The most common excuse for not adopting greener measures is that they cost more. Organic food often does cost more than conventional, because treating the Earth responsibly means not taking myopic shortcuts for greater immediate gain. However, being green can cut down your bills because it’s actually a movement about reducing.
Pretty simple. Use fewer resources, spend less money. Here are some ways to go about going green on the cheap — and no, they don’t involve a lot of painful sacrifices!
- Reduce instead of substitute. If you insist on making 1:1 substitutions of conventional items for organic/sustainable, yes, you will end up spending more. Instead, buy less or buy used. One cool vintage shirt found at the local Goodwill instead of three cheap Old Navy ones produced by third world sweatshops. An occasional bar of really good fair trade chocolate instead of a daily KitKat that helps to fund rainforest destruction. Free range beef every now and then instead of feedlot, antibiotic/ammonia filled beef every week. (Or even better, go vegetarian!)
- Eat out less (& cook more). If you treat eating out like a luxury, you’ll save a lot of money off weekly or nightly meals out. Every three or four months, Kevin and I head to our favorite restaurant, an organic, slow food Italian restaurant called La Tigelleria. There we indulge in food so good that we bounce around in our seats with silly grins plastered to our faces. We cook most of our own food and rarely eat out, but when we do, oh — it’s both green and good. Worth it? Heck, yes.
- Buy whole, seasonal foods instead of processed. Many people who claim they ‘can’t afford’ to go organic spend lots of money on heavily processed convenience and junk foods. They actually end up spending more on junk food that has tremendous hidden health and environmental costs than they would have on colorful, fresh organic foods. Health problems are pretty expensive, if you’d prefer to think of that way. (P.S. Don’t be seduced by expensive organic processed foods, either.)
- See the bigger picture when it comes to reusable vs. disposable. Yes, it’s true that buying that CFL, stainless steel water bottle, or set of cloth napkins now may seem more expensive than its disposable alternative. But the lifetimes of these items are much longer, and you’ll find that in almost every case, reusable is a better bargain than disposable. For the Earth, too! My Sigg, which paid for itself in a few months, is now over two years old and going strong. Just don’t accumulate green things: one or two of anything is usually plenty.
- Don’t get suckered into buying ‘green’ things you don’t need. If you don’t need it, it’s not green. It’s expensive to be green if you make it a lifestyle about consuming greener goods. But if you focus on consuming less, and replacing only the items you actually need with more durable or green equivalents, you won’t be as tempted by $200 bamboo sheets or a luxury hybrid SUV. There’s a whole lot of difference between shades of green, and luxury anything is going to be pretty damn yellow.
- Use less electricity. The green movement is all about conserving limited resources. Most electricity is still generated by fossil fuels, which are non-renewable and pollute. Saving electricity can be as easy as unplugging appliances or turning things off at the switch, washing clothes on cold, caulking a leaky window, or turning off lights when you leave a room. Your utility company will notice — and so will you, when you write that monthly check. If you really want to make the leap, consider a solar panel installation as a longer term financial investment with good payoff.
- Make it yourself. The internet is a fantastic resource for the adventurous (or not so adventurous) DIY-er. Make your own totally safe and effective cleaning and personal products with little more than baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and other items you probably already have. I’ve discovered that my hair loves diluted apple cider vinegar way more than it ever liked the fanciest conditioner for it. Fewer chemicals in our waterways is always a good thing, folks.
Not too bad, right? And think what you can do with all the time and money you save by simply buying less and buying smarter when you do buy. Saving the planet and saving money can go hand in hand.