13 Ways To Save Money And Go Green.

We all read about ways that an individual can help the environment; buying carbon offsets, purchasing a hybrid car, driving less, recycling cans and bottles, etc.. But there are many more ways that little changes in your every day life can affect the big picture if more of us started doing them. I am going to attempt to list a few of them here, and I hope you will leave comments with your tips and ideas for everyone to learn from. Here are the ways I think that small changes can make a big difference.

1. Replace the light bulbs in your house with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Yes, they cost more than regular bulbs, but they use way less electricity (saving you money on your utility bill) and they last around 10 years. Good for the environment and good on the wallet in the long term.

2. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store when you go shopping. This should be a no-brainer, but I still see people walking out of the store with 3, 4, 5 or more plastic and paper bags full of groceries. Do you really need that many extra bags at home? I know growing up my mom seemed to think that some day there would be a run on paper bags, so we had about 11,000 of them in the closet. You dont need that many of them! We use 4 canvas bags every time we go to the grocery store, and very rarely do we need an extra paper one. But if we do, it gets filled with paper recycling when we get home and goes out the door. Do you know how many plastic bags the world goes through? A good place to learn more and pick up some bags (and other cool stuff) is reusablebags.com. Check them out!

3. Get the stuff you want used from other people that want to get rid of their stuff! Craigslist.org and freecycle.org are great places to start looking for stuff you want..for FREE!

4. Use your local library. Seriously, use it. Your local library has music, movies, magazines, books and more that normally you would A. have to pay for and B. eventually throw into a landfill. Plus, you are already paying for it with your tax dollars, so you might as well actually get something for all the money you get taken out every week!

5. Buy it used! Both Amazon and half.com have used CD’s, books, clothing, video games and much more that people are selling. Saving money while reducing packaging trash”¦a great idea.

6. I know you have heard it before”¦in the summer set the temperature in the your house a few degrees higher and in the winter set it a few degrees cooler. You wont notice the difference, but your wallet AND the environment will!

7. Get your car in for a checkup. An oil change and an air filter change will run you about $30. Well worth it if you consider that running your car with dirty oil and a dirty air filter is the equivalent of spending an extra $0.15 per mile. Over time, that can add up. Plus, your car runs cleaner, emitting less pollution. Go ahead, make an appointment!

8. Turn that faucet off! Yes, that one! The one you leave running while you brush your teeth, shave, talk on the phone, knit a sweater. So much water is wasted in this country you would think there was an endless supply. Well guess what, there isn’t, and its going away faster than the acid rain can replace it. Just be aware of the amount of water you use, and please”¦there is no need to water your driveway, the neighbors car, your kids’ dog or the side of the house. Make sure your sprinklers are watering the actual plants and grass. Seriously, nothing will grow in the middle of the street, you don’t need to water it.

9. Participate in a town “clean-up” event. Near my old house they had several “Clean the Beach” days where people can help to get rid of all the trash that the tourists leave on the beaches. Every little bit helps!

10. You know that $4.00 you spend every morning on a cup of black water at Starbucks? How about putting that water in a re-usable thermos or mug? So many paper and plastic cups get thrown away every day in the country it makes me ill. You already spend a fortune on coffee, pick up a mug for $5.00 and use it everyday. Just think how superior you will feel when you pass a trash can full of cups!

11. If you can”¦and I know it costs money”¦try to get a smaller car next time you go car shopping. Just a little smaller, please?

12. Seems everything in our houses is on standby about 75% of the time, just waiting for you to walk in from work and turn them all back on again. If you can put your electronics on power strips that you can turn off, you will save money on your utility bill AND require less electricity for your footprint..which helps the environment!

13. Think about your purchases before you splurge. Think about where your groceries come from”¦are they local foods or were they imported from New Zealand? The closer your food source is to home, the less gasoline and preservatives it needs to get to your store.

Anyone with more ideas, please leave them in the comments – I look forward to hearing your ideas!

Photo by Flipped Out. The original version of this article appeared on this site 2 years ago

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Comments (36)

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  1. Anthony says:

    David –
    Great list! So many little we forget about, yet so easy to do.
    “8. Turn off that faucet” – I would recommend people to use COLD water when possible! I personally noticed, I was using the HOT water every time I turned on the faucet – NOT needed.
    Again great post – keep up the good work.

  2. Fritz says:

    Put your water heater on a timer, there is no need to have hot water when you are not in the house.

  3. Uncle B says:

    Grow a garden. For the same amount of fertilizers an pesticides, and a small effort on your part, you can save the fuel used to deliver veggies by growing them at home. Start small, plan well, grow only what you can use and/or freeze, and enjoy this new hobby!

