There is a common misconception that living sustainably is too expensive. While it’s true that a number of green money-saving initiatives involve high upfront costs before reaping long-term rewards, there are plenty of ways to make immediate savings too. Below, a UK sustainability expert provides her top tips for cost-effective green living.
Want to reduce your monthly outgoings whilst doing your bit for the planet? Well luckily advances in sustainable technologies and investments into renewable energies have made it easier than ever to do just that.
Going green isn’t just good for the environment – it’s good for your wallet. Long recognized as one of the most effective methods of reducing an individual carbon footprint, switching to a green energy provider is more financially prudent than ever. As a result of the public and private sectors’ investments into renewable energies, we have now reached a stage where green suppliers have become some of the cheapest providers around.
Take the UK supplier, Bulb, as an example. Not only are their tariffs lower than the ‘Big Six’ standard tariffs, but they will also cover the exit fee from your current provider in order to help you make the change sooner and offer £50 ($68) off your bills for referring others. They estimate that their customers lower their carbon impact by 3.4 tonnes of CO2 per year – around ¼ of the average national annual carbon footprint.
Low-flow Shower Heads
A good quality low-flow shower head costs as little as $8 and can reduce water consumption by up to 50%. Better still, by restricting the volume of the water, you also minimize the energy required to heat it, saving you money on both bills simultaneously. Water remains a climate priority across the world, and this is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to do your part.
Washing Clothes on Cold
When we think of the latest technology, it’s not often that household appliances come to mind. But in fact, in recent years, both washing machines and washing detergents have been improved and developed with cold water cycles in mind, and will now clean your clothes effectively at 30°C. Because up to 90% of the energy used by your washing machine goes into heating the water, the cold cycle means hot savings for you.
Global campaigns to reduce our reliance on plastic have been steadily growing in influence over recent years, and not a moment too soon. Every year more than 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans, which is equivalent to dumping a full garbage truck of plastic every minute. By 2030, this figure is expected to increase to two-per-minute, and to four-per-minute by 2050.
The detrimental effect of this on marine life cannot be overstated. If we do not act to reverse these trends now, then by 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. Luckily, the efforts of global campaigners have given rise to methods of reducing consumption that also save money.
Reusable Coffee Cups
Reusable coffee cups have seen a surge in popularity recently thanks to widespread schemes offering discounts to customers who bring their own. If you’re a regular coffee drinker this can save you more than £100 ($137) a year and stop the plastic-lined disposable cups going to landfill.
Nearly every city in the world now offers a plethora of locations for product refills. These range from soaps to herbs to spices to cereals. The upfront costs of refills can be off-putting, especially if you are having cash flow trouble. You will need to buy containers to store your refillable items before buying them in bulk – which can feel like an expensive endeavour. However, if you stick with it, you are guaranteed to make considerable savings over the course of the year.
The textiles industry is a silent goliath in global carbon emissions. We all know the impact of international travel and transport, but fewer are aware that the textiles industry produces more CO2 than international flights and maritime shipping combined – at an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year.
Since it is predominantly the production phase of the textiles industry that has such a big carbon output, the single most important factor in determining the carbon footprint of an item of clothing is the number of times it is worn before being thrown out. As it currently stands, 85% of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated when most of the materials could be reused, so recycling your clothes is as good a place as any to save some money whilst saving the planet.
A fun way to get a new wardrobe without breaking the bank is organising a clothes swap with friends or colleagues. Everyone brings a selection of clothes that they haven’t worn in a while and puts them in a big pile in the middle of the room. Instead of spending your paycheck, spend the evening drinking wine (or coffee from reusable cups) and modelling each other’s clothes on a makeshift catwalk before heading home with a whole new look.
Store Recycling Schemes
If you can’t convince your friends to take them home, you may be able to make money back by returning used clothes to the stores where you bought them. A number of popular high-street brands such as H&M, Intimissimi and John Lewis have ‘buy back’ schemes where they give you credit or store discount for returning worn clothes.
Rent, Don’t Buy
Rental platforms such as Rent the Runway in the US or My Wardrobe HQ in the UK showcase designer products and can offer a rental Vivienne Westwood for as little as $15 a day – much more affordable than buying a new dress every time a wedding invitation comes through the door.
Elizabeth Barker is a sustainability expert from the UK. After getting her MSc in Environmental Change and International Development, she has spent the last few years working internationally in environmental education programmes and consulting on sustainable travel.