Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day call to action: 10 ways to go green and save $$

In honor of Earth Day 2014, we present this guest blog by Diane MacEachern, author of  Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World
Want to go green but think it’s too expensive? Think again. You can actually SAVE over $100 every month by choosing products and services that protect the planet. Here's how:

Buy reusables. Compare a sponge to a roll of paper towels. One sponge may cost as little as $.99. A roll of paper towels runs around $1.99. But one sponge lasts as long as SEVENTEEN ROLLS of paper towels. You could save as much as $33 in paper towels before you have to throw the sponge away. (Meanwhile, keep sponges fresh by washing in the dishwasher with the dishes; microwave on high heat for 30 seconds to kill germs.)
  2. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs. The CFLs may cost $2-4 more than the incandescent bulb you're used to. But the CFL uses 66% less energy and lasts ten times as long. So over the course of the lifetime of the bulb, you can save as much as $30-$50 on electricity. Plus, think of all the time you're saving changing light bulbs. LEDs are slightly more expensive than CFLs but last even longer. (NOTE: Choose ENERGY STAR-rated bulbs and don't turn them on and off frequently to make them last longest.) 

Forget bottled water. When you buy bottled water, you're buying a plastic bottle, a label, the energy to transport the bottle to your store, a bottle cap, and the water inside the bottle — which, almost half the time is actually tap water! And even though water is very cheap when it flows out of your tap, it can cost as much as 10,000 times more when it’s served in a bottle. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up at your own tap. If you’re worried about water quality, use the money you save on bottled water to buy a filter for your faucet.
  4. Save gas. This sounds like a "no brainer," but you'd be surprised how many people waste gas — and money. Pump up your car tires to improve fuel efficiency by 3.3%. Use cruise control for as much as a 14% fuel efficiency gain. Go to Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas in your driving range. Carpool to share driving costs with others. Consider these other tips
  5. Buy in bulk. You pay nearly twice the price for the same weight when you buy small, individually wrapped servings of a product rather than the bulk size. Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, shampoo, soap, conditioner, snacks, soft drinks, and many other items offer a bulk or ‘economy’ size. Even buying a half-gallon container of juice is cheaper than buying individual juice boxes.
  6. Plug into a power strip. 40 percent of the energy used to power consumer electronics is devoured when the devices are turned off. That’s nearly 5 percent of the total electricity American homes consume. A power strip lets you plug several appliances or lots of office equipment into one larger outlet that you can turn off with minimal hassle, automatically cutting power to all devices that are plugged into it.
  7. Take a tax credit. New fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles save gas and earn you tax credits, too. The amount, as determined by the IRS, ranges from $250 to $3150.
  8. Use Craig’s List or Freecycle. Before you pay full price for furniture, appliances, sporting equipment, lawn and garden tools, etc., go “shopping” online — at clearinghouses that help you acquire the goods you need at no or low cost. In the same vein, get books from libraries or swap bought books with friends. Trade in your gently worn clothes at thrift stores, and pocket the savings or apply to the purchase of something equally thrifty.
  9. Donate. Giving your used clothing and household goods to the Salvation Army, your local church, or a local charity for veterans lightens the load at the landfill and earns you a tax write-off for your charitable donations.
  10. Choose quality over quantity. Simplify your needs overall. Then, buy clothes, jewelry, toys, tools, furniture and other commodities that are made to last. You may spend a few more dollars up front but save money in the long run when you don't need to replace items that break or wear out quickly.
You can find more "green purse/wallet" ideas from Diane MacEachern on her website. Her book is one of several ecologically minded tomes in the current Daedalus books forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." It's a special section of our website on which we've curated books and features that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate "homesteading" (growing, making, and preserving your own victuals!).
What's your favorite "green wallet" strategy?


  1. Great tips! I'm def going to try using Gas Buddy the next time I need gas.

  2. Thanks for all the great tips today, I was able to check out Freecycle on my break, super cool!!!

    1. I think Freecyle would be the bomb if you had the time (and gas) to whiz around town checking stuff out.

  3. These are all great ideas! I have scored some awesome things off of Craigslist free section. Especially great if you are moving & need cardboard boxes, folks are always trying to get rid of their extras.

    As for bulk items, it doesn't always save you any money, but it does help out the earth a little bit by purchasing from bulk bins in stores. Especially if you bring reusable containers, it can reduce a lot of packaging waste. I always try to buy grains, nuts, & granola this way. Also, my favorite market let's me refill my Dr. Brommer's soap containers. Most places will give you a credit for bringing back containers, so you may save a few cents.

    If you ever use the Method line of products, they provide refill bags for their dish & hand soaps, that cost about the price of 2, but refill about 3 or more times.

  4. Thank You for this! Lots of good ideas to put into use right away.

  5. I'm so glad this was useful for everyone! Please come visit me at www.biggreenpurse.com for even more ideas. And let me know what works for you!