- Thanks to a demand from a large number of buyers, socially responsible options are more widely available than they used to be, making it easier than ever to live an eco-friendly life.
- Living with less means you are consuming less and also downsizing to only what you require, so your energy costs and subsequent bills should reflect “living of less” without sacrificing lifestyle.
Global temperatures are up and sea levels are rising, yet we still need to purchase products and maintain a household. With that said, consumers are often faced with the difficult dilemma of how to be environmentally friendly, while still looking out for their wallets.
However, now more than ever, environmental factors are affecting the minds of both consumers and producers, making saving the environment and saving money increasingly intertwined. We’ll help you navigate the best ways to save, spend, and invest your money while reducing your environmental footprint.
So, why now? Recently, consumers have started placing a high emphasis on not only the quality of products, but also on what the company that makes these products is doing for the greater good. Ranging from topics of equality to food security to the environment, it’s financially beneficial for organizations and communities to infuse products with a healthy dose of social responsibility.
Thanks to this demand from a large number of buyers, socially responsible options are more widely available than they used to be, making it easier than ever to live an eco-friendly life as an avid consumer.
Being eco-friendly does not mean you need to stop consuming. Yes—products require energy, but considering the environment does not necessarily mean you need to make sacrifices.
When buying new products, the best thing you can do is your homework! Buying from companies that prioritize reducing their environmental impact during production will lead to eco-friendly buying.
When investigating if a company is environmentally-friendly, it’s important that you do your research. Here are some tips to help you identify authentic environmentally friendly companies:
- Look for specific claims such as “100% fair-trade ingredients” or “Made at a plant that reduces carbon emissions.” These labels are traceable and more tangible than descriptors such as “organic,” “all-natural,” or “environmentally friendly.”
- Evaluate the packaging. If a company claims to be eco-conscious, yet uses 10 lbs of bubble wrap and Styrofoam to secure a small item, that raises a few flags. Read up on company news to investigate the organization’s history. Exploring recent press releases and news articles will give you an idea of how long this company’s commitment to the environment has been established, as well as results or reviews.
- Use third-party apps and resources to vet organizations. There are many resources dedicated to externally scoring organizations on environmental impact, so you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
Additionally, if you are unable to purchase from companies that are certified eco-friendly, buying locally can help reduce energy costs. Buying locally cuts distribution and shipping costs, thus reducing the impact on the environment.
Even at the most environmentally friendly companies, producing anything still requires energy. Buying secondhand is a great way to cut down on both financial costs and environmental costs, as opting for used items cuts production and distribution waste. Additionally, if you are on a budget and cannot afford specialty items, buying used is a cheaper alternative that can garner results for the environment.
Local thrift stores, clothing exchanges, garage sales, swap meets/flea markets, local used dealers, and online marketplaces like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp are all great places to start searching for recycled items. You can find and buy virtually anything—from clothes to household items to books and more—in great condition!
Sometimes the right option may not be practical, especially on a budget, but weighing your values and impact against cost will help you come up with a compromise to help reduce your environmental footprint.
Environmentally conscious decisions don’t just happen at a register. When deciding how to grow your money in banks and considering investment opportunities, there are several options to allow for an environmentally friendly lifestyle to take root in your finances.
Ethical banks, also known as sustainable banks, are banks concerned with the social and/or environmental impacts of its business. When considering one of these banks, it’s important to not only choose one that’s socially responsible but specifically addresses environmental issues.
“Social responsibility” means that individuals and companies have a duty to act in the best interest of society as a whole, so socially responsible institutions with an environmental focus will have greener practices in general. It also encompasses many social issues such as equality or workers rights, so if you are seeking a specific cause, you may consider checking to see if your bank addresses this specific issue.
There isn’t a definitive standard as to what an ethical bank looks like, but generally speaking, banks that are Certified B Corporations or Members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values are going to be ethical banks. To gain either of the titles above, the bank would need to be vetted by a nationally recognized third-party organization that specializes in grading organizations on social responsibility.
Joining an environmentally focused bank not only encourages good behavior, but can financially reward your green habits as well. Some benefits are:
- Accessing exclusive or well-researched eco-investing opportunities
- Having credit cards that can benefit charities on your behalf
- Providing you lower interest rates for financing low emission cars or eco-friendly purchases
While these banks offer environmental benefits, they may come with a few trade offs such as charging fees for non-sustainable practices like printing statements, or being limited in scope and amenities due to their smaller size.
Eco-investing or green investing is a form of socially responsible investing that supports companies with environmentally friendly policies or products.
Similar to ethical banking, there’s no official standard as to what constitutes a green investment, but there are several tools you can use to evaluate the impact of an organization. For example, several non-profit organizations do independent evaluations of mutual funds and stocks to evaluate them based on the company’s impact.
Additionally, apart from investing in organizations with eco-friendly policies, there’s a wealth of opportunity to invest in green products. Some key fields or industries for eco-investing are1:
- Water Conservation and Energy
- Wind Power
- Solar Energy
- Pollution Control
- Green Transportation
- Waste Reductions
- Organic Products
- Geothermal Energy
- Green Policy Advocacy
Investing in a company in these fields can be a great way to put your money where your mouth is, and invest in your environmental agenda.
