As challenging as it may seem, even the busiest families can adopt a more eco-conscious lifestyle. While no one expects you to singlehandedly solve the global climate crisis (most days, you’re lucky if you can find a clean shirt to wear), there are practical steps every family can take to lessen their carbon footprint.
Why is sustainability so important? Because, simply put, when we care for the environment, the whole world (literally!) benefits. We’ll be handing this place over to our tiny humans someday, so we should all make choices that will keep the earth happier and healthier. You don’t need to be an expert; just implement tiny changes where you can.
Here are 15 surprisingly easy hacks for living more sustainably on a budget.
It’s a great idea to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, but don’t neglect the freezer aisle! Frozen fruits and veggies generate 47% less food waste in the average household, compared to ambient and chilled food. C’mon, how many times have you thrown away a wilted head of lettuce or a browner-than-brown banana (cringe!!)? Usually the cost-per-serving of frozen food is much more affordable–sometimes up to 50% cheaper, according to Forbes. And since produce is frozen at peak quality and freshness, you won’t have any nutritional FOMO.
There’s nothing quite like a clean load of laundry fresh from the dryer! If you still rely on traditional dryer sheets to keep your clothes fluffy and static-free, try dryer balls as an eco-friendly swap. Most dryer sheets are scented with artificial fragrances and coated with chemical softening agents that release into the atmosphere and can even cause respiratory problems–12% of the general U.S. population reports irritation from scents coming out of dryer vents.
Choosing dryer balls helps the planet, but also your pocketbook! Here’s a fun math problem:
Most dryer balls can last up to 1,000 loads. The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry per year. That means dryer balls can last over 3 years, saving you plenty of cash on dryer sheets.
(Don’t drop the ball on this one! We sell surprisingly cute dryer balls. Add them to your next bundle as an “extra” to get 15% off. )
There are lots of foods and condiments sold in glass jars–spaghetti sauce, baby food, jam, and pickles to name a few! When they’re empty, don’t trash them! Wash and keep them on hand for all sorts of uses: Fill 'em with leftovers, salads, flowers, cotton balls, and all your kiddo’s craft supplies and doo-dads. You can even use them to start a mini indoor herb garden!
Another way to reduce waste in the kitchen? Make your own chicken or vegetable broth using food scraps. It’s handy for anything from soups to sauces–and you’ll be grateful to have it in the freezer when cold and flu season strikes. Depending on your cooking habits, you could save tons of money by making your own stock. Most containers cost anywhere from $2-$6, so the savings here is significant–especially for a soup-loving family!
As you accumulate food scraps throughout the week (carrot peels, onion skins, celery ends, chicken bones, anything!), add them to a container in the freezer. When it’s full, make your broth using the below method:
Note: You can also make your broth in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, if you have one.
Next time you’re in the market for a gift, be a conscious consumer and give an experience. It’ll keep cardboard, plastic, paper and ribbon out of the landfills and your recipient will probably enjoy the memory more than any physical item anyway.
“I love getting junk mail,”...said no one ever! Ads in the mail are not only annoying, they’re a pain for the planet, too. According to Oceanfutures.org, creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars, plus about 28 billion gallons of water is wasted to produce and recycle junk mail each year.
Most people don’t know there’s a way to opt out of advertisements delivered through the mail. Here are a few websites to get you started:
While saying “no” to junk mail is an excellent start, find other ways to go paperless: sign up for online billing whenever possible, send e-invites, and gift e-cards.
Let’s bring back the lost art of gardening! Whether you choose an indoor container garden or small backyard victory garden you can still make an environmental impact because you’re eliminating all the energy it takes to transport, process, and package your food before it ends up on your plate. According to a UN-backed study, more than one third of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to our food systems.
And if you’re sticking to a food budget, growing your food is a savvy way to save. According to the National Gardening Association, an average plot provides an estimated 300 pounds of fresh produce worth $600. For the garden newbies out there, it’s OK to start small. Growing your own herbs indoors is simple and can save you nearly $3 a pop every time you need some fresh rosemary or parsley.
Kids make excellent garden buddies, too! Check out our post on how to grow food with kids for inspiration.
Whether or not your local grocery store has a “bag ban,” this is an easy way to show some love to Mama Nature. Plastic bags are a huge source of pollution–research shows they take 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment. That’s a pretty compelling reason to BYOB!
Whatever the grocery bag of your choice, try to re-use it as many times as possible, even if it’s a “single-use” plastic bag. You can line your trash can with it, use it to carry your lunch, or bring it with you next time you go grocery shopping.
It’s time to come clean. Household cleaning products (like surface spray, floor cleaner, and window cleaners) are another sad source of plastic pollution. BUT they don’t have to harm the environment. When you use refillable bottles and cleaning concentrates you may never have to buy a plastic spray bottle ever. again. Instead of buying a new bottle of household cleaner every time yours comes up empty, you simply add a cleaning concentrate (based on package directions) and voila–you’ve got a full bottle of product!
We have just the kit to get you started! And while different companies offer different types of refillables, here’s how ours works:
If you’re a shopaholic who loves a bargain, then reassess your spending habits to benefit your pocketbook AND the planet! The fashion industry alone is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions and 20% of industrial water pollution worldwide–that’s a good reason to bypass the mall altogether!
Here are some easy peasy ways to shop sustainably:
In the United States more than 60 million bottles are thrown away instead of recycled every single day. Another way to help keep plastics and microplastics from ending up in our oceans, soil, and waterways is to reuse your own water bottles, mugs, or cups whenever possible. Keep a few pre-filled up water bottles in your fridge so you can grab one before heading out the door! And if you’re meeting a friend for coffee, look for a shop that’ll let you bring a mug from home. Starbucks, along with many local coffee shops, allows you to bring your own clean, reusable cups.
As a busy parent, water helps your world go ‘round. You use it to cook, drink, do laundry, and clean up your v. messy baby! It’s also one of our most vital, natural resources, so it deserves our attention! The EPA estimates that the average American uses about 88 gallons of water a day at home – over a month’s time, a family of four consumes more than 10,5000 gallons. Here are a few simple ways to watch your water intake:
And speaking of saving money on your utilities! Keep tabs on your home’s energy usage and you could enjoy a lower electricity bill and carbon footprint. Saving household energy reduces air and water pollution while conserving natural resources. And while we can’t all afford top-of-the-line energy-efficient appliances, here’s one simple way to make an impact: Unplug your appliances when they’re not actively being used (yep, your blender, coffee machine, laptop, printer, all count!). Households spend $200 or more every year on plugged-in devices that aren’t even in use.These electronics are called vampire appliances–don’t let them suck your bank account dry. ;) Try putting all your major electronics on a power strip, then shutting them off at night or when you leave the house.
Take a break from the concrete jungle and become a family who adventures together! Stepping outside helps us stay a little more connected to the earth and all our natural surroundings–while improving our mood, mental health, and overall sense of wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be extreme or expensive. Try gardening, playing at the park, biking, or hiking.
Most people recycle far, far less than they could! Consider auditing your trash can–what’s going to the landfill that could be sent to a recycling center? Brush up on your local recycling guidelines, post ‘em on the fridge, and get your kid involved by letting them be the “recycling referee.” (aka: give them ownership in the process, and they’ll be more likely to participate!)
Here are a few quick tips:
There are so many easy and budget-friendly ways to live a sustainable lifestyle. Please share your favorite tips and tricks in the comments!