January 14, 2010

Go Green, Save Money

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of frugal living. But I also try to keep my carbon footprint as small as possible. I’m a huge advocate of living an earth-friendly lifestyle and try to conserve as much as possible.

However, it seems that whenever I mention the idea of a green lifestyle to people I meet, they often act surprised. They assume that living frugally and being green is an impossible task. The truth is, being green can actually help your frugal lifestyle. It can save you money in a lot of areas you might often overlook.

Being green does not mean you have to go out and buy all the green friendly gadgets you can find. It’s more about consuming less in your every day life. However, I do recommend a lot of green friendly products to people because they are better for the environment and our purchases help support the companies that make them. That way they can continue to produce more of their products and compete with the non-green alternatives.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the ways you can go green and save money at the same time:

Save Water

Take Quick (And Cool) Showers

This is an easy one. Try taking quicker showers and using cooler water than you normally do. This will not only save you money on your water bill, but it also requires less energy to heat the water up. Trust me you’ll get used to it a lot faster than you think.

Wash Clothes With Cold Water

I’ve never been much of a laundry expert, but I have noticed that washing all my clothes is cold water has not had any side effects. Again, this helps save energy by using less to heat up the water.

Use Less Water In Your Toilet

A quick and easy way to save money on water is to place a liter bottle filled with water in the tank of your toilet. I’ve read that it can save up to 300 gallons of a water a month.

Turn Off The Water When You Brush Your Teeth

This is something I’ve always struggled with but once you get in the habit you’ll never have to worry about it again. This also helps save money on water costs and actually saves more than you would think.

Triple Check Faucets For Leaks

Believe it or not, a dripping faucet can use A LOT more water than you would believe. Make sure that none of the faucets in your house drip consistently when the water is turned off.

Save Energy

Walk Or Bike Instead Of Drive

Whenever possible, try to walk or bike where you need to go. The less you use your vehicle, the less gas you waste and the more money you get to keep in your pocket. If you do have to use you vehicle, try combining errands into one trip instead of driving to the store multiple times.

Work From Home (If Possible)

This is another way to reduce your gas costs since you no longer need to commute to work. Some may argue that you’re using more electricity since your at home but I beg to differ. Most office buildings run lights all day long even when it’s light out. I would assume this is because most cubicles don’t have the best window views.

When you work from home, you can utilize the sun to light up your home office and use far less electricity. However, this is not possible for everyone but it never hurts to ask your boss. Even if you can telecommute one day a week, it cuts your gas consumption by 20% for the year.

Turn Off The Lights

As a kid I was constantly told to turn the light off whenever I left a room. It’s a tough habit to break but it’s a costly one to keep. Never leave a light on in a room you’re not in. This will cut down on your energy bill and help you be green at the same time.

If you find it necessary to leave a light on when your not at home, invest in a small LED lamp or nightlight that doesn’t use much electricity.

Heat Or Cool Your House Only When Necessary

A big factor in energy usage is how often you use your heater or air conditioner. Try your best to only use them when you find it necessary. Make use of space heaters and fans that use far less energy and you’ll immediately notice a difference on your next electricity bill.

Buy/Rent A Smaller Home

This one goes right along with the last tip I shared. Buy living in a smaller home or apartment, you can heat or cool it for far less than a larger one. Plus you’ll need to buy less stuff to fill all of the empty space you have.

Use A Laptop Instead Of A Desktop

It’s true that the majority of desktop computers use far more electricity than laptops. So the next time you are shopping for a computer, think about purchasing a laptop even if you only plan on using it at home.

Unplug Appliances You’re Not Using

Some appliances use electricity, even when they are turned off. So get in the habit of unplugging them when you are not using them and you’ll also help cut down your overall energy costs.

Eat Smarter

Buy Locally Grown Foods

I love buying locally grown foods as much as possible. Why? Two reasons. First off, buying locally is much more environmentally friendly. The foods don’t have to be transported across the country which cuts down on the waste of gas and fuel. They are also much fresher since they make a shorter journey to get to your house.

The second reason why I really like buying locally is because I like to support local farmers. It’s a great way to give your money back to the community you live in.

Buy Food In Bulk

Buying food in bulk is a great way to reduce waste as well as keep some money in your wallet. Start by taking a look at what foods you eat often and then find out where you can get them in bulk.

A good example of a food to buy in bulk is brown rice, which I eat everyday. Many health food stores and Asian markets sell large bags of rice that are far cheaper per serving than the small packages you find at most grocery stores.

Eat Lots Of Fresh Food

Another great way to cut down on waste is to eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Most of these foods come without packages as you usually bag them yourself. Try your best to avoid the foods that come in a lot of packaging. Plus you’ll find that fresh food is actually cheaper than the packaged stuff and much healthier.

Eat Less Meat (The Bad Kind)

This is a tough step that a lot of people might not want to do. I’ve always been a big fan of meat but I have drastically cut down over the years. I’ve finally made it to the point where I only eat a small amount of chicken and fish every week.

