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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Do We Choose Between Budget and Environment? Here Are 25 Ways To Do Both!

by Melinda

Change is brewing. Yesterday was a very powerful day for many of us, as we listened to the first African-American president, full of dreams for a better world mixed with the reality of what is at hand. I am thankful that a new hope has spread across the world. I am hopeful that we will unite together and bring our world into a new, mindful era. I have written more about these thoughts here.

The future holds many promises.  But at home, the reality of our economic situation is beginning to set in for most folks. Here in the United States, we're feeling the effects of the global recession every day. I've heard many people use the word Depression who wouldn't have dreamed of using that word only a few months ago. It is grim. It is getting worse. And it will get worse still before it gets better.

Unfortunately, this poses quite a dichotomy. The Recession makes it difficult to get by, to save, to spend any more than we have to spend.  Yet the pressure of climate change and the ethics we've taught ourselves says we must buy what is good for the environment and our communities.

Often doing our best to leave a lower impact means paying a little more, doesn't it? How do we stay true to our values while simply getting by during an economic crisis?  

So I made a list of the different things we do at home to save money and save the earth.  Some of these may be old news for you - in that case think of this as a reminder! - but hopefully each of us will find some gems in this list. Please do share other ideas that come to mind! 

25 Sustainability Changes That Save Money
  1. Take advantage of your local library for books, music, and videos.
  2. Walk or bike, use public transportation, carpool with neighbors and co-workers, and consolidate any car errands to one or two days per week.
  3. Think about getting rid of your car to save money on insurance, maintenance, and gas.
  4. Use a clothesline instead of the dryer.
  5. Replace paper towels & napkins with cloth.  You can make rags out of old clothing, and cloth napkins out of old sheets and curtains.
  6. Barter and trade with neighbors and friends.
  7. Utilize Freecycle, Craigs List, and other local free exchanges.
  8. Shop at thrift stores and garage sales, and arrange clothing swaps with friends and family.
  9. Make your own lunches for school and work.
  10. Stop buying snacks and take-out food, and instead cook at home.  If you need to save time, there are many quick seasonal recipes.  I've posted a few here.
  11. Buy in bulk: buy from bulk bins at your local market, buy large quantities of staples via special order from your local market or online, buy a whole case which generally comes with a case discount, and buy large packages of food you use regularly. If buying in bulk leaves you with too much food, go in on the purchase with a friend or set up a community buying club.
  12. If you are really needing extra help, go to your local food bank.  That's what they're for!
  13. Buy fruit and vegetable seconds and day old bakery items.  These are generally significantly reduced in price - often by 50% or more.  Generally you'll need to cook with them right away.
  14. Pick your own produce at a local farm.
  15. Grow your own food.
  16. Learn to preserve food by canning, drying, root cellaring, freezing, and pickling.  You can find books about how to do these things at your local library.
  17. Plan your menus.  If you plan your menus for the week, you will use all of the food you've purchased, you'll be able to shop just once a week, you can make sure to utilize seasonal items, and you can save time and stress by not having to worry about "what's for dinner."
  18. Recycle and compost as much as possible to reduce trash collection fees.
  19. Mend and repair.  You can pick up books from the library on how to sew, knit, repair furniture and cars, and so on.  And there are often free classes on such subjects - ask at your local college, community center, bulletin boards, and do a search on the internet. You may be surprised at what's out there!
  20. Make your own cleaning and body products from simple and cheap ingredients like vinegar, baking soda/bicarb, hydrogen peroxide, corn starch, cooking oil, lemon juice, and water.  You'll find several recipes here at the Co-op, and at Down To Earth.  I've recently shared my deodorant and hair washing methods.  Eileen just wrote about going entirely no 'poo.
  21. Unplug or turn off power switches to appliances when not in use, to save electricity.
  22. As they burn out, replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs.  They cost more initially, but they will save significant amounts of electricity and will last many times longer than an incandescent bulb.
  23. Reduce shower times, bathe less often, and use bath water to water outdoor plants and flush toilets.
  24. Turn off the television, get rid of your cable bill, and take up reading, knitting, and walking more regularly.
  25. Use coupons.  I recently bought a book of coupons for local shopping.  The book cost $20. The first coupon I used saved me $25.  I win!
Stay safe, healthy, and happy.  Things will get better.  In the meantime, the most important thing to remember is that we all survive better if we stick together.  Now is a great time to be a strong member in your community.  You are probably more knowledgeable and better equipped than most of your neighbors, so if you can, try to help them get through this crisis, too!

Thanks for reading.


Willo said...

