Celebrate Earth Day – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and Save Money)

The credit series will resume tomorrow, after this brief interruption for Earth Day.

A lot of people are looking for ways to save money these days. Although they don’t intend it, their newfound frugality may also be good for the environment. However, it also helps to be intentionally eco-conscious when making frugal choices. Here are ten tips to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. As a bonus, you’ll probably save money. If frugality doesn’t motivate you, discovering your carbon footprint might.

Carry Canvas Grocery Sacks

But won’t you have to buy a grocery sack first? You might not! If you dig deep into your closets, chances are you’ll find a treasure trove of canvas bags from conferences, events, gifts, and donations. I have several in various sizes – small ones that are perfect for walking up to the store for one item and big ones that are great for my full weekend shop. Even if you do have to buy them, you can usually get them for $1 and they last a long time.

Make Reusable Produce Bags

Once you start using canvas grocery bags, you won’t want to fill them with plastic bags. You can make cheap reusable produce bags to load all your produce in. You could also buy them, but making produce bags would be more frugal if you have a sewing machine or a friend you can borrow one from. Here’s a third produce bag to give you another idea.

Reuse Ziptop Bags

This one grosses some people out, but it’s really not that bad. I reuse my plastic lunch baggies for four days, which means I go through a total of about seven a week (I bring my snacks to work, too.) You can either rinse them out, or just use the same bag for the same item each day. I also have a permanent lunch sack made from nylon.

Reuse Glass Jars

When I buy something in a glass jar, I inspect the lid. Even if I have to spend twenty cents more, I might do it if it means getting a glass jar with a screw-on lid that I can reuse later on. Do that a few times and soon you have your very own free jar collection. They’re great for storing leftover sauce or making crème fraiche.

Stop Junk Mail

Stopping junk mail not only reduces your urge to get another credit card or buy something for a catalog, it also reduces the amount of wasted paper. That’s good for everyone! Since signing up with Catalog Choice and the DMA no-junk list, I’ve reduced my pile of junk mail to ¼ its original size. Some days the mailbox is empty.

Reduce Energy Use

We reduce our energy use through careful control of the heater and air-conditioner, through the wise use of window blinds, and by installing CFLs in most of our lamps. There are a few that the bulbs won’t fit into, so we’re looking for replacement lamps that will fit them.

Eat Local, Grass-Fed Meat 

I recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and no longer feel comfortable eating corn-fed beef and pork. Fortunately, a farmer sells grass-fed beef and pork at my nearby farmer’s market. It’s only marginally more expensive, but greatly reduces the impact on the earth. I know we could cut red meat entirely, but my diet is already so limited that I hate to cut more items!

Buy Produce at the Farmer’s Market

We’re also buying as much produce as we can at the farmer’s market. Most of it is grown without pesticides on local farms, which reduces the impact on the earth from food transport and pesticide production/waste. It does mean eating more seasonally, but the improved taste is definitely worth it.

Use Old Socks and T-Shirts for Rags

My mom still uses my old cloth diapers as dust rags. That’s over thirty years of reusing one item! They’re not hard to wash, and it’s cheaper than paper towels or wasteful disposable cleaning wipes. I love to use old socks to polish silver and brass because the soft cotton doesn’t scratch them.

Use Cloth Napkins and Dish Towels

We switched to cloth napkins and dishtowels a few years ago in order to reduce our use of paper towels and napkins. Not only has it saved us a bundle on paper products, but we create less trash.

As our awareness of the environment and our determination to save money have increased, we’ve started to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. We’ve definitely seen an impact on our energy and household expenses bills. Hopefully we’ll see a reduction in our food bills, too.

How do you reduce, reuse, or recycle? Tell me in the comments.

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