4 Cheap & Easy Ways to Go Green

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As I mentioned earlier in the week, I’m a subtle shade of khaki when it comes to “green living.”  I’m not really brown, but I’m not a vivid green, either. But I am definitely trying to learn more and incorporate better stewardship and healthier habits into my home. Finding ways to make this convenient is one step toward making it a habit.

And if those ways help me save money, well, you know I’m all over that!

Here are 4 Cheap & Easy Ways to Go Green:

1. Use reusable shopping bags.

We talked about shopping bags in greater depth earlier this week. Not only do my bags help me reduce clutter and conserve resources, but they also save me money!

Most of my grocery stores give me a 5 cent discount per bag. That may not seem like a lot, but after time it adds up. I probably use about 10 bags per week, saving myself 50 cents a week. Over a year’s time, that is $26 in savings. Not huge, but it more than pays for my initial bag investment and buys more than a few treats.

My pantry is tidier without all those white plastic bags — and I reap all the other benefits of using a reusable shopping bag.

2. Save money on trash pick-up.

Depending on where you live and how much they charge for waste disposal, recycling can save you money.

Our first house in San Diego was in an area where they allowed for co-mingled recycling, making it much easier to do — no sorting! They also charged for extra trash barrels above one. Seeing as we could easily have filled two trash carts if we weren’t recycling, we asked for an extra recycling cart — free of charge. We saved $15 a month by recycling. I miss that house for that reason alone!

3. Use vinegar for cleaning and as a produce wash.

I used to buy all sorts of different cleaners to do different jobs around the house. In the last year, I’ve only bought three: vinegar, baking soda, and bleach (for certain disinfecting situations). For all purpose cleaning, vinegar cleans and disinfects. And you can buy a gallon of it for just a few dollars. We’ve saved a ton of money using vinegar for cleaning and I know that my family is safe from harsh chemicals.

I also use vinegar to wash my fruits and veggies.

4. Stop buying canned and bottled beverages.

While cans and bottles can be recycled, they still use resources in the making and recycling. Theoretically, I think it’s better to use reusable containers.

But to go without? This is a hard one for me. Well, sort of. I used to be a Coca-Cola junky — and couldn’t live without my Vanilla Coke every afternoon. But, after a round of nasty cavities and a little bit of gravity settling at my waist, I cut the habit. Yes, really. I haven’t had cavities since then — and I’ve saved money by not feeding my habit.

But, I love the convenience of keeping a case of bottled water in the car at all times. I can get the cases for a great price, but since I live in the great state of California, I have to pay a CRV tax on every bottle or can. This applies to bottled water as well as sodas and other packaged beverages.

While I can recycle those, and theoretically “get my money” back, I have to travel farther afield than my curbside recycle bin in order to do that. The time and gas expense would negate those efforts. It costs more money to buy bottled beverages due to the tax, so it’s better that I don’t buy them.

If I stop buying bottled water, I could save a decent chunk of change. But, it’s the convenience I can’t live without. So, I have to work on that one.

What do YOU do to save money?

This is part of the Going Green series. Join us all week for daily giveaways and inspiration for small ways to go green.

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  1. I actually bought a huge bag of baking soda at costco and am using that along w/ white vinegar for cleaning…..Plus I bought that new libman freedom mop so I don’t have to spend the money on the disposable pads…what a savings!

  2. I have begun replacing all of our plastic cups, plates and utensils with finds from garage sales and thrift stores. So far I have been able to replace the plastic cups, next the lunch containers. Going Green one baby step at a time.

  3. Great series. We live in Portland and we do tons of “green” things. It’s weird to visit other cities and see them not recycling. Things we have just learned to do and don’t think twice about. And as a family of 4 we have the smallest trash can, therefore saving us money every month.

  4. Between our compost pile and our recycle bin, the regular trash can is only half-full most weeks! This is amazing to me, since we used to fill two cans easily.