I think this post is great because people often think that making changes to help the environment is going to cost them, when often it is the exact opposite. I have found that hang drying my clothes (even in the winter by the fire or a heating vent on a rack) saves 20% off our bill.

Joy said...

Thanks! I have some specific ideas here too:

Slice of life said...

I have been thinking the exact same thing.

Any one who is interested, at HOMEBASE a DIY store in the UK, was selling 5 Phillips CFL bulbs for £1. Wow what a bargain.

Cheap Like Me said...

Hooray - I do all of these things at least some of the time. Many of them are standard at Casa de Cheap.

I know they are getting MUCH more popular, too, because on lists like Freecycle it is now virtually impossible to actually get the items being advertised -- even if I respond immediately. Bad news for me, but GREAT for the environment with all those items being reused or repurposed instead of thrown out.

Green Bean said...

Worth bookmarking and returning to this bit by bit. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting many great ideas! I was encouraged to see that we do most of the list! Nice to see in print what is being done.
Maria M

Janet McKinney said...

Thank you for the list. I work at a Foodbank, and we are introducing a program to help people learn skills to live frugally and sustainably. I will distribute a list like this to everyone - and we will be providing opportunities for people to learn how to do each of these items. Good to have them as a list.

Dani said...

Some great ideas here. Can I add that searching roadside hard waste will often supply free materials for DIY projects. especially wood. Hardwood wooden pallets are always being discarded in my local area.

badhuman said...

My husband and I do a lot of these already including selling one of our cars awhile ago. Unfortunately it still cost us to pay off the car after selling it in this market but it's worth it in the long run.

We aren't going to turn off the cable or the internet any time soon but we've cut down on cell phone extras to save money.

This year we want to try canning and it will be our second year of gardening.

Another simple way to save money and be greener is eat less meat.

Rhonda Jean said...

Great list, Melinda. Thank you.

debra said...

great ideas. my local grocery store often has produce that's on the verge of turning in bags marked 10 for 10$. i buy the apples, bananas and grapes and stick them in the dehydrator. milk and other dairy products that are sometimes on one day past the expiration date can be had for 1/2 price or less. once i bought 6 gallons of milk for 99 cents a gallon. most of it went into the freezer, a gallon went to make yogurt and the kids polished off 2 gallons in no time. milk is often good for up to 10 days after the expiration date. i have yet to find day old bread (which would make great bread pudding) but i'll certainly keep looking

Melinda said...

Willo, wow - amazing how much it saves!

Joy, what a great list of reuse ideas. Thank you.

Slice of Life, goodness that's a good deal.

Cheap Like Me, I've noticed that at Freecycle as well. Many more items are popping up, too.

GB & Maria M, Thanks. : )

Janet, Wonderful! Sounds like an amazing program.

Dani, Great addition. I still have a few furniture articles I found on the streets of New York. Beautiful antiques!

badhuman, Ah, a very good point. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, so I forget that. ; )

Rhonda Jean, : ) You're welcome.

debra, Great ideas! What a smart thing to do with milk that's going bad. I'll have to remember that myself!

Georgie said...

For those who have babies - cloth nappies. There are fancy, expensive ones (which STILL work out cheaper than disposables in the long run, but have a significant upfront cost), but flats and pins work fine, or make your own!

lizzylanefarm said...

This is a great list, and one worth remembering...

I might like to add the following:
For those of you who use store bought liquid soaps like hand, laundry, dish, shampoo, conditioner. Try replacing up to 1/3 the bottle with water. The soap will work just the same and stretch it out a bit longer for you.

Another one I do is save the foam packages meat come on and use them to send left overs home with company, cover with wax paper. Of course this won't work for something that is liquid, but is great for breads, pie and such. Now the foam tray has been reused and is now in a new home. I also don't have to worry about getting my much loved glass container back.
I also send them to preschool for craft projects on the days my granddaughter won't be there. I don't want her playing with them but the other parents don't mind.
I wouldn't purchase meat at all packaged in them except the only place that sells meat that used paper recently closed, so until I figure something out this will have to do.:(

Have a great day every one and I will check back to see other ideas.


Stephanie said...

What Green Bean said!

livinginalocalzone said...

Great post. Like the others, I do many of these without even thinking that they are "budget" or "environment" friendly per se - they just make sense! And I got some good new ideas to grow on. I know I'm forwarding these ideas to several friends.

Hana said...

