Green Saving: 4 Effective Tips

Green saving is the concept of saving money by going green. 

When people think about going green they often think about the expensive stuff: buying solar panels, electric cars, organic food, and other high-priced things. 

While this isn’t bad by any means, it is a bit intimidating to people who want to live more sustainably, but don’t have a lot of extra money to spend.

Fortunately, those costly items are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being more sustainable. In fact, most of the ways you can be environmentally friendly actually cost less than their non-eco friendly alternatives, so you can shop green and save!

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Why Do People Think Going Green Is Expensive?

For some reason, there seems to be a gap between the people who want to save money and the people who want to save the environment. It honestly blows my mind that these are even two separate groups of people: the finance community and the sustainability community. 

In reality, these two goals come together all the time. Unfortunately though, some parts of the sustainability community get the reputation for seeming exclusive – like maybe sustainability is just for rich people. 

It’s hard to feel like you’re making an impact on the environment when some guy on the internet has a ton of solar panels and a Tesla. How can you compete with that? That stuff is expensive! Should you save, or should you buy the thing that will help the planet?

It’s not a bad thing that people are buying electric cars and solar panels. Those do help the environment. But, when was the last time you heard someone brag about not buying something? This doesn’t only apply to big purchases like cars. You never hear people brag about how they didn’t go out this weekend, or how they decided not to buy a new computer. 

The opposite of green saving.
A lot of people think this is cool.

I think it’s because we’re culturally programmed to think that buying something is an accomplishment. While it is an accomplishment to save up enough money to buy something, the act of buying it is really nothing special. Why brag about exchanging money for a good or service? The real accomplishment was probably all the hard work you did to earn the money in the first place.

To a lot of people, it doesn’t feel like they accomplished anything if they don’t do something with the money they earned from working. That’s why it’s so hard for some people to save. No one thinks it’s exciting to put a paycheck in the bank. They want to spend it! 

Where I Went Wrong

I am no more immune to this cycle as anyone else. Before I discovered the concept of financial independence, I went through a period during my first job where I was ordering stuff online, just to get something in the mail. 

Sometimes I would even forget what I had ordered so it was a surprise when I got it. And, I thought it was a great deal of fun for me to tell my friends, family, and coworkers all about the new thing I just bought. 

online shopaholic
Before I practiced green saving

The funny thing is, even though I remember doing that, I can’t honestly tell you what I bought during that time. Those things have come and gone from my life, really only serving as a temporary spark of supposed accomplishment. 

The two things I didn’t consider during that time were: 

  1. How much money I could have saved
  2. How much I could reduce my carbon footprint

Number 1 on that list is obvious if I had just stopped to think about it. Everything I was buying had a price. But what about the second? 

One thing about sustainable living that makes it so appealing for some people is the fact that you can convince yourself you need to keep buying the newest version of everything because it’s more energy efficient or because it was created by fairer and cleaner methods. It’s a tempting trap to fall into, but obviously, if you don’t need something, you shouldn’t buy it.

The fact is there are things you could be doing differently right now that would save you money, help the environment, and make you feel more accomplished.

How Does Going Green Save Money?

oil rig
More of this happens when you buy stuff.

Going green means using less of the Earth’s non-renewable resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the way the world is set up right now, almost everything in existence uses non-renewable resources and emits greenhouse gases every step of the way – from creation to delivery, use, and disposal.

Resources cost money. So generally, the less money you spend, the less resources you use. Therefore, saving money and saving the environment really go hand-in-hand. 

Green Saving Examples

Here are 4 examples of green saving solutions you can start doing right now to save money and the planet.

1. Try Some Spend-Free Weekends

The easiest and most obvious way to simultaneously save money and help the environment is to stop buying as much stuff. You can look for deals and find coupons all you want, but at the end of the day, the most tried and true way of saving your money is not to spend it. Also, every time you make a decision to buy something, you are usually making a decision to increase your carbon footprint. 