    I keep a stash of reusable bags in my trunk and LOVE them for my groceries.

    I learned to use cloth napkins from my mother, and thought everyone did – I learned otherwise, but we use cloth napkins that can be easily washed for meals. (Paper towels are one of my vices – still working on that one.)

  5. I like to reuse a lot at my own house. It’s amazing that I sometimes find an item that fits exactly what I was needing. I was going to buy a 2 cup glass measuring cup when I realized I had a 3 cup canning jar that would do just as well, if not better. Like Lisa, I’ve also been culling the plethora of plastic dishes. Happily, my parents were recently getting rid of some dessert plates that are a perfect size for my kids.

  6. I would LOVE the option of curbside recycling but instead I have to drive and then they accept paper, plastic 1 & 2 and steel. That’s it…no glass or other cans unless I drive 45 minutes in a direction I never go to get to a bigger recycling center.
    But I do want to get back into running by the recycling center…just need to find bins. I lost my last one when it fell into the recycling dumpster.

  7. For water, I started carrying a refillable aluminum bottle in my purse for hubby and I, and we’ll soon get one for the baby (once she’s past sippy cups). We also keep a gallon jug filled with water in the trunk, to refill the water bottles, and we keep refilling it until it’s too banged up from sliding around to be reused anymore (I would like to get a sturdier one that I won’t have to keep replacing every few weeks, but I haven’t seen a good deal on any…).

  8. I’m working on cutting down our plastic bag collection. I already have a stash of reusable shopping bags, but I don’t always grab them before going into a store. Yesterday, I bought reusable produce bags from a local mom which my dh will start using this weekend since he’s the one that does the produce run.

    I’m also trying to staying on top of making homemade bread which keeps the bread in the plastic bags out of our home.

    We have single stream recycling here which I love! On the frugal side, it reduces the number of trash bags we use for our trash which saves us money. It’s also a great resource for school projects! My 7 year old built a junkpile robot 2 weeks ago, and now he’s building a cheetah for school using our recyclables.

  9. I love how the stores are paying you for using reusable bags. Around here only Target and CVS does it, but as you say it still adds up. Every week I use my reusable bags to pay for the taxes at Target.

  10. We re-use our plastic water bottles … my family brings them to the kitchen sink to be washed and re-filled. You can use the filtered water from your refrigerator or just tap water (use a filter on it f you want). We keep a daily supply cold in the refrigerator and other empties stashed in a cabinet if we need more. I’ve tried going to more permanent bottles and we do use them for camping or hiking but most days the plastic ones work best.

    Our city has curbside recycling for newspapers, 1 and 2 plastic, and cans but not for glass (I guess because it can break and injure the workers). More stuff can be taken to the 15 recycling centers that are close to all residents. And every once in awhile we have a city wide or county wide recycling event. Last weekend we had one that collected hazardous household waste and you wouldn’t believe the cars in line! Plus you could buy rain barrels and compost bins for a reduced rate and get a $100 voucher for an electric lawn mower. We are now composting and I am amazed at how much can go in it including paper towels and tissues!! If your city or county doesn’t meet your needs, call them about it!! They work for you and need your input!

  11. You guys still get vanilla coke? I’m so jealous! We had it a couple years back here in Canada and all of a sudden it was gone! I miss it…

  12. Making your own “convenience foods” is a great way to go green. Instead of buying package after package of mixes, condiments, etc., learn to make your own and reuse the same container for storage. The newest addition to my “homemade” is the mayonnaise. Now instead of having to buy mayo in a plastic containter, I make my own and use a glass canning jar. Frugal and green!

  13. I try to use every ‘throw-away’ just one more time. For instance, even before it goes into the recycle bin, an empty cereal box can be cut into ‘paper plates’ for sandwiches or pizza, and its plastic bag can be shaken out and used for freezing food. (The cardboard can then be recycled in the usual fashion…..) I have not purchased large freezer bags or paper plates in years…..