This is really an interesting list, so interesting that I decided to go through it and check myself if I’m doing it or not, and why... It’s going to be terribly long (obviously), but maybe something will be helpful for someone, or it will just point out something that’s different in a different country... I’m from the Czech Republic.
1. Take advantage of your local library for books, music, and videos.
– I do. I love our local library. So much that I never really feel guilty when occasionally returning the books late and having to pay the fee – because I feel I’m actually supporting them! They’re also often selling old books (duplicates) to make room for new ones, 1 CZK a piece, which a ridiculous price – really just a symbolic one. This way I’ve already obtained many of the books I loved to borrow from there! And some others I hadn’t read before. :-)
2. Walk or bike, use public transportation...
– I do. I’m not going by car anywhere unless taken by someone else, that is, because I don’t have a car anyway. I can’t drive and I don’t really want to. When in a city, I walk almost everywhere instead of using the public transport, too. This saves quite a lot of money, especially in the centre of Prague, where the public transport is more expensive than in other cities in my country.
3. Think about getting rid of your car...
– Hm, maybe father should do this with the old one, and only one, he doesn’t use anymore...
4. Use a clothesline instead of the dryer.
– Never had a dryer.
5. Replace paper towels & napkins with cloth. You can make rags out of old clothing, and cloth napkins out of old sheets and curtains.
– We’re only using rags. Cloth napkins not, but we’re not using the paper napkins much either; I personally am using them mostly just for cleaning very, very, very greasy and dirty pans, because I’m washing the dishes in bulk and don’t want to have the water spoilt, and be able to wash much more dishes at one time... But I might make some nice cloth napkins for the occasional sandwich wrapping...
6. Barter and trade with neighbors and friends.
– I’m not really doing this... I’m not quite sure what to barter and trade for. But the oven we have in our students‘ flat came from my sisters‘ godmother, the refrigerator used to be my grandma’s...
7. Utilize Freecycle, Craigs List, and other local free exchanges.
– I don’t know of anything like that here in the Czech Republic. People simply do it unorganised.
8. Shop at thrift stores and garage sales, and arrange clothing swaps with friends and family.
– I love thrift stores. Oh, and just two days ago I got a big bag full of clothing from my minister, whom they didn’t fit anymore, while they fit me prefectly. Great, isn’t it? Especially because I’ve always been quite keen on her style (lots of natural materials and such).
9. Make your own lunches for school and work.
– I should work more on this one. I used to do it, but now I often help myself by buying something...
10. Stop buying snacks and take-out food, and instead cook at home.
– Same as above, except that I’m already partly working on it: I’m learning to cook many of the foods I love. And I love how cheap it comes. For example, a cube of yeast costs only about 3 CZK, and it serves me two batches of leavened buns (the number depends on how big I make them, but one batch is a full meal for two, and a less full one for three). :-) And the baking also serves as a heating help in winter. :D
Hm, maybe I ought to count how much exactly a batch of buns usually costs me... It can’t be much.
11. Buy in bulk.
– Hm... In some cases I do (for example, I always buy the bigger pack of granola, because it’s clearly cheaper by kg), in others I don’t. Sometimes I’d love to, but there’s no bulk available...
12. If you are really needing extra help, go to your local food bank.
– What’s a food bank? I don’t think there’s anything like that here in the Czech Republic...
13. Buy fruit and vegetable seconds and day old bakery items.
– Good tip! The problem is, sometimes you simply can’t get them... Terrible, this throwaway society, really... However, what you often get here is other products (not fruit, vegetables and bakery, but for example dairy) that are about to pass their expiration date, or already passed it, and those are much cheaper.
14. Pick your own produce at a local farm.
– We’re getting honey from my grandpa (who’s getting it from his friends). That’s a good thing: I love honey, I get constant supply of it, and I’m not spending a fortune on it.
Sometimes we get milk from a local farmer. Very occasionally. We used to buy from him every week, but he started coming at deadly times of the day – night – and couldn’t be talked out of it. (He’s delivering himself to his customers.) But still, fresh milk, unskimmed, with cream gathering on the top after a while, is the best thing in the world I know. :-)
15. Grow your own food.
– I ought to. I’d love to. At least the parsley... My sister’s growing chive in a pot, but it’s looking very poor now after many cuttings.
We have a cherry tree in our garden, we freeze the cherries and then use them in sweet dumplings and pies throughout the winter. Part of the cherries also always goes to our grandma.
16. Learn to preserve food by canning, drying, root cellaring, freezing, and pickling.
– Yeah! I haven’t learned it yet, my mom has always been doing it, but I plan to can myself this year when the time comes! Our biggest stable and favourite is elderberry bloom sirup.
Oh, and this autumn I picked rose hips (there were loads of them last year!) and dried them for making tea. Delicious! Especially with honey.
17. Plan your menus.
– I really should.
18. Recycle and compost as much as possible to reduce trash collection fees.
– We compost even though we’re not really using the compost anymore, because no one has time to take care of the garden as mom used to when she was at home with us daughters... Our cats are using the compost as their toilet in winter, I believe...
19. Mend and repair.
– I do as much as possible... What scares me in this aspect are electrical devices. Father’s able to repair most of them most of the time, and I’m scared of starting my own household one day and not being able to do this...
20. Make your own cleaning and body products...
– I’d love to start making my own soap. And try the other homemade cleaning products.
21. Unplug or turn off power switches to appliances when not in use, to save electricity.
– Good point! I’m probably not doing this often enough.
22. As they burn out, replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs.
– Sorry to say, but that’s one thing I don’t want to do... Even though EU might ban bulbs for us soon. :P No matter what is being said, the CFLs are not equal to bulbs in the light they create, and I don’t like it.
23. Reduce shower times, bathe less often, and use bath water to water outdoor plants and flush toilets.
– I don’t bath very often... maybe much, much less often than what would be considered permissible, but I feel comfortable that way; I just regularly wash what part of me needs to be washed at the moment. I wash my hair once a week, maybe even less often. We’re not using bath water for flushing toilets, for that one we’re sometimes using rainwater. We have a big tank for rainwater in our garden, and use it for watering plants and flushing toilet (and washing our hands outdoors when necessary).
24. Turn off the television, get rid of your cable bill, and take up reading, knitting, and walking more regularly.
– We’ve never had television. Simple enough, huh? My classmates used to think I was poor not having television, and I laughed at them behind their backs... we were one of the first to have a computer, instead...
25. Use coupons.
– Well, it seems to me coupons are not as usual here as elsewhere. What’s usual here are „coupons“ employers get from their companies to use for buying their food, supposedly lunches in restaurants, but supermarkets are accepting them as well, so they’re often used for buying groceries instead (they’re accpeted only for groceries). That’s what we’re using them for as well.
Other ideas: Somebody suggested searching roadsides for wood. Well, father’s been collecting the fruit boxes from our local greengrocer’s. Some of them were really bad and those went straight into the heating. Others are gradually being reused in our house (for example, he made them into small shelves to go into a shelf, to store our maps in a more organised way).
We’re also reusing the foam trays, and if we buy something in a plastic container and it’s sturdy enough, it gets reused as well.
I took on diluting my shampoo in water again, after reading a comment somewhere at down-to-earth. I noticed it works even better than without the water! I have a tiny glass bottle (used to be my sister’s medicine), I fill half of it with shampoo and add water; and let stay, first upside down, until the next washing - which makes it about a week with me, but I’m sure it would work even for those who wash their hair more often. Although I’d suggest you don’t do it so often. :-) Once I had a conversation with one of my classmates, and she said she washed her hair everyday, and it had turned too soft and very breakable and such... I’ve never had such problems.

