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Save Money and the Environment at the Same Time?

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As I write this, it's Friday night and since I tend not to have a life, I just finished watching Nightline. One of the more interesting segments was about how a group of moms limit their waste to one canof garbage a year. Specifically they had the moms from Enviromom on the show. They admitted that one can of garbage a year is a little aggressive for a beginner, but that one can a month is possible. They helped educate a family how they do it (watch it here). As they were going through the tips, I was surprised to learn than many of them save money as well.

  • Buy in Bulk - They pointed out a lot of products we buy come in single serving packages. The Enviromoms pointed out that while this is convenient, it isn't very green. Even something small like individually-wrapped string cheese could be replaced with one big chunk of cheese put in a reusable container. It occurred to me that this is also the cheaper method.
  • Pre-cycle - The idea here is a little like the above, but it's simply the idea that you should buy less.
  • Reuse - The Enviromoms don't buy paper towels or plastic knives and forks. Instead they have reusable cloth towels and regular silverware. I would think that you'd have more laundry and have to do more loads of dishes. This would obviously use more water and soap. Now I'm not an expert, but they are, so I'll yield to their knowledge on this one.

Not every environmental change you make is going to save you money. In some cases, the green version of a product is going to cost you more. At some point, you may have to decided between your wallet and the environment.

Other tips are going to require you do a little bit more work. I'm quite Lazy, so for me this extra work has to be very little. Fortunately, the above tips also work for the lazy. Buying in bulk equals less shopping. My wife might agree that I've become good at not buying stuff - I would say that is pretty lazy as well. Lastly, making a little extra use of dishwashers and laundry machines saves me from having to take out the trash more often.

It's good to know there are green options that are good for the my wallet (and my work ethic) too.

Last updated on August 1, 2011.

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11 Responses to “Save Money and the Environment at the Same Time?”

  1. Miranda says:

    Thanks for these great tips, and the information. It is amazing how small changes can add up to a big difference. But I think it’s important to realize that in many cases, it’s about making a lifestyle change.

  2. Miss M says:

    A lot of “green” changes can save you greenbacks as well. Things like turning off lights, using less heat and AC, using less water, buying reusable rather than disposable items, the list goes on and on. The times green gets more expensive is usually organic food and large home upgrades like solar panels.

  3. ckstevenson says:

    “I would think that you’d have more laundry and have to do more loads of dishes. This would obviously use more water and soap.” Using cloth napkins or non-plastic utensils may result in more washing, but if you are using green cleaners then you aren’t doing damage in that respect. And while using more water isn’t desired, it is at least natural and recycled through the environment.

  4. Studenomics says:

    I don’t agree with the buying in bulk 100%. I feel that inorder to practice this concept you must possess self control. Many people will buy in bulk and then in the end eat more and have to buy again more frequently. Buying in bulk is not for everyone I believe.

    I also feel that you must find the optimal trade off between going green and your wallet. How much extra money are you willing to spend inorder to purchase a more greener product?

  5. Lazy Man says:

    Even if you use green cleaners, I can’t imagine that these are developed in zero-emission factories (run on solar power) and zero environmental-effect packaging. This may be nit-picky, just pointing out that it’s hard to calculate.

  6. I’ve been thinking about the paper towel thing in my head for a few weeks now. If you buy something which you throw away, then you’re throwing away money. I intend on buying cloth wipes which I can use (and wash) in replacement of paper towels. This will spread thoughout the rest of my life too.

    If this has good consequences for my wallet and the environment, then I’m all for it.

  7. Heather says:

    Hey, it’s Heather from EnviroMom. Thanks so much for the shout-out! On the increased laundry issue: if you are always washing full loads of laundry, then you will not notice any increase. We throw our napkins and towels in with our clothing, and we wash exclusively on cold. Even the whites. Everything comes out just as clean and fresh. (Trust me, I have a super picky husband on this issue.) And yep, we use Biokleen powered laundry detergent, and because it’s so concentrated I only need to buy two boxes a year. Give cloth a try!

  8. Frugalchick says:

    I’ve been trying to be more eco-friendly for the last few years and I can attest that saving money is a pleasant side effect of going green.

  9. ike says:

    I go to Aldi’s as the Nightline story says.Not bulk but off brands that taste good.Vegetables usually lower too.Next door to Aldis is a large Asian Market where I get Tea and noodles way under a dollar a pkg.
    ike

  10. I’ve been trying to be more environemtally cautious also. I traded in my S2000 for a Yaris, I turn off my A/C and unplug all electronics if I leave for the weekend, and I bought a bunch of CFL’s. Little things really do add up after a small amount of time.

  11. One trash can a year! wow! I feel so wasteful now.

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