One of the most common complaints I hear about going green is that it’s hard on the budget. And to an extent, that’s true. A lot of the big things you hear about to help you and your family go green are expensive. Certainly beyond what many families can justify spending.
But not everything is that way. There are a lot of things that you can easily do for the environment that are friendly to your budget.
Shop Less, Shop Smarter
We’ll start with the obvious place, shopping. Shopping less is good for both your budget and the environment. Most American families buy too much stuff as is. If you can cut down, even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are doing something for the environment.
But you can also shop smarter. This does not just mean buy organically produced goods. That’s a good thing, but if you’re buying them unnecessarily, not the best thing you can do. It is then merely better than buying non-organic.
Instead, think about reusing. Go to thrift stores and resale shops. They often have merchandise that looks as good as new or close to it, for bargain prices. Occasionally you’ll even find clothes with the tags from the store still attached.
Around the House
How much do you waste around your home? You might just be surprised.
Paper towel and napkins are a big area of waste for many families. But if you think about it, cloth towels and napkins cost less and are better for the environment. If you don’t already have a supply you may have to make something of an investment to get started, but once you have them, you’re in good shape.
For parents with infants and toddlers, choosing cloth diapers can be a more difficult choice. Disposables are extremely convenient, but there are a lot of options now for you to consider. There are a wide range of brands and ideas for making diapers if not green, more green than usual. Check out gDiapers, the cloth diaper liners by Tiny Tush, the chlorine-free disposables from Seventh Generation and other brands to see what best suits your needs.
Think about how you’re cleaning too. Many of the cleansers you can buy at the store use chemicals that are harsh on you, your family and the environment. They’ve even found that the antibacterial soaps that are so hard to avoid buying these days really don’t do any better than regular soaps, but may be encouraging the growth of more resistant bacteria. It’s very important to think about how you clean your home and your bodies.
Natural cleansers for around the house are pretty easy to make in many cases. Vinegar and baking soda are two wonderful ingredients that can be used safely for a wide range of purposes around the house. They’re cheap and amazingly effective.
For things you don’t want to make, consider your options and try to pick the safest varieties that will get the job done.
Think about a clothesline for when you’re doing laundry. This can keep you from needing to use your dryer for much of the year. You may have to check to see if your community allows clotheslines, as many homeowner’s associations are against them.
And of course, don’t forget your light bulbs. Switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs may seem a little pricey, but the bulbs use less electricity and last much longer. In many areas the power company either offers them free if you request them, or has them discounted in stores. I’ve seen them as low as $1 for a package of 3 in my area recently.
In the Yard
Many people could be watering far less than they do right now. Automatic sprinkler systems do guarantee that the yard gets watered and that you don’t accidentally leave the water on, but they can be wasteful too.
Make sure you turn them off for rain, for example, or have a sensor installed that detects rain so that the sprinklers don’t go off in that circumstance.
You should also think about how often they go off. Most people badly overwater their lawns. It’s actually better for a lawn to be watered less often but more deeply. You can cut down on your overall watering time this way.
Think about the time you water too. Early morning or late evening are best, especially if the weather has been warm. You want the water to sink in, not evaporate. I might make exceptions for letting the kids run through the sprinklers, since then the water is getting two uses for one, but otherwise, I water when it’s cool out.
Similarly, don’t hose off your patio or sidewalk. I mean really, is it that miserable most of the time to sweep it off with the broom?
When you mow the lawn, leave the clippings there. It’s a great natural fertilizer, so you won’t need to buy any of the chemical stuff.
Any of these steps will, if not immediately, then over time save you money, and be kinder to the environment. It can be hard to get used to some of these changes, but it’s well worth it. Caring for the environment without breaking your budget is a wonderful feeling.