  4. Marie says:

    Great list, but “Just think how superior you will feel when you pass a trash can full of cups!” sends a mixed message. Helping the environment shouldn’t be a superiority contest, anymore than religion and vegetarianism. Of course, one should feel good about his or her decision to go green. But the main focus is reducing our individual carbon footprint, not lording it over those who don’t observe these practices, but might be more inclined to listen to us if they sense that they’re not being judged. Just a thought. I’ve recently witnessed a well-meaning friend irritate and alienate other people for not being “green enough.” This doesn’t help the earth. It doesn’t accomplish anything but make others feel bad. I don’t mean to be a troll or tell others what to think or write, but I think it might be more productive to promote feelings of humility instead of superiority. Otherwise, great list 🙂

  5. David says:

    Marie – it was meant as joke; no one can lord over a trash can full of cups. Sorry for the misunderstanding. And believe me, I write about sustainability issues every day on my other site, and I agree with you 100%.

  6. Brian says:

    While waiting for the hot water , take the time to fill pitchers for watering plants, beats letting it run down the drain

  7. I was told many years ago that Americans live by “If it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow let it mellow” when it comes to toilet flushing. I don’t know if it’s true but surely this is something which will perhaps become more commonplace in the future.

  8. david says:

    @ Uncommonadvice – we do, as long as there is no one else in the house other than us!

    @ Brian – Absolutely, good tip!

    @ Uncle B – You don’t even need the pesticides – organic gardening is cheaper and better for you!

    @ Fritz – And if you cannot do that, be sure to turn it down to the lowest setting whenever you go away. (Don’t turn it off in winter though, you don’t want burst pipes).

    @Anthony – we use cold for everything..I don’t remember the last time I washed clothes in “hot” water!

  9. Kate says:

    I agree with Uncle B. Grow some of your own food. Sure, we all know about those in tiny apartments with windows that only face north. But plenty of us could be producing more of our own food. It saves money, fuel, and often encourages us to get a little fresh air and exercise. And there are several sorts of vegetables that just about anyone can grow – in containers if really necessary.

    I like your list of ideas. But as I read more and more iterations of this idea, I keep noticing that we’re only asking ourselves to make the smallest, easiest changes, essentially without “sacrificing” anything at all. A reusable mug instead of a paper cup; a CF bulb instead of incandescent; a change in room temperature of a few degrees; a slightly smaller car the next time around. I’m deeply worried that this all amounts to rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic. It’s as if we take for granted, as our president said, that our way of life is non-negotiable. Sooner or later, Reality is going to become our new negotiating partner. When that happens, lists like this one are going to look rather absurd.

    I hate to say this sort of thing, because even to myself, I’m beginning to sound like a nutjob. And I agree that everything you’ve suggested is at least a step in the right direction. But we need to ask a lot more of ourselves if we’re going to make enough of a difference to matter.

  10. david says:

    Kate – you might be interested in a post on my sustainability site which explains why all the tiny things matter. Most people will not make big changes overnight – it takes some nudging. Check it out if you want: little things matter.

  11. Miranda says:

    Thanks for sharing these great tips! I like how we can all do tiny, simple things that add up to a larger cumulative effect. By just doing simple things over the past year, the carbon footprint calculator is showing a smaller impact for our family.

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  13. Erin says:

    Being a Chicago resident … I love the “going green” illustration of the river on St. Pat’s Day. 🙂

    In regards to #10 – Starbucks will give you a 10% discount as a reward for bringing a personal cup. So you can feel superior AND keep some money in your pocket.

  14. Kate says:

    David, I understand your point. And I am definitely a believer in the cumulative power of small efforts. But here’s where we apparently differ slightly (from your other article):

    “sometimes those of us involved in the movement forget that not everyone is willing to forgo some comforts to try to save the planet”

    I guess I just look ahead and sense that, eventually, this isn’t going to be about what we are or are not “willing to forgo.” What we may or may not be willing to forgo today is simply going to be gone tomorrow: “choices” no longer worth debating, because neither are even possible. So, to talk about what we are or are not willing to do “to save the planet” starts to look a little odd. Because it’s really about salvaging some shred of livability for ourselves, let alone the next generation or the rest of “the planet.” We’re debating drilling offshore and in Alaska. But no one’s even remotely suggesting that maybe we should leave a little bit of that precious resource untouched for some unborn generation, say 200 years from now. Don’t you find that telling?

    I fear that the choice between a Hummer and a Prius is going to seem pointless because we’re all going to be more preoccupied with just staying warm enough to make it through to spring, and then hoping that enough people in our immediate area are going to be ready and able to farm/garden so that we can make it through another year. You know? Like everyone did for centuries before the discovery of oil.

  15. Bri says:

    Two comments on using CFL bulbs:

    1. They do contain mercury so be sure to dispose of them appropriately as they can contaminat ground water.

    2. Most CFL bulbs come with 5-10 year warranties. Make it a habit of stapling your receipt to the package when you get home. Then if the bulbs do burn out most places will replace them for free. I have a friend that has been doing this for a few years and has save a bit of money.

