There are many easy ways to save money and the environment in our everyday lives. From the laundry room to the mailbox, the grocery store to the backyard, minor lifestyle adjustments can make a big difference. And there’s no better time than now to start.
In honor of Earth Day 2021, here are 21 tips and ideas for saving money and the environment.
1. Use a Reusable Water Bottle and In-Home Water Filter
If you’re going to make one immediate lifestyle change for Earth Day 2021, commit to ditching single-use water bottles. Currently, Americans purchase about 50 billion bottles of water a year, amounting to around 156 per person. By combining a reusable glass or water bottle with a filtered pitcher or filter attachment for your kitchen sink, you can help reduce plastic waste and save on your grocery bill.
2. Run the Wash Only When It’s Full
It should come as no surprise that conserving water can save money while protecting the planet. (It’s why so many items on this list are about water!) So hold off on running the dishwasher or washing machine until there’s a full load. In doing so, you’ll save money on your monthly water and energy bills. Want to save even more? Most of your clothes, like delicate items made with lace or silk and dark, colorful fabrics will come out just as clean if you wash them with cold water. Additionally, according to GE, many detergents have enzymes that start to work in temperatures as low as 60 degrees, and cold-water detergent also enhances results.
3. Use DIY Environmentally Friendly Cleaners
Speaking of dishes and laundry, many detergents are made from synthetic ingredients that are bad for the environment and aquatic life in particular. Thankfully, it’s easy to make your own aromatic household cleaners using products like baking soda, vinegar, herbs and lemon juice. By utilizing things you may already have in your pantry to quickly produce effective cleaners, you will save money and the environment.
4. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Replacing your old thermostat with a programmable model is an easy and affordable way to reduce your heating and cooling bill — one that Energy Star estimates will save you around $180 a year, on average. That’s because a programmable thermostat can be set to vary the temperature in your home depending on the time of day, whether you’re home and so on. Many programmable thermostats can even be operated with an app, meaning you can pre-heat or cool your house before you get home instead of running the HVAC unit all day.
5. Go Meatless on Mondays and More
You might be surprised to learn that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry. Making Monday — plus maybe another day or two each week — meatless, is one way we can help the environment exhale and recover from such intense overuse. As a bonus, you’ll save money too, because rice, pasta, beans, potatoes and frozen veggies are all cheaper than meat.
6. Turn Off the Water
Do you leave the water running when brushing your teeth? Doing so wastes a lot of the Earth’s precious resources and your money too. Conserving water can save money while protecting the planet, so wet those bristles, apply toothpaste and turn off the faucet while you brush for two minutes, twice a day!
7. Stop Using Paper Towels
Instead of buying disposable paper products that hurt the environment, make use of ‘utility towels’ for spills and general cleanup duties. Tossing them in with your laundry is a less expensive and more environmentally friendly way to clean up messes in your home.
8. Eliminate Food Waste
According to a report from the National Resources Defense Council, 40% of food produced in the United States ends up in landfills. Meanwhile, 1 in 8 Americans goes hungry. It’s sad, expensive and an environmental disaster. Wasted food can also be a massive waste of your monthly budget. To avoid wasting food, make weekly menu plans and shopping lists. This will help you to shop smarter at the grocery store, buying only what you need and will consume, and all but eliminate food waste.
9. Shop Second-Hand
The manufacturing of new clothes, furniture and other products is complicated from a fair wages and environmental impact standpoint. Instead of exclusively shopping for new items, look for second-hand goods at local thrift stores. You can also use sites like Freecycle.org and the NextDoor app to discover who in your neighborhood is giving away or selling their unwanted stuff.
10. Unplug Your Electronics
Did you know that electricity is still flowing to your devices and appliances even when they’re turned off and not in use? It’s true! By unplugging them when not in use, you can save roughly $165 per year and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
So, unplug the toaster after you’re done making your morning bagel and unplug the TV while you’re at work or asleep at night, just like you do with your vacuum once the floor is clean. It may take a while to get used to unplugging and plugging in your electronics (a power strip can make this an easier, one-plug process), but when it comes to ways to save money and the environment, it doesn’t get much simpler.
Note: You may have to leave the WiFi router plugged in 24/7 if you have a home security system, front door camera or a programmable thermostat.
11. Reuse and Repurpose Everyday Items
In addition to shopping second-hand, you can find ways to reuse and repurpose items already in the house. For example, glass jars that once held your favorite pickles or mayonnaise can easily become cute storage containers for your child’s marble collection, a handsome tea bag holder displayed on the kitchen counter or decorative jars adorning a shelf. Here are 50 more ways to get organized by repurposing and upcycling things you may already have in your home.
12. Buy Products That Last
It may cost slightly more at first, but when you buy a new product, choose to spend the extra money to ensure you are buying something that will last a long time. Not only will this decision save you money in the long run, it will also help keep more trash from being added to landfills.
