Thursday, April 16, 2009

Being Green on a Budget

Over the years, I've heard people comment that they'd love to be more green, they just can't afford to. What?! I think the problem is that they're buying into the *greenwashing* movement, the concept of shopping our way to a better planet. Noooo...being green is about buying less and buying smarter. During our vacations overseas, especially in Europe, I've been struck by how much less they have and how they're better stewards of the earth. Part of this is because they have fewer resources and less space for landfills. We can learn much from them. For example, when visiting restaurants, paper napkins are at a premium - you might be given ONE. Here, we have napkin dispensers on tables and we help ourselves to handfuls, most of which go into the trash, unused. In some third world countries, you have to buy your own toilet paper in public restrooms, and then you're only given a few sheets. Hotels have motion-activated lights in the hallways and your room key is necessary to turn on the lights and the television. You remove the key to leave and all power goes off.

There are many ways to be green AND save money. Use cloth napkins instead of paper. The initial investment is higher than buying paper, but you can use the cloth ones for years. If you're handy with a sewing machine, you can even make your own. Then, once the napkins are stained and/or threadbare, turn them into rags to use instead of paper towels. Instead of buying disposable sponges, use washable dish cloths. You can be green with cleaning products, too. When I go to the grocery store, I'm amazed at the sheer number of cleaning product options. How many of these products are really necessary? I have found that white vinegar and baking soda will clean most anything. I buy the vinegar in the large jugs, thus saving money and packaging. Baking soda can be purchased in bulk at farm supply stores (this is not food grade so I still buy the small boxes at the grocery store for cooking needs). There are lots of recipes on the internet for cleaning products, such as window cleaner, that can be made at home and dispensed into reusable bottles.

Food is another area where you can be frugal and green (and maybe even a little healthier!). Beans and rice are cheap and have a long shelf life. Buy them in bulk to save even more money and cut down on packaging. Meat, if you eat it, should be treated as a luxury or condiment. It's expensive and very bad for the planet - I could write a whole blog entry on the U.S. meat industry. Rather than spending money on over-packaged, over-processed, over-priced convenience foods, buy fresh fruits and vegetables. As an alternative, frozen produce is good for you and a good buy. Just don't buy the *meal in a bag* type. Breakfast cereals are the worst - companies spend more on the packaging than they do on the food inside. Buy a large container of oatmeal or make your own granola. And start putting food in reusable containers - skip the plastic wrap and plastic bags whenever possible.

Save money and be green with your entertainment. Borrow books, CDs, and DVDs from the library. Instead of making all those quick trips through the fast food drive-thru, keep homemade snacks handy at home, in your car, at your office, and use the money you save to go to a nice restaurant. It will make the meal much more memorable and enjoyable. And fewer fast food wrappers will go to landfill.

As you can see, I can go on and on....I think I'll save the rest for later.

1 comment:

kiwimeg said...

Great post!

I am a huge fan of vinegar and baking soda for cleaning! And it has had such a positive impact on both my budget and my health!