6 Ways to Save Money and the Environment at Home
I just finished reading this gem from the online media juggernaut Huffington Post – 16 Eco Friendly Products for the Home. They feature outstanding deals like four napkins for $25, a single 15-watt light bulb for $11, four Eco-Dryer Balls for $25, and one re-usable tote bag for $45. Talk about a bargain!
These days it seems the term “eco-friendly” may as well be synonymous with “ridiculously expensive”. Why is it that an eco-friendly version of an existing product has to cost several times more than the already existing version? Perhaps caring about the environment is something that’s reserved for the affluent. A budget-conscious consumer couldn’t possibly have the time nor the means to concern himself with something as trivial as bettering the earth. If they did, the next step would be deciding what their family has to sacrifice in order to indulge this lofty aspiration to make a difference. Hey kids, let’s all skip dinner tonight and instead gather around our newly purchased re-usable tote bag.
Unfortunately, it seems most people are content paying some company to make a difference, rather than exerting personal effort to make a difference on their own.
Below are a few suggestions on how you can personally help save the environment, and more importantly, save yourself some money in the process.
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Plant a Garden
Starting a small kitchen garden has got to be one of the easiest eco-friendly and pocketbook friendly projects in existence. A single tomato easily contains hundreds of seeds. From my experience dozens of them will sprout when simply tossed to the ground. The same goes for pumpkin seeds, watermelon, cucumbers, and various other fruits and vegetables. A single 2-inch branch of turmeric root can literally take over a plot within a few months, yielding pounds of the nutrient-rich root. If you have children, having them help in the garden will result in healthier eating habits. Children who plant and grow their own head of broccoli are far more likely to eat that head of broccoli. With startup costs being very minimal, and seed packets costing $1-$2, starting a garden and growing your own food is a simple fun way to save money and make a difference for the environment.
If you already have a garden I’m sure composting is something you’re familiar with. If you don’t have a garden, you’ll soon realize that the bulk of your kitchen scraps can be turned into the perfect addition for your soil. You can reduce waste, eliminate stinky garbage, and send less off to the landfill, just by starting a composting system in your yard. Fruit, vegetables, bread, flat soda, old leftovers, just about anything can be composted and reduced back into the basic building blocks of life for your garden. There are hundreds of online guides out there detailing how to compost. It’s actually quite simple, and once you’ve started you’ll notice your kitchen trash rarely smells, and it gets taken to the bin far less often. Plus you’ll never need to buy potting soil or fertilizer for your garden.
Don’t Buy New Anything
Living off the excess of others is actually quite simple, especially in the USA. I regularly come across free items on craigslist that are totally useful. I’ve found quality dirt, pots, trees, dressers, book cases, and countless other items. Take a look at their freebies in your area one day and you might be surprised. As far as clothing, shirts and pants at the goodwill are $2-$4, shoes are about $8 a pair, and normally in perfect shape. I’ve found speakers for 90% off retail in perfect shape, and plates, cups and silverware starting at 25 cents. There’s simply no reason to buy these things new when you can get them used at a fraction of the cost.
Automobiles are another major expense for most families. It goes without saying that purchasing a new car is one of the worst investments you can make. Simply driving the car off the lot decreases the re-sale value by about 25% in most cases. If your family needs a car, be smart and buy a used one. In many cases you can find 4-5 year old used cars in perfect shape, and they cost less than half of what they did new.
Solar Water Heater
If your home runs an electric water heater, that beast can account for close to 50% of your monthly utility bill. Most contain dual 4500-watt heating elements, and are on 24 hours per day. If you’re smart you’ve started turning the breaker on an hour before your shower, and turning it off once you’re done. That simple task can make a very noticeable difference in your monthly bill.
If you’re slightly handy with a set of tools, or you just want a fun family project, take a look at building a solar water heater that uses your existing electric tank. This plan is simple and works perfectly, constantly cycling your water all day with no electricity. Gravity and the principle of thermal expansion drive the water through the solar heating element all day long. The tank will continually heat while the sun is out, and most tanks have built in insulation that will store that hot water all through the night.
Once you’ve started growing your own food, chickens are the next step for many families. You might think you need a country home for this, but most homes in cities and the suburbs are allowed to have hens. You can get fresh eggs daily from your home, rather than from a factory farm where the chicken spends its entire life in a cage too small to stand up in. An added benefit of chickens is they are compost machines. They will stir your pile, pick out the bugs, and after several weeks you’ll have a perfect soil additive ready to go in the garden.
For meat eaters there’s the added benefit of raising your own high-quality food source. If you’ve ever seen footage of a factory chicken farm, it’s enough to turn you off eating these animals forever. But you can provide them a superior diet and healthy life, resulting in a much higher quality food source for your family. Plus the price will be far less than you’d pay for free-range chicken at the grocery store.
Make laundry soap
Making laundry detergent is one of the easiest ways to save money. You don’t need any special skills, nor do you have to build anything. You simply mix the following ingredients together to make your own powdered detergent.
2 cups washing soda (sodium carbonate)
2 cups borax
1 cup grated bar soap (if you’re sensitive to allergies get one without added dies, perfumes, or creams)
Optional – 1 cup oxygenated cleaning powder
Mix this all together until it’s uniform, and then store in an airtight container. Something like an old peanut butter jar will work fine. The total cost for all these ingredients is approximately $2. Using about two tablespoons per load, you’ll get 40 wash loads from the recipe above, meaning your cost per washing session is just 5 cents. In addition to saving a ton of money (especially compared to eco-friendly detergent), this mix will also work better. Our sheets come out much cleaner and more crisp compared to when we use brand label detergents.
So instead of wasting your money on 16 over-priced eco-friendly products, put forth just a little effort and you can make a true difference for the environment and your wallet.