If you have followed me on Instagram for any length of time, you probably know that I try to pursue Zero Waste living. What is zero waste living? It’s the idea that everything you purchase and use should get used up and nothing should be wasted and/or thrown away in a landfill. This means I try to steer clear of excess packaging, single use plastics, and things that we don’t need. When we are more conscious of our choices we are helping the environment. We aren’t OVER-consuming valuable water, land, and energy resources. And we produce less water, air, and land pollution. Unfortunately many people aren’t going to be motivated by the phrase “it’s good for the environment”, so let me try to persuade you another way: your wallet. Doing these “green” things will actually SAVE you money!
1) Save $182 per year by ditching paper towels and switching to rags
According to AOL Finance, you’re probably spending about $182 per year on paper towels, and more if you’re buying name brand. You can save significant money simply by using something you probably already have: rags from old towels and t-shirts, or simply dish cloths!
This is something we’ve been doing for awhile. In fact, we actually have a half pack of paper towels (about 8 rolls) sitting in our pantry that we haven’t touched in over a year. It has saved us a ton of money.
According to Better Paper Planet: “120,000 tons of waste could be saved if each American household used just three less rolls a year, plus, it would eliminate $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees.” Gosh, could you imagine what would happen if half of us quit using paper towel rolls all together?
You might ask “But what about the water to wash these over and over?” Billions of water are used and polluted every year to make brand new paper towels. In general, it takes significantly less water (and other resources) to simply wash something than to make something brand new.
2) Save $48 per year by ditching tissues and switching to hankies
Take a look at this statistical chart. By the looks of it, most Americans are using 2 boxes of facial tissues per month. Let’s say you’re spending $1.50 on each box, you could save $48 or more a year by switching to hankies.
We’ve been doing this for about a year too. It’s saved us money, no doubt. But you know what else? Our noses don’t get rubbed raw anymore. When you’re sick or it’s allergy season and you’re blowing your nose over and over again, don’t you hate the dry, red, itchy nose? I did. I even sprung for fancy lotion-infused tissues to help. And I’d be applying lotion to my nose often. But that simply hasn’t happened to me since switching to soft cotton hankies.
Gross? Well, what do you think people have been doing basically forever before the last 50 years when disposable tissues were popularized? I made hankies out of an old sheet and t-shirts. I love ‘em. Cost? A little bit of time. I do keep one box of tissues for guests and one backup box in case I’m consoling a friend through a hard time, but thankfully I haven’t had to replace it in a year.
3) Save $2,247 per year by eating your dang leftovers!
Did you know that according to the “Natural Resource Defense Council” (yes, apparently that’s a thing) the average American family of 4 throws out $2,247 worth of food annually? It doesn’t have to be that way! Never again should you buy a bag of lettuce to just throw it away.
Menu plan. Make a shopping list. Stick to the list. Eat the food you brought home, including your leftovers and save boat loads of money. We live on a pretty tight grocery shopping budget ~ about $200 per month for just my husband and I. But that doesn’t mean we go hungry or eat blandly. I’m a good cook. I make most things from scratch because it’s cheaper and tastes better. Every week I pick what meals we will eat that week (about 5 or 6) and then make a list, shop for those items, and then cook and eat those items.
We rarely throw out food anymore. It’s great! I never have to wonder “what’s for dinner?” nor do I have to do the cringe-worthy task of pulling out moldy or expired food to just to chuck it. I love what my friend @debtkickinmom on Instagram says “Leftovers are a sign of abundance”.
Get over your dislike of leftovers and save your family serious money and save the planet while you’re at it! Agriculture is a very resource-heavy industry. Every apple or piece of meat you throw away took tons of labor, water, fertilizer, pasture, and gas to get from the field to your plate. Use what you need, but don’t be wasteful.
By the way, that $2,247 savings is just calculating for the wasted food! If you usually buy lunch out everyday and start taking leftovers instead, you’ll save significantly more!
4) Save $100 per person per year by using a water bottle
Ya’ll have heard to use your reusable water bottle over and over again. You’re probably sick of it. Just make the switch already! I always cringe when I see people loading up their carts with cases bottles of water at the grocery store. Listen to me, if you live in America and have access to clean tap water, you should not be buying water in plastic. That water in plastic is the same water out of the tap! It’s just bottled in a different city and trucked into yours. Plastic is a huge environmental concern. It’s polluting our parks, rivers, and oceans.
