Green Manolo » 16 Ways to Go Green Without Going Broke

16 Ways to Go Green Without Going Broke

By Christa

Too often, green living tips either assume that you have an unlimited amount of space at your disposal, all the time in the world, and/or an unending supply of currency with which to eco-refit your life. Even I’m guilty of making assumptions about people who want to go green – how many people need winter cycling tips for snow day commuting… or a $250 handbag made out of recycled car parts… or even have the freedom to take the train instead of flying? Maybe the green movement really is only for fair trade latte-sipping Prius drivers?


It’s for everyone, and here’s why: You don’t necessarily have to buy things you don’t really need to support the green movement. In fact, sometimes not buying something new is the greener thing to do. And while advertisers pitch being kind to Mother Earth as a thing you do with dollars, there are plenty of small lifestyle changes you can make that don’t cost a thing. Some green living tips can even save you money, either right now or in the long term! So if what’s been stopping you from taking the green plunge are your finances (believe me, I sympathize), it’s time to change how you think about going green! Here are 16 ways to make your life a little more planet friendly without going broke in the process:

1. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs as your old light bulbs burn out. The newer ones have a warmer, softer light that looks more like traditional light bulbs, so you won’t feel like you’re still in the office when you’re trying to unwind after a long day. And you’ll save money in the long run. It’s win-win!

2. If you have a baby, switch to cloth diapers. Yes, there’s an initial outlay of about $300 for fancy adjustable one-size diapers like BumGenius 4.0, but that beats the $3,000 you’ll spend on disposable diapers (and that’s per child).

3. Use the library. Turns out, some libraries are pretty well-stocked with daily newspapers, magazines, and DVDs… not to mention a lot of great books. That gets you doubly off the hook – no more subscription costs, no more rental fees, and no more bundling all that paper every other week.

4. Turn a few towels into rags and give up paper towels forever. It took me a while to convince The Beard that this isn’t gross, but really, it’s not. And you’re going to do laundry anyway, right? Rags work better than paper towels in a lot of situations. No kidding.

5. In the same vein, switch to cloth napkins. You can get a pack of four for less than a dollar a napkin, and if your four-person family uses one per person per meal instead of paper napkins you end up breaking even after 10-15 days.

6. Pack a workday lunch in a reusable lunch totes and reusable containers instead of paper bags and plastic bags. This is another one of those areas where you’ll save money in the long run, though store brand plastic and paper baggies can be super cheap so it will take a while for the savings to add up.

7. Keep your freezer full. A stocked freezer runs more efficiently and uses less energy, plus you’ll be less tempted to take the car and drive to a restaurant for a quick meal made of who knows what.

8. Pay your bills online and make sure your utilities, etc., know you don’t want paper statements. You save the trouble and time and money of doing the whole envelope/stamp dance and can even set up automatic bill pay schedules. No more having to remember to pay this or that bill!

9. Sign up for your local Freecycle‘s mailing list to find what you need and pass along what you don’t need. You can feel good about not bringing anything new into the world and about helping someone else do the same.

10. Make your own eco-friendly cleaning products – I have never seen a sale price on all purpose cleaner that gets anywhere close to the cost of my all-purpose cleaner recipe that uses stuff you already have around the house.

11. Ditch the dryer sheets with their long list of chemical ingredients and throw a couple of tennis balls in the dryer to soften your clothes and speed up drying time.

12. Encourage your workplace to go green, and be good about turning off electronics when not in use at home, too.

13. Install a low-price programmable thermostat and then figure out the best temperature schedule for your lifestyle. You can get a basic one for about $30, but it can save you more than $100 a year on your heating bills.

14. Fill it up! Your dishwasher and washing machine, that is. As tempting as it is to run a half-full dishwasher or washer, don’t do it, because it takes just as much energy to clean half a load’s worth of dishes and clothing as it does to run a full one.

15. Rig up an old fashioned clothesline during the warmer months of the year. Air drying your laundry cuts down your energy bill, and it makes your clothes smell like the sunshine. They’ll last longer, too.

16. Use your existing ceiling fan to cut down your energy bill. In the summertime, crank it as your primary means of staying cool or use it to help your AC work more efficiently. In the wintertime, turn it down to low and reverse the direction so it blows warmer air down from the ceiling.

4 Responses to “16 Ways to Go Green Without Going Broke”

  1. Nomi Says:

    OK, I’m apparently pretty green. I already do most of these things, mostly because that’s how I was raised and it is more appealing to me than not. (Paper napkins and diapers are tacky. I hate air conditioning. Etc.) BUT…. those coiled, supposedly efficient light bulbs? They cost like $9 each and they burn out hellaciously fast. What’s up with that? Seriously, I can get YEARS out of an old-fashioned incandescent bulb of whatever wattage, but I’ve stopped buying the “energy efficient” ones because they die within a couple of months. Why does no one ever mention that? They really whack one’s budget. I won’t be buying them any more until their useful lifespan improves dramatically.

  2. Jezebella Says:

    Nomi, I don’t know what you’re doing to those bulbs, but my CFLs last well over 5 years each. In fact, I moved into my house 9 years ago and started replacing incandescents with CFLs as they burned out. I’ve replaced maybe 5 CFLs in all that time. Every single one of my incandescents is long gone.

    Christa, what’s your preferred home-made eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner recipe?

  3. Christa Says:

    @Nomi Lucky you – not everyone grows up in a green-by-default family. I’d love it if the idea that non-green equals tacky. We cloth diaper, but I never thought of it as being particularly classy! As for the bulbs, I’d say that in my house we’ve gotten pretty much the same amount of life out of both kinds. I’ve always wondered if it has to do with our old electrical wiring. Because I know some people who’ve gotten crazy amounts of life out of their CFLs. The most craptacular part is when they do burn out, you’re left wondering what exactly you’re supposed to do with them.

    @Jezebella You’re lucky! Do you happen to live in a house with newer wiring?

    As for my preferred homemade all-purpose cleaner, I usually wing it: about half and half water and white vinegar (maybe a bit more water than vinegar) and then a little salt and baking soda. I almost never do it the same way twice. My recommendation is that you pull up a bunch of recipes and then experiment to see what works best for you!

  4. Jezebella Says:

    My house was built in 1960 but I think the previous owners must have updated the wiring around 1999 or so. It hadn’t occurred to me that old wiring would interfere with CFL longevity.

    Re: vinegar cleaner. That sounds like a reasonable recipe, winging it ought to be fine. It’s not rocket science, eh? Thanks.

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