cara said...

Great list-- thank you. Your bigger idea that going green can actually save money is the same message that I'm trying to pass on to my readers too. I just posted a simple tutorial on making wash-up cloths from infants' receiving blankets.

Sandy said...

several things on your list I already do. I would like to add something to the list.
Rain Barrels!
We installed two rain barrels last year to help with watering our garden, and my many houseplants. Last spring I used the rain water for watering my seedlings I started for the garden (starting your own seeds and learning to save seeds so you don't have to buy more of everything every year is another item for your list!).
Save milk jugs, laundry soap jugs (rinsed out first) for storing extra rain water, especially in the winter. Bring in several jugs of rain water so it will be warm when you water your plants.
Rain water also came in handy this week after we got hit by an ice storm. Our city lost water and we were able to use rain water to flush our toilets! Try to put a price tag on that!!!!
I just found your blog not very long ago, and am so glad to see it. I hope you gain more and more readers, because this is all just good common sence that saves cents!
It really irks me when companies charge more for things that are 'green'. It should be green for the environment, not for their pockets!

Barb said...

For Karyn who sends leftovers home on recycled meat trays (Jan. 22) - Please keep in mind that those used styrofoam meat trays are contaminated from the raw meat and may harbor unsafe bacteria. I've heard that some grocery stores will give you empty foam trays for little or no expense and they would be much safer. OR tell your guests to Bring Their Own containers for leftovers. (I also save used plastic food containers - run thru the dishwasher first - for the new people who show up without their own containers whenever we host Holiday dinner.)