Taking steps towards a greener lifestyle doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Sarah Dawson discovers how we can improve our lives for the better, while saving money.
Perhaps you already try to live as sustainable and eco-friendly a life as possible, or maybe you feel a little overwhelmed by the steps you want to take, with the financial impact of going green holding you back from doing more. The idea that eco living is expensive can be a barrier to many but, in reality, it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Yes, some eco-friendly products are more costly than their traditional counterparts, but as so many are designed to last (rather than be single-use), the greener choice can actually work out cheaper in the long-run.
Ben Caspary, the founder of eco-friendly toothbrush head company Booheads, explains: “Some brands have been charging a premium for ‘green’ products, which is slowing down the adoption rates. The reality is, eco-friendly alternatives don’t have to be expensive and there are some easy switches that can be made. The more people make steps towards an eco-lifestyle, the more it will drive down costs.
Sustainability expert Wendy Graham from Moral Fibres, adds: “There’s a real misunderstanding when it comes to living sustainably, that it’s more expensive. I think this is because society has pushed us to think we can solve problems by spending money on solutions. Yes, you can buy glass and stainless steel sustainable products that look nice, but the cost can soon add up. It’s really important not to lose sight of the fact that the single most sustainable thing that anyone can do is to cut down on buying stuff.”
Green ways to clean
Going ‘back to basics’ is one way of dramatically slashing your cleaning costs. You can whip up an effective (and planet-friendly) kitchen or bathroom cleaner in seconds, often using ingredients you may already have at home. “Things like vinegar, citrus fruits, herbs, salt, bicarbonate of soda and even cheap own-brand vodka can all be used effectively,” explains Wendy, who is also the author of Fresh Clean Home, a book filled with tried and tested cleaning product recipes. “I’ve been cleaning my home with natural cleaning products for over 10 years and I don’t think I would ever go back.”
If you rely on the convenience of ready-made cleaning products, there’s plenty of choice, but you need to be careful. “In an industry full of greenwashing, it can feel impossible to know which brands to trust, and which are just funded by the large brand you’re trying to avoid. Often, when you find a brand that you think ticks all the boxes, it’s usually got a large mark-up for that sense of trust,” explains the team from Green N White, an eco-friendly cleaning product subscription service offering refillable, sustainable and vegan friendly household essentials, at cost price.
When it comes to tackling the mountain of laundry, switch out the expensive, plastic capsules for a Laundry Egg (£9.99 from ecoegg.com) that you can refill with mineral pellets (£4.99). Coming in at around 10p a wash, it’s a budget-friendly and eco-friendly change.
Update your bathroom
If you haven’t yet made the switch, plastic-free shampoo bars give the same results as a liquid shampoo, but are kinder to the environment. Prices vary, but on average cost around £7 and last for as long as three shampoo bottles, so work out excellent value.
Meanwhile, plastic toothbrush heads can only ever end up in landfill, but bamboo alternatives (such as the ones at booheads.com) do the same job at the same price or, in many cases, less than you’d usually spend, making them sustainable and affordable.
Eco-friendly sanitary products are another simple change. While the initial purchase of a pair of period pants, from a brand like WUKA starting at £12, may be more than you’d spend on a pack of tampons or pads, they can be reused (either with a hand wash or cool machine wash) and last for around two years, preventing over 200 disposables from going into landfill.
Change the way you travel
Foreign travel may be starting to come back on the agenda again, but that doesn’t mean we should all be rushing out and booking our plane tickets. Around 2.4 per cent of global CO2 emissions come from aviation, so consider a holiday closer to home, using train or coach travel for the least environmental impact – it’s likely to be cheaper, too!
And a very easy way to make an eco-friendly change is to think before you jump in your car. Can you walk or cycle instead? The financial savings all add up and the environmental impact is greatly reduced.
Save money, do good
Have you ever stopped to think of the impact the constant ‘Add to basket’ has on the planet? James Foo set up Seesiu to “help make people’s everyday online shopping habits kinder to the environment.” This free Chrome plug in, which you download through the website, helps to offset the carbon of your shopping by using commission from the brands you shop with to invest in eco-friendly projects.
Fast fashion has had a devastating effect on the planet, so consciously shopping for clothes is essential for an eco-friendly life. Shop in charity shops, online at eBay or on pre-loved apps like Vinted and Depop, to get a second-hand bargain, without waste. Once you’re ready for a wardrobe re-fresh, always sell on your clothes or donate to a charity shop – never throw them away.
And how about where we store our money? “One of the simplest and most impactful ways to support the planet is to change who you bank with,” says Wendy Graham. “Many high street banks, such as Barclay and HSBC, fund the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions of pounds a year. Switching to an ethical bank or building society takes minutes, doesn’t cost a thing, but makes a massive impact.”
Living a greener life doesn’t have to cost a fortune and debunking the myth that is does is so important when trying to make eco choices feel accessible. In fact, by living a simpler, eco life you could be better off too.
3 budget hacks to try today
- Be prepared: Put aside time each week to decide what meals you’re going to cook, plan them out and then make a shopping list of what you need. It’s the simplest way to curb food waste and excess spending.
- Charge them up: Rechargeable batteries may cost more than standard batteries initially, but they work out much cheaper over time as you can use them hundreds of times, preventing thousands of batteries ending up in landfill.
- Let it flow: Fit an aerator (or flow regulator) to your sink tap to help save water. Costing around £3 to £6, they control the amount of water flowing out of your tap, saving the amount of water you use and cutting your water bill.
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