By Nick English | Greatist
There are a lot of misconceptions about living an eco-friendly lifestyle, particularly the idea that it’s expensive, inconvenient, and requires a full head of dreadlocks. But in reality, it is easy being green—giving the planet a helping hand is just a matter of making one simple change at a time. And there's a big bonus: These small lifestyle changes can often save you money, too.
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Sure, organic foods and hybrid cars cost more than their conventional counterparts, but there are many cheaper ways to lower your waste output and reduce your carbon footprint (or the amount of greenhouse gas emissions—which are largely responsible for climate change—that occur as a result of your activities and purchases). In many ways, the environmental movement isn’t about adding things to one’s life; it’s about simplifying our actions, cutting out middlemen, thinking economically, and being more hands-on—and that usually means an extra change in your pocket! Put some (or all!) of these easy tips into practice to be friendlier to the planet and your wallet.
BE COOKING WISE
1. Use cloth napkins
Not only are they more durable (one cloth napkin will make it through a lot more BBQ sauce than a paper one!) but ditching disposable napkins will also save plenty of money over the years. It’ll also reduce your trash output, which means less energy is used to transporting and processing your waste. Using recyclable paper napkins is good for the planet, but it’s even better to not have anything to recycle in the first place. Plus, cloth napkins make dinner feel oh-so-fancy.
2. Cook from scratch
We all know that cooking at home saves a hell of a lot of cash, but it also uses fewer resources than dining out or by buying pre-made food. Although what you eat is usually more important than how it’s cooked, eating food that’s been processed in distant industrial kitchens, wrapped up in plastic and cardboard packaging, and trucked to your local supermarket eats up a lot of energy. Besides, no meal gets appreciated as much as the one you’ve made yourself, so get cooking! Need some help getting started? Check out thisroundup of healthy recipes.
3. Use a pressure cooker
This is a terrific way to save time, money, and energy all at the same time. Pressure cookers can take up to 70 percent less time (and less energy) to cook a meal, and they’re more versatile than one might think: They can make chili, pot roast, soup, whole chickens, cornbread—and even desserts!
4. Cook with residual heat
Turning off the oven five minutes before the meal is ready will allow the food to continue cooking while also saving some energy. It’s even easier with pasta: Once the pot’s been boiling for five minutes, cover the pot, switch off the stove, and let it sit for five more minutes. This will free up the stovetop and the pasta will be cooked perfectly al dente in less than 10 minutes.
5. Eat less meat
Meat isn’t cheap, and it’s not great for the environment, either. Seventy percent of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed to raise cows, and meat production results in more carbon emissions than any other protein. We’re not telling you to go completely vegan (unless that’s your bag), but learning to cook a few choice vegetarian meals will save money, add variety to your palate, and give the planet a helping hand.
6. Grow your own food
It’s nowhere near as complicated or time-consuming as it sounds, and it’ll eliminate the Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint of all those refrigerated trucks and planes importing berries from South America. Cherry tomatoes, salad greens, and green beans are the best foods to grow if saving money is the goal. For those of us who don’t have a garden, simply growing herbs on a windowsill can save hundreds in the long run.
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7. Start a compost pile
A compost heap will save money on fertilizers, maintain soil health, and keep all those food scraps from rotting in a dump and belching methane (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. It takes up to 18 years for a corn cob to decompose in a landfill, but only a couple of months in a compost pile. Plus, compost can be used to grow new food, making it the ultimate recycler—now that’s eco-friendly!
8. Ditch disposable bowls..
… and plates, and knives, and forks. While the temptation of having nothing to wash up after a meal is hard to resist, increasing the pile of garbage left after dinner is no way to help the planet. Following this advice is important for all the reasons it’s important to use cloth napkins over paper ones, and besides: the less you throw away, the less you spend.
9. End food waste
Forty percent of food in America gets thrown away—that means 40 percent of all the greenhouse gases released by agriculture, food transport, and food decomposing in landfills simply doesn’t have to exist. A lot of the waste takes place in supermarkets and restaurants, but you can help out and save money by only buying what you need (think two carrots instead of a bag), saving or freezing leftovers, and repurposing scraps. Check out this article for more easy tips!
Related Article: 10 Ways To Stop Household Food Waste
10. Become friends with your toaster oven
Toaster ovens are a lot cheaper and less wasteful than conventional ones. They’re also faster, requiring none of the “preheating” nonsense of those clunky, power-mad ovens. In fact, using smaller versions of traditional appliances is practically always cheaper, faster, and more environmentally friendly: A toaster beats a toaster oven (for toasting, at least) and using an electric kettle beat boiling water on a stovetop.
11. Microwave when possible
They use even less energy than toaster ovens (and way less than conventional ovens), plus you might be surprised by the range of meals (and desserts!) that can be made in a microwave.
BE WATER WISE
12. Opt for reusable water bottles
Here’s a secret a lot of people don’t seem to know: Tap water is drinkable. Keeping a nice, BPA-free water bottle in your bag is an insanely simple way to save the cost of a three-dollar bottle of water—the same cost of 700 gallons of water out of the tap at home. Bottled water is incredibly wasteful on so many levels: An estimated 80 percent of them don’t get recycled and, because of the plastic production process, it takes three times the amount of water in a water bottle to produce just one!
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