Environmentally-Friendly Ways to Save Money Around the House

Over time I’ve noticed small ways to save money for home items that also are environmentally friendly. Win-win! While these aren’t all giant money savers, some surprised me with how much you can save, and annually they make a sizable difference …

First, how pretty is that photo of our barn this past fall up there? Just a little reminder of why trees are awesome and I’ve become more and more and more into environmentalism while living here and appreciating the property.

There are a lot of super-obvious ways to save energy and money I won’t cover, like using cold water in your washer, turning off lights, unplugging appliances/devices you don’t use, driving an energy-efficient car, recycling … basically everything on this list. BUT, I want to go into some more unusual ways that I’ve either done recently, or that have shocking savings (or both).

USING BAR SOAP

With two toddlers, chickens, multiple gardens and seven acres, we get dirty around here and go through A LOT of hand soap. We were using liquid soap exclusively out of habit, until we went to a wedding where one of the favors was a bar of lavender soap. I put this in our bathroom, and it lasted for, no joke, three months – and that is a conservative estimate. A container of liquid soap? Maybe a month. With soap by four bathroom sinks and two kitchen sinks, using bar soap vs. liquid hand soap (both at bulk prices) we save $140 annually. On the environmental side, we also avoid using 72 (!) plastic bottles, or if we buy large refillable sizes, 24 large refillable sizes. More than the savings, the number of bottles saved is crazy to me …

MEATLESS MEALS

Yes, I realize I’m a broken record and that I’ve discussed meat before.  But you know what is expensive? Meat. You know what’s not expensive? Dried beans and lentils. To give an idea, I recently made a vegetarian lentil curry. It used 1 cup dried lentils, which costs about 64 cents. If I’d made a beef curry with the same cooked weight as lentils, the ground beef would have cost me (minimum, if I bought in bulk) $3.19 for a pound.

That means if you substitute a single meal a week with lentils vs. ground beef, you have annual savings of $132, and the environmental savings of such a small change are crazy. You save 96,044 gallons of water a year, some sources even say up to 124,800, 2,700 lbs. of feed per year (this is generally corn, which also has very negative environmental impacts in growing and cultivation), 26 lbs. of methane annually (which doesn’t sound like much but is 20 times as potent as CO2), and a total of 832 lbs. of greenhouse gases per year.

USE PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTATS

Owning an older home involves a lot of waste. Some of it I can’t do much about – our 300 year old windows are going to leak heat and AC, even with modern storm windows attached – but one thing I CAN do is pay attention to the thermostats and where they are set. We recently updated our 25 year old AC system, and as part of that got Nest thermostats. Here in Massachusetts you get a sizable rebate when you buy energy-efficient thermostats like this, and I know a number of states have similar programs. Now that I’ve figured out what rooms need heat when and have programmed accordingly, our bills have actually gone DOWN by 10% during the last month, which was the coldest month of winter so far. Efficient AND thrifty!

REPLACE YOUR LIGHT BULBS

As older light bulbs burn out, I’ve been replacing them with LED bulbs. I actually always buy these in person, locally, because stores here in Massachusetts automatically deduct the amount saved with the state’s efficiency promotion program. Last week I bought 8 LED bulbs for $8 after this rebate (!), and they last 13 years or more. They also save lots on your electric bill. Depending on your energy costs and how many bulbs you are using, this can average out to thousands of dollars over the lifespan of the LED bulb. Because they use less electricity and don’t have mercury like CFLs, they’re also more environmentally friendly.

USE REUSABLE CLOTHS

One item I’m trying to incorporate into my routine are these reusable cleaning cloths in place of paper towels. This one is hard for me, because I am grossed out by grossness in the kitchen and rinsing/cleaning these cloths it never seems like they’re quite clean to me. BUT, my mother in law swears by them, and she has the cleanest house I have ever seen. So I’m working on it. It helps that I’m avoiding creating extra waste, and that a cloth lasts as long as half a roll of paper towels, which would cut my spending on cleanup cloths by 50%. If you add to this that I’m now using cloth napkins instead of paper ones/paper towels when we eat, the savings are even higher.

So, there you go, five little ways to save money and the environment. Adding all these up, for our household, my back of the envelope calculations say that in dollars alone, we’re saving $1,200 per year by just doing these five things (and that calculation is conservative). The biggest savings for us, by far, is cutting out meat! Even with added veggie costs, it’s a huge amount of dollars saved.

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