You can’t just stop buying everything forever unless you decide to build everything you use from scratch and grow all of your own food. Since I don’t recommend this approach, you could try out a spend-free weekend instead. That means: try going an entire weekend without spending any money. 

It’s actually not as hard as it sounds. There are plenty of free things to do. Here’s a list of 10 things you could do without having to spend a dime!

10 Things To Do On A Spend-Free Weekend

  1. Have a picnic at a park.
  2. Go camping.
  3. Go hiking.
  4. Play tennis with a friend.
  5. Throw a frisbee with a friend.
  6. Have a board game night.
  7. Watch a movie at home.
  8. Make a fort in your living room.
  9. Go for a run.
  10. Go to the local library.
green saving and hiking
Get outside and see what you’re saving

Green Saving Impact: $5,222 and 1,240 kg CO2e 

Let’s say on one weekend you go shopping for a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, have 3 beers, eat dinner at a restaurant, and brunch the next day. That would have a carbon footprint of about 66 kg CO2e and cost you about $200. 

If you replace that with a spend-free weekend where you’re cooking at home, you’ll spend at most $20 for the food. Your environmental impact will also drop to about 4 kg CO2e. Of course, this would depend on where and how far you drive if you decide to go somewhere. 

If you made this replacement twice a year for a decade (and invested the savings), you’re looking at $5,222 and 1,240 kg CO2e. That’s the equivalent of burning 139 gallons of gasoline!

2. Use Less Energy At Home

Using less energy won’t necessarily save you a ton of money, but it will definitely reduce your carbon footprint. Electricity is generally pretty cheap. That’s partially because it doesn’t include the cost of the damage it does to the planet. 

green saving energy lights
Save energy by using natural light when possible.

To use less energy at home, set the thermostat to the highest comfortable temperature during the summer and the lowest comfortable temperature during the winter. For me, that’s about 75 F in the summer and 68 F in the winter. You can achieve even better results by using a smart thermostat to decrease your energy consumption when you’re not home. 

Another easy way to make sure you’re being energy efficient is to change your air filter. Clogged filters force your air conditioner to work harder. 

Green Saving Impact: $529 and 1,095 kg CO2e 

How much you could save ultimately depends on your current energy usage habits. Running an average air conditioner 9 hours a day for 4 of the warmer months equates to a carbon footprint of 4.7 kg CO2e every day. But, if you’re able to reduce your air conditioner’s energy usage by just 10%, you could reduce your carbon footprint by about 0.3 kg CO2e and save about 10 cents every day. After a decade of saving and investing, this would amount to $529 and 1,095 kg CO2e.

Every year more and more efficient air conditioners are hitting the market. You could reduce your carbon footprint by much more than the figure above by switching to a better system. A frugal way to do this, without having to install anything, is a portable air cooler. One that I’m particularly interested in is the Evapolar evaporative air cooler.

3. Upcycle

The internet is an amazing place. There is so much information – tons of tutorials, videos, and step-by-step guides to how to build things. We have so much information at our fingertips, it’s never been easier to build things instead of buying them. 

green saving upcycled plastic bottles
Upcycled plastic bottles

You might be surprised by how almost anything you’re thinking about buying is something you can make. Just search for what you’re looking for with the letters “DIY” in front of it. Now, I’m not particularly handy, but I will say I’m super proud of the things I’ve been able to make myself. 

The best way to save the planet while making things is to use materials you already have. Let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to be able to beat the efficiency of manufacturers when it comes to creating things out of raw materials, but you can save money and the planet by reusing old things in new ways. 

My favorite upcycling example from my recent experience is our laptop entertainment system. When my girlfriend’s old laptop stopped working (the screen died on it), we put it in the TV cabinet and hooked it up with an HDMI cable

Then I connected a wireless keyboard I already had, and set it up as an entertainment system. I just put some shortcuts on the desktop to Plex, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Disney+, and ESPN+. 

Green Saving Impact: $2,554 and 1,600 kg CO2e 

Assuming a small entertainment device like a Roku has about the same environmental impact as the average smartphone, we saved about 80 kg CO2e by re-purposing an old laptop. 

