Save Money While Saving The World

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by Christy Shingleton, Henrico Community Branch Manager

If you’re like me, you try to be a conscientious spender. You save money where you can, especially on the less important things in life. Do you really need one more [fill in the blank here]? To me, it’s more than just cash at stake. We have this beautiful planet and we should try to be good stewards of the resources gifted to us. So, my goal is two-fold: save money… and save the planet around us. And it’s easier than you might think! Here are a handful of simple, easy-to-implement ideas that can have a positive impact on your spending and the environment.

Changes You Can Make Today

  1. Reusable Paper Towels and Napkins
    At my house, we switched to reusable paper towels and napkins almost a year ago and never looked back. We use the same product for each and keep them in a basket on our kitchen counter. We still keep disposables on hand, but only for guests and the really gross stuff (think one-year-old). If you’re craftier than me, you can make your own or just use old towels. I opted to buy some from Amazon and that investment has been well worth it. Just think of all the trash we’ve avoided and the trees that didn’t have to be cut for our family’s use!
  2. A More Thoughtful Wardrobe
    There are statistics that suggest we wear less than 20% of our wardrobe. How many of us buy that thing we “need” only to find out that we had something that could have served the same purpose? Or how many of us buy something cute because it was on clearance – even though it didn’t fit well, wasn’t your style, or had nothing to go with it? Go through your closet and get rid of the stuff you never wear. By being more intentional about the clothes you have and what you buy, you could save hundreds. And by reducing your consumption of these items, you have a positive impact on the environment as well when you consider manufacturing pollution and waste as well as the fuel expenditures of delivery trucks and beyond.
  3. Reusable Mugs and Canteens
    Many of us are in the habit of buying an individual drink wherever we go, but there’s no good reason for the expense or the wasted paper, plastic, or Styrofoam. Buy in bulk at home, and carry a reusable mug or canteen with you instead. Skip all the plastic bottles and drinks (at almost $2.00 each!) and opt for making your coffee or sweet tea and carrying it to work. All those bottles of water piling up in landfills—or worse yet, floating through our oceans – it just isn’t necessary. Buy a good filter for your faucet or get a filtration system. Your wallet and the surrounding world will thank you.
  4. Reusable shopping bags
    While small in savings, this tip can have a huge impact on the environment. Get some reusable bags and use them! Some stores even give a five-cent per bag credit for bringing your own. It may not add up to much savings-wise, but plastic bags are horrible for the environment, both in their manufacturing process and in their disposal, which is often neglected. Who hasn’t seen plastic bags blowing in the wind or caught in a tree? Carrying your reusable shopping bags may not impact your wallet, but it impacts the Earth a ton!
  5. Lunch
    I’ll admit – I’m not always the master of this. Who doesn’t love a nice juicy Wendy’s burger? But if you pack a lunch daily in a reusable lunch box (no paper bags!), you’ll save big time! In addition, think of all of the food packaging waste you’ll avoid.
  6. Food Storage
    Speaking of food packaging waste, skip the plastic bags and freezer bags. Invest in reusable mason jars or glass food storage containers! We save money simply by not using these plastic bags. It’s two fewer products to buy each month, two less things that exist for temporary use before being tossed away.
  7. Energy-Conscious Power Consumption
    Dominion Power has tons of tips on how to save on your power bill, like getting a programmable thermostat and turning your AC down by two degrees, for example. These small changes help the environment and your monthly bill.
  8. Conserve Water
    Conserving water can have a huge impact on the environment and your finances. Cleaning water for usage takes a lot of energy. A convenience of modern life, we don’t even think about all that water going down the drain as a waste of a valuable resource, but it is. Skip the hot bath, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, consider a rain barrel – there are so many ways to conserve water. All we have to do is try!
  9. Buy in “Bulk”
    For some seriously bulky savings, take advantage of opportunities to buy in bulk! And I don’t just mean the “Sam’s Club” and “Costco” kind of bulk (though they can be especially helpful). No, I’m talking about regular grocery stores, many of which now have “bulk bins” where you can buy only what you need, whether a lot or a little. Only need a teaspoon of some exotic spice that you’ll never use again? Why not just buy that teaspoon? By purchasing in bulk (with reusable fabric bags!), you eliminate both the packaging of these items and the costs associated with that packaging. And let’s face it, how much cardamom do you actually need? One bottle will likely go bad or expire before you use it, wasting valuable (& pricey!) food.
  10. Purge!
    Stop being a buyer and become a seller! In the last year or so, we’ve gone through a process of purging. We’re becoming anti-consumers. And the best part: we’ve made hundreds of dollars selling books we’ve already read and baby stuff that we no longer need. Sell your bigger ticket items to recoup some of what you spent and donate unneeded items (you might even get a tax deduction for that donation – ask a tax professional!). By adjusting your ‘consumer’ mindset, you can eliminate so much consumption and clutter in your house. Now you may be thinking – “How does this help the environment?” Exponentially! You’re eliminating the energy usage associated with production, the natural resources and materials necessary for this manufacturing process, the impact of shipping, and more. As an added benefit, donating items you no longer have use for could provide tremendous aid to someone in need.

By being intentional with our everyday choices, we can make a big difference in our own lives and in the world. Start to think things through differently when you are making a purchase. Do you really need it? Could you borrow it? Repurpose something else for it? Skip it entirely?

We recently needed a toy box for my one year old. Instead of buying one, I purged some too-small clothes from a wicker chest I’d had since high school. I removed the lid off to make it kid-safe and, voilà – saved myself a purchase. If you can resist the urge to “consume,” you’ll save tons of money and make healthier choices for the environment too.

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