If you’re living on a budget, you’re likely always looking for ways to save. Maybe that means going on one less coffee run a week, or transitioning to home-brewed coffee altogether. Either way, small changes can add up to big savings for anyone, so why not bundle cutting fiscal slack with reducing your environmental footprint? Let’s take a look at some ways to save responsibly.
Making small adjustments to how you get your energy and use it can have large payoffs over time. In the field of energy, a little can go a long way, if you know how.
- Shorten your showers—With every minute you cut, you save 5 gallons of water!
- Decrease your fuel usage by strategizing a route when planning errands, using public transportation, and carpooling
- Unplug appliances such as toasters, fans, lights, etc. when not in use
- Use smaller appliances such as a toaster oven or traditional toaster rather than an oven
- Wash your laundry in cold water or in the sink
- Recycle cooking water and use it to water your plants
- Tap into alternative energy sources by installing solar panels at your residence, switching to an electric car, or exploring turbine energy
- Eliminate using single-use items and opt for alternative items like reusable water bottles, silicone or metal straws, and/or sturdier storage containers
Some of these options may cost more upfront, but your investments will pay off in the long term!
With food having such a large impact on both our wallets and the world’s energy, it’s no wonder that grocery decisions are ripe for saving opportunities.
- Shop at local food retailers or farmers markets to decrease the footprint you leave from distribution and shipping costs
- Start a garden—If you’re lacking a green thumb or the time to nurture a large garden, an indoor spice garden is a great way to get started
- Buy dented or “ugly” produce to get a good deal and reduce food waste—Even if your local grocer doesn’t participate in ugly produce sales, there are several online resources that point you to places that do!
- Make coffee at home—pour over coffee is in, and it’s a great way to brew your cup of joe without using any electricity!
- Eat less meat—While this may not work for everyone’s individual nutritional needs or preferences, doing so can make large strides in both your environmental impact and wallet
- Make a shopping list and purchase only what you need to reduce wasted food energy and costs
While there are plenty of options to shop and utilize your finances to be more eco-friendly, there’s also several lifestyle hacks that can be beneficial to the environment as well as your wallet.
Less is More, Minimalism is In!
Living with less means you are consuming less and also downsizing to only what you require, so your energy costs and subsequent bills should reflect “living of less” without sacrificing lifestyle.
Minimalism, when carried out to its full extent, involves not only reducing the amount of items you own, but committing your environment, home, and amenities to its bare minimum. Some more extreme ideas for carrying-out minimalism are downsizing to a “tiny home,” reducing all clothing to essentials, and cutting out fuel dependency and opting for a bike. That being said, while these are all great ways to reduce costs, and environmental impact, these adjustments are large lifestyle changes.
One way to live minimally without overhauling your entire life is to evaluate your housing needs. Think about those tall ceilings in your house or that empty bedroom. Now think about how much it takes to heat or cool that space. Opting for living situations that have less “dead space” will cut utility costs as well as usage.
Another way to live minimally is to “Marie Kondo” your things, and do so moving forward. For those who aren’t familiar with this term, it involves going through your items, and only keeping those that “spark joy.” This is great for understanding what you use, or what you should buy. Adopting and maintaining this method can help cut new purchases and reduce the number of things you store.
While this list may be small, it can have reaching effects in your life such as determining if a car in a new city truly “sparks joy,” or if paying more rent for a smaller place is actually a waste when you factor in wasted utilities.
So while extreme minimalism may not be for everyone, small odes to the minimalist lifestyle can be infused to help save for most anyone.
Reduce, Reuse, but Above All, Recycle!
We’ve already discussed ways to reduce and reuse waste in the sections above, but in addition to that, the third R (recycle) is a key way to live responsibly.
Recycling is the act of collecting used materials that can be used to make new materials, and it’s a way to continue to produce new products without paying the total cost of energy production.
Now, recycling may appear to have little cost repercussions, but when you break it down, energy costs money, so by reducing the energy production cost of an item, the cost should decrease to the consumer. For example, recycled aluminum costs significantly less to make than new aluminum, so products reliant on recycled aluminum should cost less to the consumer.
To make sure you recycle effectively, it’s important to understand what you can recycle and cannot recycle. Generally speaking, you can recycle rigid plastics and plastic bottles, paper, cardboard, metals (e.g. tin, aluminum, steel can), and whole glass objects (e.g. beer or wine bottles, jars, food containers).
On the other hand, things that are not usually recyclable are loose plastic bags, plastic stretch wrap, polystyrene (Styrofoam) products, soiled food items (food-soaked containers or paper products), and broken or sharp glass.
While this is just a basic list, it’s best to also research what can and cannot be recycled in your area, as this can vary from region to region.
In addition to the literal sense of recycling materials, you can creatively recycle or “repurpose” obsolete household items into new items, giving old materials new purpose. Some examples of this kind of recycling are:
- Using paper towel rolls as storage units or pen organizers
- Melting old toothbrushes into funky jewelry
- Reusing stale bread as a baking ingredient
- Turning old soda bottles into a bird feeder
- Making light decorations out of empty glass bottles
All in all, there’s a wealth of opportunity available for living a fiscally sustainable lifestyle, so whether you’re looking to save, spend, invest, or just continue to form good habits, turning the green in your wallet “greener” is always an option.
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