Everyone is aware of the human impact on the environment and climate change. We all and wants to make a difference, but everything ‘green’ seems like it will cost us more financially. But, there are cheap ways to be eco-friendly, and go green on a budget.
The thought of spending £50k+ on a new electric car, or purchasing hugely expensive solar panels and storage batteries, is a scary and unrealistic proposal for most. But if we all make little adjustments throughout our home and lifestyle, we can make a huge difference, a person at a time, and maybe save money in the process. Here’s some tips on cheap ways to be eco-friendly.
Ditch Bottled Water
In 2021, in the UK alone, we spent £1.6 billion on bottled water. Globally, it’s estimated that one million plastic bottles are manufactured every MINUTE , 91% of which are not recycled. With massive amounts of single use plastics, and also the manufacturing and shipping nationwide that comes with that purchase, it’s a huge environmental impact that we all could eradicate from our lives and save money by doing so.
Single use PET plastics can take 400 years to decompose, and many find their way into the oceans harming and killing fish and bird species. From there, they eventually make their way into our food chain.
Many of us try and do the right thing by recycling plastic bottles, and companies like Teamseas are doing an amazing job of helping remove plastic from the oceans. But, a more important aspect to the plastic issue is removing the single use plastic bottles at source, by not using them.
The best way to combat this is to purchase a multiple use bottle. There are many types out there; aluminium and BPA free plastics being the best and easiest to find. Many people say they don’t like the taste of tap water compared to bottled, but tap water is a highly regulated product in the UK, filtered and cleaner than many bottled waters (some manufacturers just filter tap water themselves anyway).
But if you can’t get past the taste, a bottle I personally recommend is the Brita filtered bottle. It removes chlorine and other taste impairing substances with active natural carbon from coconut shells, while still leaving important trace nutrients like Calcium and Magnesium.
A water bottle is a great idea if you are looking for cheap ways to be eco-friendly. The initial, minimal cost is easily recovered when you don’t purchase bottled water, and you can feel proud of your environmental impact reduction with every refill.
Download the Refill App
The Refill app is available both for Android and Apple iPhones. The app offers you locations to fill your reusable water bottle for free, from locations including Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Pret and Morrisons supermarkets to name a few. This app has already saved the use of 100 million single use bottles!
It also shows locations where you can get discounts on coffee by bringing your own container, locations that allow you to use your own lunch boxes, as well as local water fountains if you need a quick drink on the go. Let’s cut the plastic pollution at its source today.
Use Ecosia as your Internet Browser
What is Ecosia? Ecosia is a search engine, similar to Google. But, unlike Google, this one has a positive impact on the environment with every search. Ecosia will plant trees based on the number of searches you make, and doesn’t sell your info in the process (its even open about its financials). As to date, it’s planted nearly 160 million trees. So, why not add to that tally and do your bit for the planet for free? Check out Ecosia.org.
Go Old-Skool with a Trip to the Library
Though it seems to have dropped out of favour in recent decades, the library is still a great source of books and magazines. This saves you money on purchasing single-read novels and provides a service that would make society a worse place if it was lost to history.
It is a great source of books for children too, saving on not just expense but also space as they keep moving through reading stages. For those who prefer their books digital or audio, libraries offer those too, along with eMagazines.
On the subject of ‘old-skool’, another service lost to time is the good, old-fashioned milkman. Yet, this is a service that’s still available. A quick search for ‘milkman near me’ will bring up results for your area. This brings milk and other products to your door, still using the same recyclable glass bottles we remember in the process. That’s another piece of plastic saved, and possibly a trip to the supermarket too.
Turn Things Off
We all have a habit of leaving things on when we aren’t in the room. Whether it’s lights or the TV, getting into a habit of switching them off will save you money and help the environment also. Imagine how much less power would be needed if we didn’t waste electricity, and with the price of energy bills rising, there’s some savings in it for you as well.
It isn’t just the appliances being used that’s the issue. We are all guilty of leaving things plugged in: toasters, phones, tablets, laptops, they all still consume small amounts of electricity when plugged in, even when they are switched off! That can add up for you personally, but also has massive drains on the environment when scaled up to whole countries.
A quick switch off at the wall is an easy habit to get into. It saves pennies, but also saves wear and tear on the chargers themselves, extending their lives and the impact of manufacturing a replacement. Don’t forget the stand-by feature either. It may be small amounts consumed, but it costs nothing to switch off at the wall. If everyone did it, the results would be worthwhile.
A final point on electronics… did you know that charging your phone in Airplane mode will charge it quicker? It saves you money, and the planet too, as it won’t be using power to connect to the phone tower or update background apps like Facebook or Instagram. In the words of a certain supermarket chain, Every Little Helps.
Reduce your Digital Carbon Footprint
Every time you stream a service, like watching a YouTube video for example, the providers’ servers and routers consume energy. The alternative is to download the service when it is an option, as this is less energy intensive. Another option is to listen to music as an audio file rather than streaming a song, again on YouTube. Even lowering the resolution has a positive environmental impact.
Emptying your e-mail folders regularly also has an impact on the environment, as those e-mails are stored on servers and consuming power. The same thing applies with the cloud. Using it less will save storage power from being consumed.
Save Energy on Laundry
When it comes to laundry, there are many cheap ways to be eco-friendly. Waiting until the machine has a full load means it will be on less often. This will have a huge environmental and money saving impact on your life. We have all been guilty of washing a few items because we need them urgently, but by avoiding that habit we will save using the power hungry machine. It also means less wear and tear on a machine that is known to be one of the least reliable appliances in the home.
Reduce the temperatures of the washing machine where possible helps too, and many washing powers or tablets are now designed for the lower temperatures.
Avoiding using a tumble dryer and air drying instead is a brilliant way to save money and electricity. A good spin cycle on the washing machine will reduce drying time and make air drying shorter.
Old-fashioned clothes horses have moved on. Modern clothes airers do a great job of drying indoors when its too wet to hang outside, and there’s even small drying racks for underwear and socks.
One ingenious person came up with the idea of using a small, plastic greenhouse to dry clothing in their garden on the wet days!
Invest in Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries seem expensive when you first purchase them, but the money and environmental benefits are great. If used properly, they can be recharged hundreds, if not thousands of times. This saves you money on battery usage, but also helps the environment by reducing manufacturing environmental costs, and by reducing the impact of disposal of the single use batteries. These are products full of dangerous chemicals that have an impact if not disposed of carefully.
The Verdict on Cheap Ways to be Eco-Friendly
Being eco-friendly, reducing energy consumption, and saving money go hand in hand. Most of the ideas on this article come down to a few simple changes.
- Firstly, an initial cost outlay of a few pounds on a re-usable product that will stop you from relying on single use products or extra electricity.
- Secondly, looking at ideas from the past, such as the library service or drying products naturally, over technological innovations that consume power or materials.
- Thirdly, getting into the habits and routines of switching off, or being economical and smarter with appliance usage.
- Finally, making the most of ideas like Ecosia and the Refill app to get the best of technology in its greenest form.