Eating less meat is a great way to go green because the meat industry is terrible for the environment. It requires far more resources to product meat than grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Update: As mentioned in my comment below, I’ve actually been eating more meat lately. The key is to find clean meats such as grass-fed beef, since they are free of the harmful additives. Plus the animals are raised the way they are meant to be.

Go Paperless

Sign Up For Paperless Billing

This was a huge step for me and I’ve been much happier ever since. I signed up for paperless billing on every account I have and no longer get anything in the mail (besides junk). Not only does it drastically cut down on paper, but it can also save you money. Many companies will charge less service fees if you opt out of paper billing. It’s a win for everyone!

Ditch The Paper Towel

I must admit, I used to be a paper towel fanatic. I would use it for everything, whether it was a simple spill, cleaning the house, or blowing my nose. Sadly it’s a huge waste of paper and also costs a lot of money if you use it often.

So instead, set up a cloth towel system in your house. Cut up a bunch of old rags or purchase a few from a store. Then keep a separate clean and dirty container somewhere that’s easy to get to. Whenever you need to use a towel, grab one out of the clean container. When you finished, throw it in the dirty one and you’re all done. Then all you have to do is throw the dirty ones in with your laundry.

You no longer have to go out and buy paper towel every time you run out, which means more money in your pocket.

Use Cloth Dinner Napkins

The idea I mentioned above also works for dinner napkins. Purchase a set of cloth ones and you’ll never have to worry about running out of napkins again. It’s a really easy transition and something I highly recommend doing.

Use Recycled Toilet Paper (And Less Of It)

Believe it or not, I have read a few blog posts from people that have actually implemented cloth toilet paper, but I’m not even going to go there. That’s one thing I haven’t been able to get myself to do yet.

Luckily, there are a few companies out their that make recycled toilet paper. It does cost more than the regular stuff, but I feel that purchasing it is a great way to support the company. Who knows, if enough people buy it maybe we can get the prices to come down.

A good brand to check out is Seventh Generation, which you can find at health food stores as well as some regular grocery stores.

Print Less

This is another area I used to struggle at. I would constantly print everything I received so I could have it in paper form. Once I finished with it, I would chuck it in the garbage and be done with it. What a waste of paper.

I have since ditched the printer completely and now do everything electronically. If someone needs something from me, I’ll scan it in and email it over to them or use some fax software. It’s amazing how much money I’ve saved on ink cartridges and paper.

Miscellaneous Tips

Borrow Instead Of Buy

This is another easy thing to implement into your life. Whenever you feel the need to go out and buy something, see if you can borrow it instead. This works great for things you’re only going to use a few times.

A great example are books. Instead of rushing out and buying a copy of a book you want, hit up the local library. They’ve got tons of books to keep you content for the rest of your life.

Buy Used

If you need something that you can’t borrow, try purchasing it used. It’s amazing what people have for sale on Craigslist and other classified ad websites. Not only will you help reduce waste, but you’ll also save a lot of money.

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

Not only are many household cleaners bad for the environment (and yourself), but they also come in tons of packaging. Not to mention they’re pretty expensive.

Instead, make your own cleaning supplies. It’s amazing what a little vinegar and water will do to clean up your house. All it takes is a spray bottle, a jug of vinegar, and some tap water. Talk about a cheap and healthy alternative.

Use Magic Soap

For things that require more than water and vinegar, check out Dr. Bronner’s All-In-One Magic soap. The stuff is completely natural, comes in a recycled bottle, and lasts forever.

Not only do I use it as shampoo, body wash, and face wash, but I also use it as toothpaste. And no I’m not kidding about brushing my teeth with it. You’ll no longer have to go out and buy a bunch of different soap. Plus you will drastically cut down on waste (packaging) and will save a ton of money.

I plan on doing a separate post about this soap because it truly is amazing. It’s the MacGyver of soaps.

Do You Want Paper Or Plastic?

My guess is you’ve been asked that question a few times this week. However, the best answer to the question is neither. Instead, use a backpack or a canvas bag that you can pick up at most stores these days.

Imagine how many bags (and plastic) we would save if everyone reused the same one every time?

Get Started Today

By no means do I expect anyone to be able to do everything I’ve listed above. It took me over a year to actually implement everything. It’s important to just get started in the right direction. Try implementing a few green habits and products into your life and you’ll start making a difference.

Have any other green tips? Please feel free to share them below.

Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

27 thoughts on “Go Green, Save Money

  1. Jenn

    Awesome tips! Another good one is to stop using the dryer and instead hang your clothes out to dry. If you live in an apartment you can always buy drying racks to use. They fold up and hardly take up any room when not in use. And not only does it save electricity, it also prolongs the life of your clothes. Win Win

  2. The Real Josh

    What a well collected list that covers a broad area of increased efficiency. Living green is an easy thing to do and when people associate efficiency (code for green) as a way to save money thats when things will really catch.

  3. Bayla

    Use family cloth instead of toilet paper! Just like you use cloth towels in the kitchen, you can also use it on yourself. They make really nice soft options that you can use wet or dry.

    Use cloth diapers!