  16. david says:

    Kate – but bullying and threatening people with doomsday scenarios just turns people off, so I would rather take the approach of small steps rather than “we are all going to die”…even though we are. But forcing people to change when they don’t want to will encourage a backlash from said people – thus I encourage small steps that everyone can take, in hopes that more people will take them and get more involved. If more people get involved, we can all do more as a whole or as a country. But with less people involved or caring, the movement will not grow.

    Erin – My wife did too, as she is from there!

  17. CF bulbs might last around 10 years, but experience has told me to expect them to die at least once every 5 years. My entire house is filled with CF bulbs and I just had my fourth die yesterday – 1 1/2 years after installation. (I will be keeping my receipts from now on.)

  18. david says:

    Really Caveman? I havent had any die yet and it’s been a few years – that’s pretty bad. If you have them on dimmers, that could cause them to die out very early, just a thought…

  19. Bellen says:

    All tips are good. Finding your comfort level is important. For more tips I’d recommend going back to the 1970s-80s issues of Mother Earth News. For gardening, cooking go to your county’s Extension Service – a division of your state’s agricultural college, usually the State University. Ask for frugal/money saving ideas. The info is either free or very low cost and you pay for this service thru your taxes. The Master Gardeners program provides solutions/answers questions, etc. on gardening, container gardening, composting, what to grow in your area.

    Ask your grandparents how they did things – or older neighbors. Find out how the Amish/Mennonites do without – adapt what you can. Have an evening without extra electrical use – no TV or computers. Read, play board games. See how long you can go between grocery trips by shopping from your pantry. Learn how to make substitutions for ingredients.

    CFs – I had a light stick by GE last me 15 years and left it in the house when we sold it, I’ve never had a CF bulb burn out and have been using them since they first came out.

    Encouraging others, not forcing them, is the only way to get people to change. Think of ‘training’ little children to behave – it’s not done with force but with encouragement and modeling.

    I’m one of those who has actually been there, done that. Now in my 60s I’ve lived thru an awful lot – major downturns in the economy, life overseas with husband in the military, major loss from a hurricane, making do or doing without. I’d hoped that the greening from 70s & 80s would last. Those of you in your 20s & 30s seem to have finally seen the light, I’m hoping the changes stick this time.

  20. david says:

    Great comment Bellen, thank you. I hope it sticks this time as well…

  21. […] My Two Dollars – 13 Ways To Save Money And Go Green. […]

  22. […] 13 Ways To Save Money And Go Green at My Two Dollars — A lot of good ideas on how to save money and help out the environment. […]

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  25. Laura says:

    I just had a great experience with keeping an eye on your electric use. I live alone in a studio apartment and decided to try cutting my bill. The only things I leave plugged in all the time are my fridge and stove, my alarm clock, my modem and a power strip I use for my cell phone, computer, and bluetooth headset chargers. (The strip stays switched off unless something is charging.) Everything else gets unplugged unless I am actively using it (yes, even the tv). When I went on vacation for two weeks, I even unplugged the alarm clock and power strip. I just got my newest electric bill and it went down from $62.03 to $19.27!! The most amazing part — I currently have no CFLs in my house. (I just bought one and am getting ready to install it.) With CFLs I can probably save another $10. I have seen the light!! (And then I switched it off and opened the blinds. 😉

  26. Laura says:

    BTW I found your site via the Carnival of Personal Finance. 🙂

  27. David says:

    Laura, that is awesome! I am sure with CFL’s, that will result in even more savings!

  28. Athena says:

    I found your article via Carnival Of Finance and I think its one of the better ones. I am going to start using a couple of these tips today!


  29. david says:

    Thanks Athena!

  30. FamilyMan says:

    I’ve also tried the CFLs, and had most of them die within a couple of years–which makes them pretty expensive light bulbs.

    A couple of questions:
    1) Can CFLs be used in every normal household lighting situation? Lights that get switched on and off frequently?

    2) I have a couple of ceiling fixtures that use half-a-dozen, small based, “flame” shaped light bulbs. Are there any CFL options for these light fixtures? My wife likes them, and we won’t be changing the fixtures any time soon.


  31. David says:

    FamilyMan – yes, they can be used in any socket except dimming ones. They don’t work with those, unless you pay for the rare, really expensive dimmable CFL’s. And yes, you can find those flame-style bulbs, we have them here in our house. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder for them.

  32. […] Two Dollars gives us 13 great ways to save money and go green at the same time!  I will be sure to follow his […]

  33. Great tips! One way you can cut down on your water bill is to reuse the water you boil spaghetti and other vegetables in. I do this with broccoli when I steam it. Once the water has cooled I water my plants with it. They get the extra nutrients from the broccoli!

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