In this episode of Everyday Ethical, I cover my favourite ways to be more sustainable and save money!
Please note that this episode was recorded before the outbreak of Covid-19 here in the UK. In this episode I recommend bulk buying. However, in this current climate, we need to ensure that we are being mindful of unnecessary consumption. Please only buy what you need until all of this is over.
Hello and welcome to Everyday Ethical, a podcast about all of the small ways that you can be more sustainable, without the pressure to be perfect. I’m your host, Bethany Austin, and I’m an ethical lifestyle blogger who talks about everything from slow styling to cruelty-free cleaning.
Today we’re going to discuss something that uni-student me got very good at: Saving money, whilst also saving the planet. Now, being more eco-conscious certainly isn’t always the cheaper option and let’s not pretend it is, however, if money is one of the hurdles that your facing to making some of the changes you want to, this is the episode for you. I’m going to talk about NUMBER things that you can do that will reduce your waste and environmental impact, whilst also saving you cash. What’s not to love?
So, let’s dive in.
Like I said in the intro to this episode, I am totally not one of those people that tries to push the whole “be more eco friendly and you will save money” narrative. I think, like pretty much everything in the world, how much you spend doing something is very dependent on how you do it. And, if you’re following the lead of a lot of influential people that talk about being more sustainable, this can actually manifest into buying lots of pretty pricey items. Whether it’s fancy water bottles that cost £80 because it’s got crystals in it (meaning you would need to buy around 80 bottles of water before you started to make your money back) or slow fashion brands that cost 5 times that of clothes on the highstreet, it’s easy to make sustainable synonymous with “expensive”.
However, there are also ways around these costs, some of which are not only considerably cheaper than other alternatives, but that may actually end up saving you money. HELLO. That’s what I’m talking about.
A lot of these are lessons that I learnt whilst I was studying at university, which is when I first really got into sustainability and made the conscious decision that I wanted to reduce my impact on the planet. But I also didn’t have a tonne of disposable income soooo I had to make do. No splashing out on food in zero waste shops that end up costing a load more than getting something wrapped in plastic, ya know?
Before we get into these tips I do want to say that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Oftentimes we can compare ourselves to the beacons of eco-friendliness that we see online and criticise ourselves for not being equally – inverted commas – perfect. However, a lot of us have hurdles to overcome when changing lifestyles, be it monetary, related to physical or mental health, or even just needing time to learn and adjust. If your situation – whatever it is – makes sustainability that bit harder, just do what you can!
Anyway, motivation speil over, let’s get into the ways that you can save the planet and save yourself some money.
Number one and the one I’m sure you were allllll expecting: Start buying in bulk! This can be in relation to anything from food and drink, to cleaning products and loo roll. Buying in bulk is, most often, more eco-friendly than buying in smaller quantities more often. Let me explain why: Perhaps most obviously, it cuts down on packaging. Let’s look at the example of laundry detergent. I personally buy the gigantic bottles of Ecover fabric softener and laundry detergent that do 166 washes, versus the roughly 40 washes of a normal bottle. So you’re getting about 4 times the product in one bottle, which uses way less plastic than four bottles and four lids, even if it is bigger. And you can boost the eco brownie points of this even more if you buy it in a concentrated formula!
The same goes for food: Buy a load of rice in one bag, instead of 5 or 6 smaller bags of rice, and you’re cutting down on unnecessary packaging, even if you’re not able to eliminate all of the waste. Which most people currently can’t!
On top of that, you need to think about transport. If you’re buying something once in a blue moon instead of every week or month, you’re having to do less journeys to get it, which matters if it’s one of those things you often find yourself making trips just to get. Eg. toilet roll.
Ignoring the obvious sustainability benefits though, buying in bulk will save you money in the long run. And before you bite my head off, I know that the key phrase is “in the long run”. The problem is that a lot of eco switches are about “investing”. And not everybody has the initial sum of money to invest in things like bulk buying, even if it’s cheaper long-term. I totally, totally get it.
If you can afford to bulk buy right now, DO IT. There’s no reason why not. However, if you can’t afford the initial investment, maybe you could consider pairing up with friends or family, to buy whatever it is you both use in bulk and then splitting it. I mean, everyone uses things like soap and laundry detergent and pasta, right?
Even if you only do it with a couple of items that you buy regularly, every little helps, both in terms of pennies turning into pounds, and smaller actions making your more sustainable overall.
My second tip for saving money and saving the planet is to buy less meat.
I know what you’re thinking: Beth, have you seen the price of the Beyond Meat burger. No thank you very much. But my tip is not to buy meat replacements. I’m not telling you to switch out your steak, for a scarily realistic veggie steak because, whilst it may save you money, it probably won’t be that much.
Instead, when it comes to buying less meat, try to focus on other ways that you can get things like proteine. Things beans, lentils and legumes. Now THAT is how you’re going to save some serious cash. I can promise you that a tin of chickpeas is cheaper than a chicken breast, my friend.
And again, you don’t have to be completely vegetarian or vegan if you don’t feel ready or if that’s not possible for you. Swapping out one meal or one day of eating to being meat-free will save you money that will add up in the long run.