“But plastic is recyclable!” Not forever! Plastic is only downgraded--not recycled 1:1. So a plastic water bottle might get converted to a plastic shopping bag, but it’s never going to be a plastic bottle again. Also, I dare you to go to any public space look into the trash bin and tell me you don’t see a plastic bottle. I dare you. Even if “everyone” knows they should recycle, people don’t! Just skip the hassle of finding a recycle bin altogether by bringing your own water bottle!
I haven’t bought water in plastic bottles in almost 10 years. I’ve brought my water bottle on airplanes, to concerts, museums, classes, church, fast food restaurants, and Disney World without ever having a problem. Some places you have to bring it in empty (like airplanes), but you can almost always get it filled up FOR FREE. I honestly don’t think of how much bottled water cost. I had to look it up. This website says that the average American spends $100 per person per year on bottled water. Yikes! Ya’ll that’s crazy town. If you get it from the grocery store, you’re probably spending less than $1 per bottle. But if you go to concerts or Disney World, you’re going to pay $3-$8 per a bottle of water. If you replace that with a reusable bottle,that’s a huge savings!
“But my kids won’t drink from the tap.” Your kids are spoiled. Be the parent, tell them it’s their only option. Put it in the fridge, cool it off first. Get a Spiderman water bottle and fill it up. Do what you have to do. But the fact we’re even having this conversation just shows you how privileged we really are. There’s millions of kids who don’t have access to clean water at all, let alone can pay $8 per bottle for it.
5) Save thousands of dollars per year by Buying Used When Possible
Producing new stuff, especially processed synthetic stuff like plastics and polyester take a HUGE toll on our earth’s resources. Mining, stripping, cutting, digging, hauling, chopping, making, and processing all take time, energy, and labor. If you buy new stuff each and every time you need something, you’re demanding that new resources are being used for your new item. If you change even 10% of your traditional spending to buying used items instead, you’ll not only be helping the planet out, but you’ll also save TONS of money!
I can’t give you a number for what you’ll save, because it will all depend on what you normally spend and what you’ll be swapping. Buying big things used like homes and vehicles will save you thousands right away, while something smaller like used clothing will take a little longer for those thousands to pile up. Buying used doesn’t have to mean garage sales and thrift stores! Thousands of sellers are doing the hard work of finding quality items for you and putting them on websites like luxury clothing site The Real Real to the everyday clothes shopping app Poshmark (use my code MakeLemonade to save $5 on your first Poshmark purchase!) You don’t have to sacrifice quality or style to save a ton!
I’ve been doing this my whole life. I grew up in a frugal family who loved to find a good bargain -- we’re talking garage sales and thrift store galore. But I didn’t see the real cost benefit savings until I got married and started budgeting. I looked at what we spend and what the average or even the suggested household budget amounts were for categories like clothing, and I was shocked at the cost difference! In 2016 when we were in the thick of paying off debt, I spent $800 on clothes -- for the year. It was something like 0.02% of our budget. Recommended amounts are something like 3% of your total budget. It was tight and we did bump that up a bit after paying off debt. But if I didn’t stick to buying secondhand clothes, I don’t know if we would have been able to pay off our debt in the time frame we did.
Even now as I’ve become more passionate about buying fair trade and ethically made clothing pieces, I still shop secondhand. It gives me the room in my budget to save up for those higher priced investment pieces. [I also started a fair fashion boutique, but that’s another story for another day] My current closet is made up of 80% secondhand clothing, 10% ethically made clothing bought new, and 10% of “other”--that’s stuff I couldn’t find ethically made in my budget but needed it anyway, so I bought it new.
This month we bought our first home, and I’m passionate about finding secondhand furniture and decor whenever possible, so that we can save money and help out Earth as well! I know that following this “trick” will save us thousands of dollars!
So how about you, what of these green things are you already doing? Which one do you want to try next? Which one is too scary to try? I’m curious!
Stay Sweet and See you on the ‘gram!
Christine aka @girlwhomakeslemonade
Hey! I'm Christine, I'm an entrepreneur and small business owner who has learned by trial and error. I write helpful articles that help you take your next steps in business. Occasionally I like to mix things up and dash in a bit of lifestyle topics. Thanks for being here!