This post is the first installment of the Easy Green series by guest contributor Jo Hegerty of Down to Earth Mother.
Green living is frugal living – by making a few changes you can reduce your family’s impact on the environment and save some cash at the same time. Here are six simple ways to save money by greening your home.
1. Use less power
I remember Mum complaining about “every light in the house” being on. Now it’s my turn! If there’s no one in the room, there is no need for the light to be on, it’s as simple as that. Other ways to use less electricity include switching off chargers, printers, routers, computers, and televisions when not in use. Turn them off at the wall as they continue to draw power in stand-by mode. A good way to check if your home is “electrically quiet” is to stalk about in the dark looking for telltale red or green lights. When you find one, switch it off.
When it comes to heating and cooling your home, 25 is the magic number – every one degree cooler or warmer adds up to 10 percent to your running costs!
How this saves money: Unless you have an off-the-grid solar power system, you are paying for every kilowatt of power that is used. Less electricity used means less money spent.
How it saves the planet: By only using the power you need, you are saving on precious, dwindling resources such as coal and gas. Most scientists now agree that digging up and burning these resources contributes to climate change, so it makes sense to use electricity sparingly.
For the kids: Let them rise to the challenge of being light monitor for the day. Kids are also very good at reminding you to turn off at the power point… sometimes too good!
2. Reduce your water usage
Did you know that shaving two minutes off your shower can save 24 litres of water? Across the whole family, that’s a lot of water saved. Other water saving measures include;
- Choose the eco settings on your dishwasher and washing machine
- Collect the shower water as it heats up and give it to your plants
- Got a thirsty lawn? Consider replacing some of it with well-mulched garden beds
- And, as drought-tolerant Australians know, always turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, and use a bucket when washing the car.
How this saves money: Again, unless you collect your own, you’re paying for water. Depending on where you live and how much water you use, you could save up to $1000 per year.
How it saves the planet: The water we pay for is collected, treated and pumped into our homes. By using less, you are not only respecting a precious resource but also saving on the energy and chemicals associated with its domestic use.
For the kids: Encourage kids to be involved by making it a fun or turning it into a challenge – who can beat the clock or timer in the shower (and still come out clean)? Who wants a turn at watering the plants with the bucket?
3. Cook more from scratch
There are plenty of things you can make at home instead of buying at the store – bread, stock, condiments like sweet chilli sauce or mayonnaise, biscuits, slices, soups and dips are examples of things you can make yourself. A huge bonus of cooking from scratch is that you reduce the amount of food additives and other dubious ingredients such as GMOs and unhealthy oils in your family’s diet.
How this saves money: Provided you stick to seasonal recipes (don’t try to make mango chutney in winter), you will quickly notice the savings. Paying $4 for a litre of stock seems absurd once you realise it’s made from leftovers and scraps!
How this saves the planet: By cooking from scratch, you are saving the energy and water used in packaging and transporting the store-bought versions, and also eliminating the need for preservatives and other chemicals.
For the kids: They will love helping to make bread and sweet treats for school; older kids can be in charge of salad dressing or help with trickier cooking, providing them with fantastic life skills for the future.
4. Have (at least) one car-free day per week
In Australia, around half of all car trips are less that five kilometres (three miles). Yet we complain we don’t have time to exercise! Cutting back on car usage is a great way to look after the environment and your health at the same time.
Jot down all the car trips you have to make over the next few days and look for ways to combine those trips – for example: swinging past the shops on the way to soccer practice. Could you organise a car pool with another parent to school or after school activities?
Next, think about which trips could be replaced by walking or riding. It takes about fifty minutes to walk five kilometres and half that on a bike.
How this saves money: By combining multiple errands into one trip, your engine will remain warm, improving fuel efficiency. As for those car trips you replace with pedal power or walking, they will not only save you fuel, but you can say goodbye to your gym membership too!
How this saves the planet: You’re using less fuel, which means less damage to the environment, less air pollution and less contamination of waterways by oil and other residues.
For the kids: If you start out small, your kids will get used to walking or cycling, in fact, they’ll probably enjoy it. Mine far prefer to be towed to kindy in the bike trailer than in the car, and they will walk at least one way.
5. Buy second-hand
Next time you need to buy a non-food or personal-care item, see if you can find it second-hand. I guarantee you will be surprised at a) how easy it was and b) how much cheaper it is. Charity shops, garage or yard sales and websites like eBay, Gumtree, Craig’s List and quicksales have made it easy to shop for almost anything second-hand.
Buying pre-loved items is an essential part of frugal living, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting an inferior product or living with less. More often, you’ll find you can afford better quality and spread your dollars further.
How this saves money: In addition to saving money on the goods themselves, adopting a second-hand mentality puts the brakes on impulse spending.
How this saves the planet: You are extending the life of the product and all the energy costs and materials used, plus you are diverting it from landfill and saving raw materials that would have been used to make a new version. And, of course, your product comes without packaging.
For the kids: Take your children to charity shops and markets; let them see that all those goods they see in the shops are available in another, more earth-friendly way. Show them how far a couple of dollars can go at a garage sale and they’ll quickly be converted.
6. Choose to reuse
Disposable things like plates and serviettes have crept into everyday life to the point where our bins and natural spaces are choking with single-use plastic and paper. These items were designed for convenience – and convenience can be addictive. For the sake of the environment and your wallet, choose to reuse as much as you can. This could mean keeping a stack of op-shopped party plates in a box somewhere, switching to hankies, using cloth nappies or choosing reusable food covers – especially for school lunches.
The hassle of washing, folding or storing reusable items quickly disappears and is absorbed into all the other stuff you wash, fold and store!
How this saves money: Save directly on disposable nappies, tissues, paper napkins, plastic cutlery and cups. At the most, you only need to refill your reusable water bottle eight times to start saving money.
How this saves the planet: As with second-hand items, you are saving energy, water and raw materials by choosing reusables. You’re also helping to ease the problem of plastic pollution, which affects up to 85 percent of all Australia’s marine birds and other wildlife.
For the kids: Talk to them about plastic pollution and its effects on the environment. You could say “turtles and birds eat the plastic and it makes them sick”, for example. The next generation doesn’t have to grow up with a disposable mentality but we do need to lead by example.
What is one small change you can make to save money while helping the environment?
Over the next few months Jo will be sharing a series of posts featuring simple, practical ideas for frugal, green family living – it is easier than you think! Be sure not to miss a post by choosing one of the options for subscribing below.