  4. The Lost Goat

    If you’re not ready to give up red meat, one way to buy eco-friendly beef is to purchase it from your local farmer (I also recommend goat, if you can get it – delicious, eco-friendly, and the caloric content of chicken). Many farms nowadays will let you buy shares of a beef, meaning that you pay less than you would for comparable beef at Whole Foods (or equivalent), but don’t need to find a place for an entire cow worth of beef in your freezer. LocalHarvest.org and EatWild.com are great resources for finding all kinds of local products (meat, veggies, eggs, sometimes even fish and dairy) available in your area.

  5. Dan


    You state “the meat industry is terrible for the environment. It requires far more resources to product meat than grains, fruits, and vegetables”

    Just curious how you came to this conclusion

    1. Justin Wright Post author

      This was based on a few studies, one of them being here:


      I think the real problem is the way typical meat is produced. The key is to be able to find quality produced meat, especially grass-fed beef. I’ve actually been eating more meat lately as I’ve a big fan of Mark’s diet, which focuses on natural and clean meats instead of the standard ones you find in a lot of large supermarkets:


      Hope that clears it up.

  6. Pingback: Voluntary Simplicity Lifestyle

  7. permatill

    It’s a great article and some of these things are common knowledge and we’ve been taught since we were young. For those that are not doing it, shame on you! I agree that being healthy expands your “shelf life”. However, it is not cheap. It cost almost twice as much to eat healthy than not. Go to the grocery store and look at the price of a not-so-healthy microwave dinner versus one that is healthier. The healthier one is almost twice as much.

    In addition to that, as Americans, we are lazy and look for the quickest ways to get things done. Fast food is just so convenient. You are in and out within minutes and didn’t have to spend time shopping and cooking and using up electricity.

    If you think about it, the time that you save and the electricity that you save will add up and if you are frugal, that money can be part of your nest egg.

  8. green jewelry

    this is very good as you are supporting eco friendly websites and products…yes, these products are saving the planet and making you look good while doing it! we all need to promote it. it will not harm environment and healthy for peoples…i am supporting you …continue post about green world…

  9. Jessica Nash

    Great article. To add to your list of go-green money-saving tips, I would say to practive DIY as much as possible. To tie into the buy used tip, many things found at thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets can be transformed into beautiful additions to your home or wardrobe with a little creativity. For instance, many clothes found at the thrift store can be altered with a sewing machiene into something beautiful and fashionable. Furniture is another great example. Old beat-up dressers and endtables can be transformed into eye-catching centerpieces with decorative painting techniques like sponging or collaged with decorative papers. I also would add resourcefulness to the list. Using what you have already to create something new saves a lot of money. A lot of leftover food goes to waste in this country. Planning meals around what you already have saves a lot of money. Also, many things we typically discard can be reimagined into useful objects in the home. Large cardboard boxes can be cut with an exacto knife then used as sturdy mats for making arts and crafts. Really, the possibilites are endless and all it takes is a little creativity and time. I have lived this way for a long time and its a lot of fun!

  10. Cori

    In the cleaning supplies, you can also add baking soda: with a little bit of water it will clean the bathrooms, the sink, refrigerator… You can even use it with vinegar to unclog the drains. It’s cheap and non chemical.

  11. Cheap Sewing Machines

    I got to say you have a huge list for use to save money. I do agree we should go green, but it is easy to say then done. I have been keeps on telling my family members to not turn on the light if you are not in the room, but they just won’t quit the habits. I think we should take it slowly like 1 at a time to get use to it. Thanks for the tips! Now I have more ways to save more money.

  12. Amish Fireplace Heaters

    You can tell you’ve done your research here, good post. Saving energy by reducing your heating has always been big with me. Don’t heat your whole house to 75 degrees when you’re in one room under the covers. Grab a little fireplace heater or the like and turn your central heat down, or even off.

  13. Ryan


    Good stuff. I just want to comment on making your own cleaning supplies. My wife started doing this and we save a bunch of money. Then, one day, she approached me with a shampoo she made. I’m pretty serious about my hair. I only use certain products. But, you know, it’s my wife, so I tried it to be nice. It works great. Shampoo can get pretty expensive.

  14. Carl Taylor

    Fantastic list and very well written. I gave up my office job in England a year ago after I lost my parents, two closest friends and dog. I decided to live in a cave in a small town in Spain and have been following the voluntary simplicity lifestyle since. One thing I would add is this: use a solar shower (camping shower) whenever possible. Also use it to heat water for washing clothes. Use a Kelly Kettle in winter – check out their site. If you have any available space at all grow a few herbs or veggies – check out square-foot gardening. Build a solar oven for summer and a hay box cooker for winter. Bake your own bread – it’s cheap and fun. I soon got used to the funny looks from neighbours and I now make and sell solar ovens instead of working in an office.

  15. Should I Quit My Job

    Awesome! I’m absolutely pro green living-save money. I have been doing mostly of what you have stated above but thank you for additional info. You have listed so many and I hope a lot more will stumble on your blog and be able to read these. For sure I will spread this to all of my friends. Go Green!!!

  16. save money food

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked
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    writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say superb blog!

  17. Opal

    Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the great work!


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