Greener, cleaner living is a combination of wasting, consuming and spending less — and you’ll start to see the results in your bank account almost immediately.
Have you been hoarding? Try a minimalistic mindset
Acquisitions cost money and that money could go toward healthier financial goals like retirement savings or debt reduction. Here are a few indications that you’re in an unhealthy accumulation mode.
Do you have stacks of books in every room? Are there pieces of clothing with the price tags still on in your bulging closet? When you go out to buy one thing — like a book on gardening — do you end up with three … none of which get returned? Have you bought the same thing twice, having forgotten the original purchase? Do you keep broken cooking appliances or ones that are missing pieces? Are you a big consumer of fast fashion? Do you generally find yourself making excuses to buy stuff?
Not only is hoarding bad for your wallet, it’s terrible for the environment. Every item you accumulate and don’t recycle requires production, shipping, packaging and eventually a trip to the landfill.
Greener living starts with far-reduced consumption of unnecessary things. It’s a minimalistic mindset where you are simply satisfied with having less. This attitude is also linked to stronger mental health — fewer possessions to care about, fewer unhealthy comparisons to others and often significantly less financial stress because of fewer debts.
You can get a head start on this mindset shift by recycling, donating or selling items that are no longer serving you. The temptation to shop right after you purge will be massive, but when it comes, my advice is to go back and do a second or even a third purge instead of hitting the digital checkout.
If you really need to buy something, tap into the second-hand market. It’s a great way to shave off costs and reuse what someone no longer needs. I just bought my son’s toddler bed second-hand for a third the price of what it would cost had it been new, and there’s hardly a scratch on the surface of the frame.
Make your home more energy-efficient
Nudge your thermostat down in the winter, and create a cross breeze of air in the summer instead of pumping the AC all the time. Unplug devices that aren’t being used. Seal doors and windows. Turn off your lights. Don’t waste water (literally cutting your shower back by a minute can make a big difference). Keep your furnace and water heater maintained. Only run your washer and dryer when they’re full. Swap inefficient faucets with water-saving ones. Choose low-energy light bulbs. These ideas will lower your utility bills.
Do you have two cars when you really only use one?
Cars mean freedom to a lot of people, especially after what we’ve experienced the past 14 months. But, could you get by with one, or even none? If you choose to keep one, ensure it’s well maintained and that you are strategic about mapping out your routes, which means less idle time. If you go carless and walk, bike, run or take public transportation instead, you’ll still get where you need to go for a fraction of the emissions and price.
You might be tempted to trade in your current vehicle for a shiny new Tesla or other electric vehicle, but for most households, this is still out of reach financially. I’d focus on saving up for a few more years and then revisit the idea when you’re in a stronger financial position. You can still do your part for the environment with the above ideas … and remember, cars are not assets.
Stop wasting food
Over $ 1,100 of food gets thrown out by the average Canadian family in a year. This is really bad for the environment and hard on your wallet. Start all grocery shopping with a shopping list in hand. This list should be based on the meals you are planning to make in a given month. Without a list and a game plan for the food, you will inevitably end up with waste. This also applies to meal kits and boxes; be clear about which nights you’re going to use them. Err on the side of buying for the week ahead — or just one day at a time — and not further in the future.
Supercharge your food consciousness with purchases that use less plastic wrapping and can be stored in glass containers instead of plastic ones. I also recommend buying some items in bulk. You could also have some fun in your garden (or a rented plot) this summer and grow your own vegetables.
Ditch single use plastics and paper products
Anything that is single-use, very low quality, and throwaway is typically bad for the environment and costs money. Take a look at what you currently dispose of. Can you reuse it? Could you use a longer-lasting container? Could your paper towels be replaced by cloths? If you have to use a disposable product, make a conscious effort to use less, even when you need it.
With these changes, you’re bound to feel great about having more money and knowing that you’re making a positive difference on the environment. My best tip for your new-found savings is to clear off any consumer debts.