When you’re on a tight budget, trying to be more environmentally conscious can be difficult. The cheapest items tend to be the least eco-friendly, and there’s no denying that adopting a more sustainable lifestyle requires a certain level of financial sacrifice.
But no matter what your financial situation is, there are likely more than a few ways you can reduce your carbon footprint without blowing your budget. Let’s look at a few of the best options.
Best Budget-Friendly Sustainable Swaps
Here are some simple and affordable ways to be more eco-friendly without busting your budget:
While buying paper towels isn’t a huge expense, it can be a significant source of environmental waste. Plus, there are plenty of free or low-cost ways to replace paper towels.
If you already have plenty of extra towels, you can cut them up into smaller sizes and use those to wipe down your counters. You can also buy a pack of bar towels or shop rags to use instead. Just wash them with your regular laundry.
Disposable plastic bags are convenient and fairly cheap, but they’re terrible for the environment. Instead of using plastic bags, buy silicone bags that you can wash and reuse many times over.
Stasher bags have become popular for their adorable pastel palette, but these Homelux bags are also a great value. The initial cost will be higher than plastic bags, but you’ll save money over the long run.
Silicone bags come in a variety of sizes so you can use them for sandwiches and snacks. If you meal prep regularly, silicone bags can be especially useful.
Reusable coffee pods
Keurig cups are notoriously bad for the environment – and expensive too, at 75 cents a pod. Instead of using disposable K-pods, buy a reusable pod that you can fill with regular ground coffee.
To cut down on toilet paper usage, install a bidet at home. A bidet will reduce how much toilet paper you need. Bidets only cost between $30 and $40 each, and are surprisingly easy to install. Many consumers also report feeling cleaner than normal when using a bidet compared to just toilet paper.
The average woman spends $50 a year on tampons, but a reusable menstrual cup can cost as little as $25. Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years, making them much more affordable than tampons and pads.
Period panties can also be an affordable substitute for panty liners and pads. One pair of period panties costs between $25 and $40 and can last between two and five years.
If you’re still using a manual thermostat, you could be wasting a lot of money. Smart programmable thermostats can help you save money on your utility bills and use less energy. Some estimates say you can save between 10% and 15% of your total heating and cooling costs.
Smart thermostats can cost as little as $50, and many utility companies offer significant discounts if you install one.
Reusable makeup remover pads
If you use disposable makeup wipes or cotton balls, you can substitute them with eco-friendly reusable makeup pads. You’ll still have to buy makeup remover, but it will be more affordable than purchasing packs of wipes.
Buying beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap can save you money while still keeping your food fresh. Beeswax wrap doesn’t last forever, but it can last about a year before you need to throw it out.
Rechargeable batteries can last just as long as regular batteries. Instead of throwing them away, you’ll simply charge them just like you would a phone or laptop. Rechargeable batteries cost about $3 each, depending on the size.
Other Ways to Save Money and the Environment
Buying new items is inherently more wasteful – and more expensive – than buying used goods. Before you buy something new, see if you can find a used version.
Buying used items doesn’t have to mean spending hours scouring cheap thrift stores. There are plenty of high-end consignment stores where you can find gently worn clothing items, furniture and decor.
If you’re buying electronics, look for refurbished items which are often 25% cheaper than brand-new ones.
Repair and reuse
How often have you thrown something away and bought a replacement without seeing if it could be fixed? Before tossing something aside, whether it’s a piece of cookware or a pair of shoes, see if you can repair it. Even paying someone to fix it could be more cost-efficient than buying a brand-new item.
When something breaks, look on YouTube to see if there’s an easy solution. If it looks too complicated, then call around and find a repairperson.
Join Freecycle Groups
One of the best ways to save money is also incredibly sustainable: find items for free. There are countless groups on Facebook that you can join to find free items that your neighbors are giving away. You may also want to consider joining your local NextDoor group for more opportunities.
Freecycle.org is a special message board devoted to people giving away free items. Freecycle is available in more than 100 cities. You can post requests if you’re looking for something specific or search the message board for relevant posts.
Utilize the library
Your library offers many services that can help reduce waste and save money. Beyond just offering books and movies, some libraries have a rental program for kitchenware and home goods.
If you’re a library cardholder, you can also qualify for free ebook and audiobook rentals through Libby, Hoopla and Overdrive. You can also stream movies for free with Kanopy.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.