So, we saved $88 and 80 kg CO2e. If you were able to upcycle just 2 things a year (of similar cost and carbon footprint), after a decade you would have saved $2,554 and 1,600 kg CO2e.

By the way, the wireless keyboard we use is awesome. I’ve had this thing for 5 years now and the amount of usage I’ve gotten out of it is amazing. It’s actually not that big, so it’s no more inconvenient than a normal TV remote. It’s even got a little touchpad on it so you don’t need a separate mouse.

4. Stop Eating Beef

This is the big one people always talk about from an environmental standpoint. Depending on what you replace the beef with, you can save money too. 

Beef really is as bad for the environment as people say it is. Cows are ruminants, which means they have a separate stomach used to ferment food prior to digestion. Beef isn’t the only meat you should avoid for this reason. There are lots of ruminants: sheep, goats, deer, buffalo, and more. 

practice green saving by not eating beef
Chicken tastes better. Trust me.

All of these animals produce a significant amount of methane which is a very harmful greenhouse gas. 1 kg of methane in the atmosphere is equivalent to 25 kg of CO2

Fortunately there are a lot of meats that don’t come from ruminants. There are also meat alternatives, and of course you could decide not to eat meat at all. 

In 2016, the average American ate 79.3 pounds of beef. That’s a carbon footprint of 2,158 kg CO2e. I usually replace my beef consumption with pork. Ground beef and ground pork are about the same price, and 79.3 pounds of pork has a carbon footprint of only 252 kg CO2e. I consider that a pretty easy substitution to make.

So, you don’t have to be vegan to make a difference (although, it does help). Using ground pork to make a burger tastes really good too! If you want to do even better from an environmental standpoint. You could replace your beef with chicken, or a meat alternative like Impossible burgers or Beyond Meat. In my opinion, if you don’t want to make the jump to being a vegetarian, the best solution for your wallet and the planet is replacing beef with chicken. 

Green Saving Impact: $1,898 and 19,424 kg CO2e 

I know they’re very different meats, but chicken is also considerably cheaper than beef. At my local Aldi I can get chicken for $1 per pound, whereas the best deal I can find on ground beef is $2.65 per pound. So, by replacing 79.3 pounds of beef per year with chicken for a decade, you could save $1,898 and 19,424 kg CO2e.

Save Money, Save The Planet

These are all great ways of going green on a budget. Plus, you can implement all of these suggestions right now

So if you ever feel discouraged about how you struggle to save money or help the environment, remember that you can do both at the same time! And even though Teslas and solar panels are cool, you don’t have to have those things to live a green lifestyle. 

Try out these green saving tips to go green, and save green!

green saving for the planet
This guy’s got the right idea.

More About Evapolar

This little air conditioner runs on water and it’s portable. Instead of having the AC running in your whole house, you can just carry it with you to whatever room you’re going to be in. It’s kind of genius from an efficiency standpoint because it won’t waste energy cooling the whole room, but it just cools you. 

Plus it consumes only 7.5 watts. Which means, you could run it for 9 hours a day, for 4 of the warmer months a year (an average of 3 hours a day year-round), and you’d only use 0.0225 kWh a day, which equates to a carbon footprint of about 0.01 kg CO2e every day.

6 thoughts on “Green Saving: 4 Effective Tips”

  1. Technically, the evapolar products are not air conditioners. They make you feel cooler by the process of evaporation. They are great to use in the West because of the low humidity there. However, in the South, with high humidity, the evaporative effect is lessened. Good ideas about switching from beef to chicken…I’ve done that with success.

    1. Sustainably Saving

      They don’t cool the entire room like a traditional air conditioner, just the space around you. But I think that’s part of the appeal since they don’t waste energy trying to cool an entire room or house. It’s certainly not a replacement for an AC unit, but it could save you on energy costs. I think it would be great for outside use, like on my porch. I’ve also cut out beef! It was a lot easier than I expected. The only difficult part for me has been avoiding pepperoni on pizza, which contains beef.

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