According to the most recent EPA data available, landfills received 29.2 million tons of durable goods trash in 2018. That means that clothes, bed sheets, diapers, and paper plates and cups accounted for nearly 20% of everything added to landfills! You can make a difference by using reusable products, switching to cloth diapers and choosing higher-quality clothes, sneakers and linens.
13. Collect Rainwater
According to Popular Science, “When an inch of rain falls, more than 1,000 gallons of water runs off the average American roof. That’s enough free H2O to supply the family inside for a few days and maybe knock a few dollars off the monthly utility bill.”
Additionally, plant parents know that rainwater is pure hydration! It’s soft water containing more oxygen and micro-nutrients that your plants will love. When you collect some of that rainwater, you store those natural resources away for use on your houseplants, lawn, and in your garden during dry spells. Conserving water in this way can save money while protecting the planet and is a great habit to start on Earth Day 2021.
14. Stop Junk Mail
Annually, the production and delivery of junk mail uses more energy than if 2.8 million cars were left idling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Additionally, according to the Center for Development of Recycling at San Jose State University, each American receives 41 pounds of junk mail annually. Producing the paper for all that junk results in the chopping down of between 80 million and 100 million trees every year. That’s a huge environmental price to pay to learn about the new Buy One Get One deals at the local shoe store! Stop junk mail from arriving at your door to save the environment and maybe even save some money since you won’t be tempted to buy anything being sold to you.
15. Use Cloth Napkins
Not only will you feel a bit more elegant in your day-to-day life, using cloth napkins is also one of the simplest ways to save money and the environment. Cloth napkins can help fill up your washing machine, too, making sure you have a full load of laundry every time.
16. Insulate Your Doors and Windows
Allowing heat to escape your home in wintertime and not keeping all of the cool air inside during the warmer months is an expensive ecological mistake that can be easily fixed. One of the ways you can help the environment and save money on utility bills is by insulating doors and windows with weatherstripping. Sealing up an older home may help reduce your heating and cooling bills by more than 20% according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
17. Plant Herbs
An ambitious backyard garden project that produces tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers could save you hundreds every year in food costs. But you can also start small. Plant herbs in a window box to give yourself easy access to just the right amount of basil needed for mozzarella and tomato salads, the perfect pinch of rosemary for the perfect roast potatoes or ample cilantro for homemade guacamole.
Not only is growing your own herbs environmentally friendly, it’s kind to your wallet, too! No longer will you find yourself spending $3 for each bundle of herbs at the grocery store, most of which you will likely end up throwing away within a few days.
18. Switch to LED Bulbs
As your light bulbs go dark, replace them with LED bulbs. While they do cost more than traditional light bulbs, LED bulbs last significantly longer and use up to 80% less electricity. The result is a potential savings of $20 per bulb. Use this energy savings calculator to see the return on investment of switching to LED light bulbs.
19. Shop for ENERGY STAR Appliances
As your old appliances come to the end of their life, shop for ENERGY STAR replacements, as greener purchasing decisions will help save money and the environment. For example, a water-efficient ENERGY STAR washing machine uses 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers. Over its lifetime, ENERGY STAR washing machines can save $370 in energy costs, which may ultimately help pay for themselves!
Whether you’re in the market for a dishwasher, washing machine or water heater, buying an ENERGY STAR-certified appliance could be a smart choice because conserving water can save money while protecting the planet. You may even be eligible for a rebate when you buy ENERGY STAR products like air-conditioners, microwaves and washing machines.
20. Switch to a Bidet Toilet
Bidets are widely used nearly everywhere except in America, although that’s changing thanks to affordable new bidet attachments that are able to be easily added to most existing toilet seats. And it’s easy to see why. Bidet toilets save money and the planet by using only one-eighth of a gallon of water and requiring far less toilet paper to get clean.
Bidets are proof that conserving water can save money while protecting the planet, because:
- It takes 37 gallons of water to make a single roll of toilet paper.
- 384 trees will be cut down to make a one person’s lifetime toilet-paper supply.
- Americans spend between $40 to $70 a year on toilet paper.
21. Quit Smoking
Not only is smoking an extremely expensive habit, cigarettes pose a threat to the environment because they contain chemicals that contaminate waterways and ground soil, and harm wildlife. Additionally, discarded still-lit cigarettes can cause fires, damaging homes and land. The impact on the Earth is severe, but the real cost of smoking can be expressed through economics. The financial cost to each smoker is estimated to be between $1.6 and $3.1 million over the course of a lifetime, when you consider the out-of-pocket cost of the products plus the significant healthcare expenses caused by smoking.
Start Saving Money and the Environment Today
These are just 21 of the many simple ways to save money and the environment by making minor lifestyle changes in our everyday lives. As we celebrate Earth Day 2021, think about:
- Buying fewer disposable products
- Maximizing your laundry and dishwasher usage
- Unplugging your electronics
- Making your own household cleaners
- Replacing light bulbs and appliances with more long-lasting, energy efficient models when the time comes