As one bulb burns out, simply replace it with an LED. Your budget will thank you.
Water Water Everywhere: Stop buying bottled water. Seriously. Just stop. Over time the cost of that bottled water really adds up! And even though the bottles can be recycled, the amount of energy it takes and waste produced by the recycling process almost makes all the room those bottles take up in landfills seem like the better option (especially since many bottles are compostable now). The greener and budget friendlier option is to buy your own reusable water bottle–preferably one with a built in filter so you can fill up anywhere and not have to worry about the potability of the source.
Remember: little steps matter just as much as big steps. One person can make a difference in personal and profound ways. These are just a few tips to get you started. What else have you been doing?