7 tips for going green without spending any money at all

by EcoStreet on February 5, 2008

in Sustainable Lifestyle

vertical-garden.jpgI 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.

1. Food

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.

2. Cleaning
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.

3. Compost
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.

6. Transport
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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

czecho February 6, 2008 at 4:10 am

Great post, some wonderful ideas here, I love the Vertical Garden and the Green Gym idea…


Yvonne Trchalik February 6, 2008 at 11:40 am

Thanks for giving the BTCV Green Gym a plug on your website! I work as BTCV’s Green Gym Development Manager, and am reponsible for developing the scheme in England. Please note that it is BTCV (previously the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) and not BCTV. Many thanks!


Will February 6, 2008 at 12:44 pm

You can see all your local Freecycle groups at finder.overcycle.com


Wayne February 6, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Excellent article – quite like the idea of the green gym, and am going home to dig holes now 😉


Julie, writer surefirewealth.com February 8, 2008 at 8:56 am

I’m a huge fan of potatoes and tomatoes. I know they rhyme but that wasn’t deliberate. Anyway, another good thing about growing your own food is that you can make money out of it. You won’t be necessarily selling fruits but you can bake stuff made from what you grow. Besides, the crops should taste better since you won’t be spraying all sorts of chemicals on them.


Hayley Jones February 8, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Great post. Check out our Bronze Energy Saving Calculator which are all free ways of saving energy and water – http://www.uk-energy-saving.com/energy_saving_calculator.html


Annabelle February 19, 2008 at 4:26 am

As for myself, there are some great reusable bags from the clever folks at winebags.com. They have a BYOTote and a NEOBag tufftote carrier that can be used exclusively for wine bottles or any other breakable 1 liter bottle and it has a 1 year guarantee, so I’d say that’s pretty reusable. I do not condone or condemn paper or plastic for not being eco friendly, as much as the one-time throw it away mentality. I really think ANY bag from your home will do for quick trip to the market. But, when it comes to my wine, it’s nice to be able to throw my wine bag on the backseat of my car, knowing it won’t be rolling around. Here’s their web site for more details on their reusable wine bags: Wine Bags or email them at [email protected].


Ted at Apple Trees December 3, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Hello, I’m starting up a site and I’ve started creating rather diverse articles for it. Do you mind if I write about this blog? Of course I will give you and this post full credit.


Norman Elliott December 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Some great ideas. I like the composting one especially. These days we know interest rates are low and many hunt around for tiny increases. How about saving money and being greener with shampoo and shower gel – well anything which comes in a bottle which you can stand upside down when it’s nearly empty? I figure you can get as much as 5% extra out of the bottle which means less waste and more saving.


Norman Elliott September 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I read, some time ago now, about an Indian chemistry professor who had invented an incredible system for recycling almost all types of plastic, turning them into a petrol substitute. The plastic did not even need to be uncontaminated before it went into the machine and any type could be mixed with any other. Anyone heard any more about this? Has the patent been bought up by an oil company and ‘buried’ or is there some other reason why it isn’t being adopted globally?


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