I'm on a tight budget as a freelance writer and owner of small business start-up. Fortunately, in the course of doing research for some pieces, I learned a lot about going Green, and decided to try some things out. Surprisingly, I saved a bunch of money while helping the environment out. Some of my favorite tips to save green by going green:
Naked Lady Parties
Commonly called "clothing swaps", there are many fun ways to organize these, and all are great fun. I recently went to one with about ten female friends, and brought a box full of good condition clothes that I either didn't want or never wore. For this particular party we all just poured all our clothes into a big pile, got the music pumping, then tried on pieces as fast as possible and gave each other feedback. If more than one person was interested in an item, negotiations were on; otherwise it was a more or less free-for-all. I came home with a new wardrobe, free of charge, as well as having a great night with my friends, and all the extra clothes were given to charity.
Going vegetarian at lease one day per week is supposed to cut your expenses by a lot and lessen your environmental impact. After all, cows are responsible for over two-thirds of all methane emissions and one cow produces as much waste in a day as 20-40 humans would. Plus livestock waste spills continue to pollute waterways and the need for more animal farmland continues to drive deforestation world-wide. Reading about the environmental impact was the push I needed to go completely vegan again, and I was surprised to see my grocery bill going down. Vegetables and veggie-based proteins really cost less by comparison, precisely because they cost fewer resources to produce. Even just going veggie one day per week or not eating meat with every meal is sure save a lot money.
Sticking to my shopping list
I thought it was most tragic when I read how twenty-seven percent of all groceries in American households are wasted. Normally, I'm not one to waste food, but there are times when I throw vegetables, half-loaves of bread, and sauces I turned out to not like directly into the compost. Although that's better than into the trash, the best way is to make a shopping list for things you plan on using and buying only the amount you are going to use. Buying in bulk is great for this and saves on packaging. It looks like I'm getting a great deal when I buy larger quantities of items, but it is definitely not a good deal if the unused part is just going to be wasted.
Even public transportation costs add up over time. And, while this option is without dispute more green than getting around via car, it still pollutes more than walking. Enter the bike. My glutes were definitely sore after heavy biking a few times, and it is harder to psych myself up in the rain, but the money savings and lower environmental impact while getting a workout at the same time have made this option well worth it. I even do it in stiletto boots, proving that biking does not, in fact, require special gear.
Washing with soap nuts
Laundry detergent is wasteful and bad for the environment. Ecoballs work even better and are much more economical, as well. I recently read about soap nuts, which are fruits of the Nepalese Sapindus tree and contain saponin, and decided to try out this inexpensive and exotic laundry option. Turns out, the soap nuts were sudsy and my clothes got clean. And they even have a completely natural fresh scent, all for about twenty cents per wash.
I don't drive, but if I happen to be in a car waiting for someone, I tell the driver to cut the engine if it's going to be longer than a minute or so. Why? Because idling actually uses more gasoline than stopping and restarting the engine, and it puts more pollution into the air, too. And I make sure to always get out of the car and go into the Starbucks instead of going with someone through the drive thru, because I read recently that Burger King customers alone waste sixteen million gallons of gas idling while in line for the drive thru window.
An amazing "gift-based economy" developed in 2003, FreeCycle is now world-wide and spreading rapidly. I joined the Portland FreeCycle founded by local activist Albert Kaufman and it has rapidly become one of my favorite pastimes. First, I joined in the region where I live and my application was approved. Then, I browsed for items that were either "wanted" or "offered" for free. No strings attached! Within a week of joining, I had found a great home to gift the digital camera to that I had but never got around to fixing, and then I picked up some art supplies for a craft project. Remember, though, give and get: This is not a site for free presents but rather a gift exchange, and politeness and respect are required parts of the FreeCycle process.
Attending public events
Outdoor concerts, farmers markets, movies, sports games and bazaars are all inexpensive and super fun, and some are even put on for free. And, I recently found out, these wallet-friendly activities are green options, too! By attending these, I am not using any additional resources than would be used otherwise, so basically I can be rest assured that my individual environmental footprint is quite low while I go nuts at the Portland Timbers game.
Growing a Victory Garden
Growing vegetables and a few fruits has always been a family tradition for me, and it turns out that this is called 'Victory gardening'. And starting a garden planter is a victory as well because it takes less energy and money to grow vegetables than to purchase them. Plus, I know I'm not putting pesticides or herbicides on any of my plants and the transportation cost to my house is basically nothing.