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Sustainable Ways to Cut Down on Spending

Apr 20, 2020

Ways to Cut Down on Spending
We’re all looking for ways to make our lives easier and our daily routines more convenient. And while convenience isn’t necessarily a bad thing, sometimes it comes at the cost of something else, like sustainability. For example, having a coffee shop on every corner of the city is great if you’re running late and need a quick jolt of caffeine, but getting a coffee every day can amount to 365 plastic cups each year. If you multiply that number by all of the people who do the exact same thing on every corner of the city, that number grows exponentially. We’re all guilty of this in some capacity, but we all have the ability to at least try to be more sustainable. Below, we’ve listed some ways you can be more sustainable once stay at home orders have been lifted while also saving some money, without completely uprooting your daily routine.

Make coffee at home

Making coffee at home means less single-use plastic, which is better for the environment. It also means you’re spending less money over time, which is better for your wallet! The average cost of one cup of coffee is around $3 (though it can be as expensive as $5 or even $6), so if you’re purchasing coffee on your way to work every day, you’re spending an average of $60 per month, or $720 per year - just on coffee.

Coffee can impact the environment in more ways than what it’s served in, so if you’re making the transition to brew your own, shop around your local grocery store for sustainable coffee brands that prioritize fair trade practices, organic and ethical sources, and other pillars of sustainability.

And if you can’t seem to quit your local coffee shop, consider purchasing a reusable cup or thermos, as some shops will actually give you a discount for avoiding the plastic cup.

Purchase reusable bags for grocery shopping

Grocery stores across the country have also begun encouraging shoppers to purchase reusable shopping bags to carry their groceries by placing them near the checkout lines, primarily because bagging (and sometimes even double-bagging) groceries in plastic bags is harmful to the environment. 

In fact, in 2019, the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill that will ban retailers from providing customers with single-use plastic bags. The bill will go into effect on July 2, 2020, so consider purchasing a few bags that you can fold up and bring with you when shopping for food, clothes, and other items.

Shop wholesale

Shopping wholesale and buying your groceries in bulk has many benefits. Not only do you get more food for less money, but you’re also consuming less plastic packaging - it’s a win-win-win!

Cut out plastic bottled water

Plastic water bottles can be convenient, especially if you’re on the go, but ultimately, they’re harmful to the environment. You can save more money in the long run by investing in a reusable water bottle that filters tap water as you fill the bottle, like a Brita. Brita water bottles are only about $15, and the replacement filters are less than $10. With a reusable water bottle like this, you’ll have access to clean, free water whenever and wherever you need it.

Unplug and turn off

Appliances that are plugged in constantly still use power - even if you’re not actively using them. One way you can tell if an appliance is using power is if it has a digital clock or screen that is always on. Try to unplug each appliance once you’re done using it or if you go to work or out of town; not only will you conserve more energy, but you’ll save on your monthly electric bill.

Choose public transit, biking, and walking over driving

If you live in or close to Philadelphia, consider choosing public transportation over driving once stay at home orders have been lifted. It may not always be convenient, but it is cheaper and less harmful on the environment than driving.

And while ride-sharing services may seem like they’re beneficial for the environment, they actually encourage individuals who might otherwise take public transportation to call for a car. Plus, drivers who would typically be elsewhere are driving around all day waiting to get matched with a ride, constantly emitting polluting gases from their car.

If possible, consider walking or biking to and from destinations like work, the grocery store, and your friends’ and family’s homes to lessen your carbon footprint. Not only does this help you save money on gas, but you are also getting some exercise!

Reduce water consumption

Being mindful of the amount of water you use on a daily basis can make a big difference when it comes to saving money on your water bill and conserving natural resources. There are many different ways you can cut down how much water you use, like turning the faucet off when brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers. If you want to try to take shorter showers, consider setting a timer for 10-20 minutes to keep yourself on track.

Another way you can cut down on water consumption is to run the dishwasher and washing machine less frequently. Track how many dishes or how much clothing you need to wash so that you can maximize each load and only run the appliances when they’re full.

And believe it or not, washing dishes by hand in the sink actually uses more water - up to 27 gallons of water per load—than an Energy Star certified dishwasher, which can use as little as 3 gallons per load. As long as you’re utilizing the space in your dishwasher as efficiently as you can, it’s both the more convenient option and the most environmentally conscious option!

Shop secondhand

Once everyone is back out and about, it’ll be warmer outside, so you might want to refresh your wardrobe. When you’re doing this, consider shopping secondhand. Shopping for clothing secondhand is great for your wallet, but it’s even better for the environment. The production of clothing, especially fast fashion, puts an immense strain on the environment since it’s made with cheaper materials and chemicals that are harmful. It can take 2,700 liters of water to produce one cotton shirt. To help put that into perspective, 2,700 liters of water is enough water for one person to drink for 2½ years.

The fact that fast fashion clothing items are made with cheaper materials also means that the clothing is of a lower quality and will most likely fall apart quickly, so you probably won’t get as many wears out of it anyway. While fast fashion is cheaper, you’ll end up spending more money over time if you have to frequently replace or refresh your wardrobe.

Shop around at your local consignment or thrift store, take advantage of hand-me-downs, and invest upfront in reasonably priced, good quality clothing items.

At the end of the day, implementing these changes may take some time, and that’s okay! Taking steps to integrate each of these tips into your routine day by day will help you reduce your carbon footprint (and money spent on your bills) over time, so there’s no reason not to at least try.

Erin Ellis

Erin Ellis
Accredited Financial Counselor ®
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