“Yeah, right.” I’m sure that’s what you thought when you read the title of this blog. Most of us have heard that while a greener existence may help the planet, it usually comes at a cost. I was expecting the same thing when I started my “eco-journey” but, after a few months of dedication and some math, I started to notice that I was beginning to save. Below, I’ve shared three small “eco-friendly” changes I’ve made that have had a positive impact on the planet and my budget.
Saying Goodbye to Coffee Cups
I’m a big fan of including items you love in your budget and for me, I have always reserved a little extra cash for coffee. For years I’ve used coffee as a reward for myself after a hard day or long week. When making the decision to be more eco-friendly, I decided to jump on the reusable cup wagon. Many coffee shops offer discounts to people with reusable cups, so I knew I would have some savings when I switched. Of course, the pandemic shook this up with many coffee shops pausing their reusable cups policy, but with restrictions lifting, many locations are revitalizing their programs. Make sure to check with your local coffee shop before you go to see what savings you could gain.
When I started this process, things didn’t go as planned. Since I had been using coffee as a reward, I would buy it sporadically. This meant that within a relatively short period of time, I found it a hassle to remember my cup and have it prepared for the next time I would decide to get a coffee. Most times, I wouldn’t realize that I forgot my cup until I was pulling up to the drive-thru window and was forced to purchase coffee in a disposable cup.
Out of frustration, I began to prepare my coffee both at home and at work. After a week or so, I didn’t miss the store-bought coffee and the savings were almost immediate. My partner met the same frustration and began preparing coffee at home. We found that after doing so, the temptation to also splurge on food went away. With no stops at the coffee shop, there were no snacks being purchased to go with it.
To make the transition easier, we began using the features on our coffee machine. We started taking advantage of the time settings and would prepare the machine at night. This way, we would wake up to fresh coffee instead of rushing to prepare it before work. We also made the process more environmentally friendly with a reusable filter. If your coffee maker doesn’t already have one, these can be purchased on Amazon for $11 with free shipping. If you’re more of a Keurig person, reusable pods can also be purchased online for a similar price.
Original Annual Spending: $1,248-1,664
Green Annual Spending: $108
Annual Savings: $1,140-1,556
Ditching Single-use Items
If your household is anything like mine, it seems like we are constantly going through single-use items like sandwich bags, tin foil, and saran wrap. These items, in addition to our regular food bill, were costing us at least $50 every 4 months. That means that each year, these items would cost us a minimum of $200 for a household of two. It’s worth noting that for a larger family, this cost could easily double or triple. The difficult part about budgeting for these items is that most of them are necessities for everyday life. Some of them are even a requirement of better budgeting (i.e. bringing lunch to work in sandwich bags). To start the change, we purchased reusable silicone food bags, beeswax wraps, and silicone stretch lids.
These items were some of my first purchases when I started researching how to “go green.” I was able to purchase 6 wraps and 6 lids for $25.49 as well as 8 food bags for $10.59 on Amazon. The items were also shipped in a small box with minimal wrapping to be even more ecofriendly. With no delivery cost, my entire eco-friendly investment was only $36.08.
We were able to easily incorporate these items into our routine as they pretty much mimic their single-use counterparts. My main goal from this experiment was to keep things simple. At first, I was hesitant about the chore of cleaning the silicone bags, but because they were rated safe for the dishwasher, this was no longer an issue. While many of these products boast they will last forever, only time will tell. We’ve been officially converted for 2 years, and our reusable items are still going strong except for the beeswax wraps which seem to be losing their “cling quality”. I still consider this a win after not purchasing saran wrap for 2 years. At 2 years in, we’ve already saved a minimum of $256 dollars (after deducting our initial investment). Although it may not seem like much compared to the coffee savings, over a lifetime these small changes will add up.
Other notable mentions for reusable and ecofriendly items that can offer long-term savings include reusable makeup wipes, bamboo toothbrush packs, fabric/reusable grocery bags (if your local store charges for bags), zero waste kitchen towels, and safety razors.
Original Annual Spending: $200
Green Upfront Cost: $36.08
Year One Savings: $163.92
Buying in Bulk
One of the first things I noticed when we started aiming for a greener existence was the staggering amount of packaging that our products came in. We’ve always recycled, but even when purchasing eco-friendly cleaners and soaps we still ended up with a mountain of single-use plastic. To limit our waste, we started buying products in bulk. As an avid budgeter, I’ve always been a fan of bulk products because of the great deals they offer, but as a household of two I thought buying bulk would result in us overbuying and wasting money.
Oddly enough, bulk products have had the opposite effect. Buying bulk food has helped us be more conscious with our meal preparation and planning. This, coupled with the less frequent coffee shop visits, has resulted in us eating the food we purchase and reaping the financial reward of avoiding eating out. Where I saw even larger savings came down to non-perishable items like laundry detergent and dish soap. For a standard 532ml bottle of dish soap at our local store, we pay an average of $2.99 a month. We began purchasing the 5L jug for $9.99 and realized that we were getting 9x the amount of soap which meant a total savings of $22.56 a year. Bulk buying other non-perishable items, like laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, cooking supplies, and hygiene products will continue to save you money down the road. If you want to take your eco-friendly journey to the next level, many websites offer directions on how to make homemade cleaning products that are less harmful to the environment and come at little to no cost.
Original Annual Soap Cost: $35.88
Bulk Annual Soap Cost: $13.32
Annual Savings: $22.56
Ultimately our “going-green” journey is and will be ongoing. Just like our budget, sticking to it can be tough. It’s important to remember that incorporating these small changes will not happen overnight. There are always slip-ups, but it’s clear that these choices are changing our planet — and our pockets — for the better.