Plus, eating less meat will massively lower your carbon footprint. After all, the carbon footprint of a vegetarian diet is about half that of a meat-lover’s diet. Plus it’s kinder to the animals, too – Win, win, win!
My third tip for being more environmentally friendly and cutting down on spending at the same time is to buy your clothes secondhand.
The fast fashion industry is awful for th planet.
In fact, it’s the world’s second biggest polluter.
As it stands, polyester is the most popular fabric being used in the textile industry. Like, 90% of Primark is made from the stuff! Which is all fine and dandy until you realise that it’s not biodegradable. That means that when you pop it in the washing machine, tiny particles are released into our water system. These are called “microfibres” or “microplastics” – which is another buzz term you’ve probably heard thrown around recently – and they are polluting rivers and oceans and are even eventually making their way into our food chain. That’s terrifying!
But polyester isn’t the only material that is causing havoc. The water needed to grow the huge amounts of cotton that fast fashion requires to maintain its 52 micro-seasons is also putting pressure on the environment. As you can imagine, it can be particularly problematic in countries that are at risk of drought, many of which are the places where these clothes are being produced. So, here’s a fact for ya, it takes 2720 litres of water to produce one single t-shirt. That’s the equivalent to 3 years of drinking water for you. So, forget turning the tap off when you brush your teeth, if you want to actually save water, stop buying t-shirts so frequently!
However, when you do need to buy, buying secondhand can be a great way to be more eco-friendly. It means that you are not directly contributing to fast fashion or its impact on the planet and are actually stopping something from going to landfill.
PLUS, buying on depop or ebay or in charity shops is always a way to find a bargain. I love depop and I have found a few pieces for half the price of what they would be in a shop, still new with tags. Again, it’s such a win-win situation!
Another tip is to get better at not wasting your food! Wasted food means wasted resources. It means unnecessary air miles if you’ve bought things that have traveled from abroad, wasted water in growing produce and waste packaging for something that didn’t even end up getting eaten. You may be able to tell that food waste is pretty much my nemisis.
There are a load of ways that you can cut down on waste, from simply planning your weekly shop more carefully and learning how to store food so it lasts longer and, obvs, freezing your leftovers for when you get home from work and can’t be arsed to cook.
I’m actually going to do a whole episode on this next week, so hold tight for that. But I knew I had to mention it here: Cutting down your food waste means showing the planet some love and also that you’re simply gonna buy less food. Which means more money! Yay!
Another tip that I just have to mention, though I’m sure again that you all saw it coming: Remember your reusables! Plastics bags, coffee cups, water bottles. Try your best to remember them everyday, or at least every time you know you’re going to use them, to cut down on your plastic and non recyclable waste.
16 billion paper cups are used for coffee every single year, which leads to 6.5 million trees cut down, 4 billion gallons of water going to waste, and enough energy topower 54,000 homes for a year also goes to waste (source). And that’s before you even start to look at plastic bags and water bottles which will be around on the planet for way longer than we are since they’re not biodegrdable.
The financial benefit of remembering your reusables may be small but it’s a nice perk! Most coffee shops offer money off if you don’t get a disposable cup, you won’t have to spent 5p per bag whilst doing your weekly shop and buying a reusable bottle for £3 and then never buying a bottle of water in a corner shop again is definitely saving you money. And it won’t take long for you to make your money back on a purchase like that! Tap water all the way, people.
To make sure that you remember these sorts of things, maybe you could set a reminder on your phone that goes off every time you leave your house, or put a post it note on the front door or just simply leave them in your car all the time. Whatever it takes to get you into the habit!
Okay, now let’s go onto a less obvious one: Join your library! If you didn’t know, I have a whole episode on the e-books versus paper books and it’s actually one of my faves. That’s the inner English Lit undergrad coming out in me! But it’s episode 19, if you want to check it out.
However, there’s no denying that libraries are one of the most eco-friendly ways that you can enjoy the written word. Yay for buying one thing and then sharing it with as many people as possible, right? Less paper used, less transportation. Plus you get support what I think are such important parts of communities which are sadly getting closed down more and more frequently.
The truth is that books can be expensive. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere, but you can get a library membership free with your local council, and then you can borrow books whenever you want. If you’re an avid read it is actually absurd how much money this can save you over the year, whilst also saving the trees.
Finally, a short and sweet tip for when you’re online shopping: Combine your orders. If you’re able to get multiple orders from the same site and combine them, you can cut down on shipping costs significantly. So, when you want to buy something, make a list and come back to it after 2 weeks or so to see if you can get it alongside anything else.
This will obviously naturally cut down on transportation and most probably on packaging, too. And, who knows, by putting time between wanting to buy and actually buying something, you may decide you don’t need it, meaning you’ve saved yourself from buying something unnecessarily.
So, there you have it.
- Start buying in bulk
- Buy less meat
- Buy clothes secondhand
- Not waste food
- Remember your reusables
- Join your library
- Combine your order
I would love to hear from you if you have any tips on how to save money whilst saving the planet, I’m @bethanypaigeaustin on Insta which I will link in the show notes because I would love to hear from you.