You want to become more green. You love the idea of being an eco-friendly family. But you’re overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start, what changes to make, how to go about making these changes. You’re afraid you can’t afford it.
Switching to a green lifestyle CAN cost money, especially if you’re making many changes at once.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it can be pretty economical. It can be even cheaper than your current lifestyle.
Hear me out. If you’re seeking out bargains, DIY remedies and recipes, and really aiming to “reduce, reuse and recycle”, it’s totally possible to make the green switch without breaking the bank. If money isn’t an issue, there are also many awesome companies striving to natural, safe products like natural beauty, makeup and home cleaners. You can also cut back in other areas in order to switch to a healthier, more natural lifestyle, investing in particular items you can’t make yourself. Here are some of my favourite tips for going green on a budget.
You might be surprised by what awesome things you can pick up at your local thrift store, consignment shop or garage sale. I recently picked up a set of teak bowls in amazing condition for $1! I’ve also found some sweet deals at our local thrift store and a friend of mine recently just found a KitchenAid stand mixer at Value Village – amazing! Other good finds from the thrift store? Gorgeous pottery, a cast iron pan with a beautiful solid wood handle, and almost new Sorel boots and Keen shoes for the kiddos. When it comes to kids clothes, they out-grow them so quickly, it’s rarely necessary to buy new. Other than underwear, socks and some pyjamas, I often scour our local consignment store for deals on clothes. Children’s clothes, especially pyjamas, are often full of flame-retardants and other chemicals, so buying used also entails that many of these chemicals have been washed off. Baby gear is also another big item you can often find used online; places like Kijiji and Craigs List are full of baby carriers, strollers and cribs, often in excellent condition.
Make Your Own Products
When it comes to cleaning products and some bath and beauty items, we try to make products whenever we can. There are just too many scary chemicals in conventional beauty products these days, and since our skin is our biggest organ and absorbs these chemicals the most, I like to make sure we’re avoiding unnecessary toxins as much as possible. If there’s one *green* area you can afford to invest money in to purchase new, I’d definitely recommended beauty products. You can VERY easily make many of your own skincare and cleaning products though, like Baby Wipe Solution, All-Purpose Cleaner, Floor Cleaner, Laundry Detergent, Soap, and even a herbal Postpartum healing bath. Make vinegar and baking soda your best friends – these two wonder ingredients can be used to make just about any cleaning product. To make it more fun, you can even get together a small group of friends or family and all chip in on the ingredients to make some batches of different cleaners. Check out my Pinterest board for tons of great DIY natural home and beauty recipes and remedies.
Buy Re-usable or Eco-friendly Paper Products
A few years ago, we made the decision to cut back on paper products. We really try to minimize our use of these products at home, and strive to buy from eco-friendly companies that put sustainability first. One of my new favourite companies is Caboo Paper, whose products are all made with renewable bamboo and sugarcane. Plus, they are all 100% biodegradable. I especially like their napkins and facial tissue, which are much thicker and stronger than most conventional ones. Although we normally use cloth napkins, we find that paper napkins come in super handy when we have a gathering or big family dinners. I cringe at the idea of using conventional paper napkins, so I love having this great eco alternative from Caboo. Many big-name companies have made the decision to go green, so check labels to make sure you aren’t purchasing products made from old-growth forests. If you’re looking to reduce paper use by using cloth, here are some simple changes to make:
- When it comes to grocery shopping, cloth is a must. You can easily make your own and Tipnut has a list of 50 different free patterns for reusable grocery bags. Reusable produce bags are also awesome and really cut down on plastic use. Make or pick up some cloth bags that can easily be thrown into the washing machine and bring these with you whenever you pick up groceries.
- Keep a big assortment of rags in every size for spills or messes, as well as for cleaning. Cut-up old sheets, towels or clothes make great rags, as do old cloth diapers, pre-fold style.
- For simple family meals, use cloth napkins, which can easily be washed. You can also easily make your own. These are especially helpful with little kids.
