What’s better than saving the earth and saving money? Doing both at the same time. April 22 is Earth Day, but developing sustainable habits can serve you year round.
Curious about how your consumption habits stack up? Calculate your carbon footprint. The Nature Conservancy reports that the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, compared to the global average, which is 4 tons. That really puts things into perspective!
There is a common misconception that sustainability is expensive. Sure, purchasing new things with recycled or sustainably sourced materials can cost more. But really, the most sustainable thing you can do is to use things that you already have and to buy less.
Here, we are sharing some tips to save money and improve your sustainability at the same time, so you can do more for the planet and your wallet.
Reduce car usage
Depending on the infrastructure in your area, it can be hard to remove or even reduce dependability on cars. But, by carpooling or taking fewer and shorter trips via car, you can save money on gas and maintenance while reducing your environmental impact. If you can consolidate trips in your car, such as choosing to run multiple errands near one another rather than taking multiple trips in different directions, that’s an easy way to start.
And, look into taking more self-powered trips (walking, wheelchair, biking) or using public transportation. If you can shop with businesses or recreation options that are closer to home, you may be able to skip a trip in your car. If you’re looking to take a road trip, see if you can take a train to a destination where you can get around without a car.
Cut back on shopping
The demand for consumer goods means demand for items created from raw materials, then local and global shipping to get those goods to you. Let’s look at the resources involved to create a cotton t-shirt. It takes 650 gallons of water and the total distance travelled for all of the materials and final product can come in at 39,000 miles! Are you sure you don’t already have something you can wear?
When shopping in-store, it’s easy to think, “well, the item is already here, so it doesn’t make an impact if I buy it.” But, when multiplying your demand by the number of people who shop in the same store in a given year, the demand accumulates!
Shopping online has a bigger environmental impact due to the logistics and fuel resources needed to get you your item from the warehouse.
When you do need to shop, you can automate your savings with Milli. With a Spending Round-Up, Milli will automatically round up your purchases made with the Milli debit card to the nearest dollar and move that amount to your savings. It’s a small and easy way to balance out consumption and savings!
Cutting back on buying new things in general is huge. The next two points are ways you can feasibly do so!
Join a Buy Nothing group
The Buy Nothing Project encourages people to give and share unneeded items within their local community. The goal is to give items a second chance to be used rather than thrown away prematurely, all at no cost. A common way to participate is to join a Facebook group for your local area, or use the Buy Nothing app.
The items given in your group will vary, but plenty of people give away high quality items that they simply don’t need. Furniture, baby items, clothing, books; you name it, you can find it in a Buy Nothing group. It’s a great resource to give away items that you no longer need and know the item won’t end up in a landfill.
Making use of something that exists and turning it into something new is called upcycling. A common way to upcucle is turning textiles into other things, such as turning a tablecloth into curtains or a dress into a skirt. You may use an existing canvas from a piece of art that’s no longer your style and paint something new on top of it. Or, a piece of furniture gets a new life repurposed in another room, thanks to a fresh coat of paint.
Upcycling takes the raw materials that are in good shape and uses them in a new way that suits your needs better. Plus, if you enjoy getting crafty or creative, this can be a great free or low cost hobby!
Grow a garden
Growing food is a super sustainable and eco-friendly activity in multiple ways. By growing your own food, you’ll reduce dependence on fuel needed to transport both you and the food to the grocery store. You can also reduce the packaging required, like the plastic bags in the produce section of the supermarket. Plus, growing the plants absorbs carbon dioxide and creates more oxygen, improving air quality.
The feasibility of having a garden depends on how much outdoor space you have. If you’re working from an apartment patio, it may be hard to grow anything other than herbs and small plants like peppers. If you have a backyard, you have a lot more room to work with. Add some pollinator-friendly plants to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that can help support pollination for better yields.
You don’t have to suddenly grow all of your own food to make an impact. If you can plant even a few fruit trees, you can grow lots of produce over time. Plus, plants from your own garden make a meaningful gift, and save you time and money shopping for something else!
If you want to make your garden even more sustainable, use leftover seeds from produce that you’ve already purchased. If you need to purchase gardening containers, opt for secondhand or recycled materials when possible.
Sustainability and saving money may feel like sacrifice – but you’re not destined to live a life of austerity, never purchasing a new pair of shoes or going on vacation again. Reframe your perspective and challenge yourself to get creative with ways to be sustainable and make use of what’s already available. If everyone makes a few small sustainable swaps, it adds up!
Want to see the impact of the purchases you’re skipping and get some extra motivation? In Milli, create a dedicated Jar for some fun purchase you want to make in the future. Every time you skip buying something because you found a sustainable alternative, transfer funds equivalent to the cost of what you would have purchased. Did you put back the ground beef and grab a bag of lentils instead? $4 goes in the Jar. Did you borrow a book from the library instead of buying new? $15 in the Jar. Watch how it adds up over time. You may find a new sense of gratification that encourages you to keep going!
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