You may have heard that “It ain’t easy being green,” and when you look at the cost for environmentally friendly, organic options, they tend to be more expensive than their not-so-green counterparts. Bigger changes, like switching to solar panels or installing wind turbines, are even more drastic. However, there are some ways to incorporate green living into your daily life that are sustainable for the environment and your budget. Here are a few ways that you can be friendly to the environment without spending a ton of money.
- Bring a bag to the store. Some grocery stores have started charging for bags (usually 10 or 15 extra cents) and Chicago’s bag ban has been in effect for about six months. Bringing your own bag cuts down the accumulating waste in your trash and can save you a few cents each time.
- Carry your own water bottle. Rather than using bottled water, try to carry your own refillable water bottle with you when you can. Similar to the plastic bag situation, you avoid accumulating waste by just refilling your water-bottle. Look for refill stations in gyms, community centers, transportation centers (like airports), municipal buildings, and schools.
- Grow your own produce, if you can. Container and herb gardens work well in small spaces. There are plenty of resources out there for those looking to get started- including this article from Better Homes & Gardens. This can be cheaper than shopping organic. Another option is to head to a local farmer’s market- these items are fresh and have not had to travel like most produce you find in the store. Contrary to popular belief, many in season items can not only be tastier but less expensive direct from farmers. Here is a list of farmers markets in and around Chicago: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/farmers_market.html
- Make your own household cleaner. Some everyday household cleaning products can be made using ingredients like apple cider vinegar. In the long run you’ll save some money, and you don’t have to worry about any harsh chemicals.
- Change up your commute. Now that it’s getting warmer out, it might be a good time to switch up your routine and start walking or biking (Chicago has a bike share option if you don’t want to go out and buy your own) to work. Another option is utilizing a carpool with people who are headed toward the same destination that you are. Changing your commute can cut transportation costs, reduce fuel and get some exercise.
- Unplug devices when you’re not using them. You may have heard of “phantom load,” or what happens when you leave chargers and other devices plugged into an outlet without being on. This still uses some electricity, it turns out. By unplugging all devices, you save money on your electricity bill and save energy. If you think you’ll forget, some ‘smart’ power strips can turn themselves off.
- Buy rechargable batteries. Purchasing batteries that you can just recharge rather than throw away reduces the amount of waste you produce in your house, and you aren’t putting these harmful materials into landfills. In the long run, you’ll also save some money by not going out and buying new batteries.
- Receive statements and bills electronically. Many companies and banks will send you electronic bills or statements as a way to cut down on paper usage. Some companies actually reward you (usually just $1, but every bit counts) for switching to electronic statements- it’s worth looking into.
- Read the paper online. Another way to cut back on waste or a paper trail is to switch your newspaper or magazine subscriptions from paper to online. Plus, having the electronic version makes it easier to read when you’re on the go (no one wants to read the paper on the train, let’s face it).
- Control Your Climate. Programmable thermostats aren’t outrageously expensive (typically in the $50 range). Having one of these around means you can have a lower temperature setting during the day when no one is around, and have it automatically turn up before you head home. This cuts down on your home heating cost and wasted energy when no one is home to enjoy it.
As you can see, a little goes a long way, for your budget and the planet. Hopefully we have convinced you that going green doesn’t have to mean spending green! Happy Earth Day!