Wait for Sales and Buy in Bulk
Check out the local weekly grocery store ads, which you can also do on-line if you prefer to save the trees and not get junk mail/flyers. If a natural product we use often is on sale for a great price, we’ll usually stock up to save money in the long run. Organic pasta, bulk cereal and tetra-pack almond milk are a few of the items I look for. Many local Costco stores also carry some great natural and eco brands that you can buy in bulk. OR, look into buying in bulk from some of your favourite companies if possible. For instance, we eat A LOT of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, but these can get expensive. I contacted our favourite organic nut company and discovered they sell them in bulk for much less than we were paying our local natural foods store. Often there is just a minimum order requirement, which can easily be attained if you get a few people together. Finally, look into joining a local CSA. This can be a wonderful way to purchase organic produce straight from the local farmers at a much reduced-price than the conventional stores. You can also carpool with others to pick up your weekly box.
I know cloth diapering is not for everyone, but with the many options available, it can be an easy change for most people. We invested up front in all our cloth diapering supplies for our first baby, which means diapering is a minimal expense for us with our second child. If you purchase your own, it will be an investment up front, but then that’s it. There’s also the option of a cloth diaper rental service. The cost is more than purchasing your own cloth diapers, but it’s still cheaper than disposable, and is much less work for parents when it comes to cleaning diapers. Cloth diapering can be a huge way to cut back costs and go green on a budget.
Shop at Farmer’s Markets and Buy in Season
I admit, I’m a farmer’s market-a-holic. I get so pumped every year when farmer’s market season starts and love to scour the different ones in my town. When we travel, one of my favourite things to do is scope out the local farmer’s market scene. You can pick up some awesome deals from the local farmer and know that not only are you paying less than you would in a big supermarket, you’re also supporting your local farmers and not having food shipped halfway across the world. From vegetables and fruit to fresh bread and even homemade preserves and fresh-cut flowers, there are so many great things to be found at farmer’s markets. Plus, there’s nothing like tasting the first batch of sweet, local strawberries or biting into a local, juicy peach. Local seriously tastes better.
Grow Your Own
Try your hand at gardening if you have your own yard space or access to a community garden plot. It can be an amazingly rewarding experience, while also allowing you to grow your own (organic) vegetables for a fraction of the cost to buy. Plus, kids LOVE to help in the garden. If you have room, you can even give them their own little mini garden. Once you plant the seeds or seedlings, just look after those plants, using natural pest remedies when needed, and then reap the benefits as delicious produce starts coming in. At the end of the season, you can also can or freeze leftover produce.
Give Up Plastic
Plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic-wrapped produce. Plastic is everywhere! Unfortunately, plastic and plastic bags NEVER break down and instead end up in our waterways, oceans and marine and animal life. You can avoid a lot of plastic though if you make a conscious decision to go green, and also save money while you’re at it. Aside from bringing cloth bags with you to the market or grocery store, try to avoid buying produce that is covered in unnecessary plastic or packaging. When purchasing things like sauces, look for glass jars (these can easily be washed and re-used for leftovers), and bring your own cloth produce bags. Bumkins make great reusable sandwich bags and these are perfect for packing in lunches, really cutting down on the use of plastic sandwich bags. When it comes to packing up leftovers at home, invest in a few good glass containers or reuse mason jars. We stopped buying saran wrap years ago and find food not only stays fresher in our glass containers but it’s also better for us (no plastic chemical leakage) and helps keep plastic particles out of our environment. Also, bottled water is a huge waste of plastic and is no better for you than tap water. We are big Klean Kanteen water bottle fans and bring them with us everywhere.
Stop Eating Out
I know, life gets crazy busy and we’re all sometimes in a time crunch. But meal planning and prepping ahead of time can really help cut back on last-minute meal stress, and still allow you to eat healthy. We do indulge in eating out some times like any other family, but consider it a special treat, and the money we save on dining out (even those coffee and latte runs add up!) allows us to spend a bit more on healthier alternatives when we do our food shopping. By planning your meals ahead of time and carefully scheduling enough time (for instance, a simple, quick pasta dish on nights when you know you’ll be short on time), you can save money and eat healthier. Years ago, we used to order pizza (too much), but now we make Friday nights our pizza and movie night. It’s super simple to make your own (especially if you chop up veggies the day before). Kids love to help add toppings and that way, you know what you’re putting on the pizza, plus it’s cheaper than ordering in. Pinterest is an amazing source of meal inspiration.
When planning weekend activities with the kids or family, check out local events or festivals held outside. Most are free, and many are geared toward families. Or think creatively: nature hikes, scavenger walks, picnics, bike rides, beach days, skating and tobogganing or just some of the many simple things you can do to get everyone outside and having fun being active.
What are some of the changes your family has made to go green on a budget? I’d love to know!
Want more green living tips?