I bet you’ve read dozens of articles telling you to switch to low energy light bulbs and to insulate your cavity walls if you want to save energy and be green. I know I have. And that’s all very well if you own your own home and have the money available to buy those CFL light bulbs. But what if you don’t? Are you doomed to live a life of excess and waste just because you can’t afford to go green? I think not. There are plenty of things that you can do that will curb your carbon emissions and save yourself some money to boot.
Grow your own. This isn’t a short term solution to going green, but it’s a good way to cut your food bill and your food miles in one foul swoop. There’s no need to even go out and buy seeds. Save seeds from the fruit that you eat and look out for seeds and seedling being given away on Freecycle. If you don’t have a garden, you can grow herbs and salad leaves on your windowsill. The cut and come again varieties of salad and stir-fry leaves are especially economical. Or get really inventive with a vertical garden on a balcony or outside wall. (see photograph of vertical garden by Nicolas Boullosa) Work with what you have.
If you’re in the habit of eating ready-meals, you’re most likely paying over the odds per meal. If you cook from scratch in large batches and freeze meal-size portions you will be saving money, eating healthier food and reducing the amount of packaging that you throw away.
Take home-made packed lunches to work. You’ll save lots and if you pack your lunch in a reusable container you’ll be saving resources and reducing waste too.
Green cleaning products are expensive. Next time you have to buy a cleaning spray, creams or bleach, instead buy yourself some cheap distilled vinegar, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and soda crystals and you’ll be able to tackle any cleaning task. You will be spending less, and reducing your exposure to nasty chemicals by changing your cleaning products to the good old-fashioned stuff.
And by the way, you can also use bicarbonate of soda as a very effective and cheap deodorant.
Composting your food waste only applies if you have a garden, but it doesn’t have to be a big garden. You don’t even need a compost bin to compost. You could just dig a hole and fill it up with your compostables, then cover it over with soil and dig another hole. You’re not just reducing the waste that you throw away, but making yourself some lovely compost for growing your own food.
4. Save Energy
Switch off lights when you leave the room, and switch off appliances/chargers when they’re not in use.
Turn down your heating thermostat by one degree and put on a jumper.
Close your curtains as dusk to keep the heat in.
5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Do you really need it? Could you do without it? It’s worth asking yourself this question every time you consider buying something. If you can’t do without it, could you buy or acquire it second-hand? Be inspired by the compacters who buy nothing new except food, medicine and toiletries.
Lean on Freecycle. Why not? I’ve been a member of my local Freecycle group for a number of years now and have given away and received lots of great things. Some things that I received via Freecycle a few years ago and I used until I no longer needed them (like baby things), have gone on to be Freecycled again.
Reuse plastic bags as rubbish bags, or take them back to the shop and use them to carry your groceries home again. If you’re creative and can knit or crochet, make a reusable bag out of your plastic bags and use them for years.
Cycling is a very economical way to get around, no bus or train fares, no fuel to buy and no need to pay for parking. If you don’t have a bicycle, try Freecycle. You can either keep an eye out for one that someone wants to give away, or you can post a “wanted” ad and perhaps jog someone’s memory about the bicycle in their garage that they haven’t used in years and would be happy to give to you. Cycling is good for the environment (no carbon emissions and no pollution) and good for you too, and it’s cheaper than going to a gym.
7. Join the Green Gym
Plenty of urbanites don’t get enough exercise from their sedentary lifestyles and so resort to gym to keep fit and toned up. Here’s an alternative that’s free and will make good use of your time. The BCTV’s Green Gym sessions happen once a week in local areas and last up to three hours. After some basic warm-up exercises you get involved in doing environmental conservation or gardening activities with a trained leader. You could be planting a new hedge, cutting back an overgrown path, or helping to build a community garden. Find out when your nearest Green Gym is.
So you see, you don’t need to be able to afford (or want) to spend money on insulation, light bulbs and organic food to start living the green life, and hopefully once you get started being frugally green you’ll come up with lots more ideas to save the planet on a tight budget. If you’d like to share your ideas, please leave a comment.