• Small Sustainable Swaps

Budget friendly Eco-Tips

Some people believe that being more eco-friendly or sustainable will be more expensive. This may be true in relation to some aspects however there are many things you can do to be more sustainable that won’t cost money and may even save you money. Many of these are also easy things to do that won’t make your life any trickier but may just take a little thought. Not all of these tips may work for you but every little change helps to make a difference.

1. Switch off lights and appliances – switching off devices when they are not in use not only saves energy but can save money on bills. Carefully check which appliances need to be kept on standby but there are many that can safely be switched off completely when not in use. Switching off lights when not in use will also save energy and money. If you can try to make sure you are using energy efficient bulbs as another way to save energy. We always switch the TV off at the wall, but we do leave the set top box switched on. We also make sure the children’s CD players are switched off at the wall when not in use. We do have to remind the children about switching off lights when they are not in the room, but they are getting better at this!

2. Run dishwasher and washing machine when full – filling a machine is more cost effective than running it half empty (if you do, use a half load function) however it is important not to overload a washing machine as this could damage the drum and how it functions and an overfilled dishwasher may result in dishes not being cleaned fully and needing a further wash. Washing at lower temperatures for some loads will also help save energy. We use a few different settings on our washing machine, some of which adapt the length of the cycle and the amount of water used based on the weight of the washing in the machine. We mostly use the eco setting on the dishwasher and always run it when full which happens often as we only have a small machine.

3. Hang washing on a line to dry – hanging washing on a line is free and involves no energy costs. It also helps clothes smell fresh and can avoid possible damage from the dryer heat. We are incredibly lucky to have the space for a rotary washing line which can hold several loads at a time. In the winter we tend to only use the line occasionally, so we use airers inside instead. This can be a slower method, but it is the only option we have.

A rotary washing line filled with clothes hanging from it with a blue sky and some clouds.

4. Switch to a green energy provider – by switching to a green energy provider the energy used has a lower environmental impact it is important though to consider ones within budget. We switched to Octopus a couple of years ago and haven’t had any issues with them. We have found they offer equivalent deals to other companies and we generally find we are in credit even after winter usage. They offer credit if you refer friends which may have helped us to maintain our credit level, the person signing up also gets credit (use this link to try out Octopus https://share.octopus.energy/lush-gaur-481 ). They offer a range of green tariffs. There are a growing number of companies that offer a selection of green tariffs so shop around.

5. Reuse jars and pots for storage – jars and pots can save lots of money when it comes to storage. Fancy storage pots do look lovely but can be quite expensive in comparison to jars which are left over from other goods. Jars can have labels added or they can be decorated. There are so many ways that jars can be reused. We have used them for storing dried goods that we buy loose, cut up pieces of bubble bars, making our own jams or pickled foods, and storing rolled up wax wraps. As jars come in different sizes you can usually find one to suit any need. Occasionally the jar may smell a little, but I have found mixing a little Bicarbonate of Soda and water or lemon juice and giving it a shake with the lid on will remove any residual odours. If necessary, I label the jar using just a sharpie as I’m not too bothered how they look. By using jars like this they save the need for recycling and save the need for buying new storage pots.

A selections of jars and pots with loose dried goods filling them. The pots and jars are sitting on a wooden table.

6. Use up products before switching – it can be very tempting to go out and buy lots of lovely ‘sustainable’ products however these can be quite expensive, and it may be that you already have something that does the job. If an item is replaced before being used up, then that is wasting both resources and money. The same can be true for more longer term items. You can buy some lovely travel cutlery sets made of bamboo or other materials but it is very likely you walready have some cutlery at home which you could just take with you and use instead. I do sometimes buy some items before finishing those that I know I am happy with, but I do this to check that the product works for me. I will make sure that I do use up the original product rather than just throwing it away. An example of this was moisturiser. I was using a moisturiser that came in a plastic pot. I started to try some alternatives before I had finished my pot. Once I found one I was happy with I made sure to finish up my old pot so that it wasn't wasted.

7. Carry reusable bags when shopping – in October 2015, a 5p plastic bag levy was introduced in England to reduce the use of single use plastic bags (it is due to be raised to 10p in April 2021). Carrying bags means there isn’t a need to pay the levy and you reduce the need for more plastic bags. We have a mix of plastic bags which we have reused many many times and some purpose bought fabric bags. I always keep bags in the car for when I am out which is particularly helpful for unexpected trips to the shop. I also have a couple of small fabric bags which can be kept in handbags or rucksacks for shopping trips.

8. Borrow items rather than buying new – buying new items creates a demand and has an impact on resources. Buying new also means spending money. Often it may be possible to borrow an item from someone. This can be particularly true for tools you might need for a one-off project. Libraries are great places to borrow books, CDs and DVDs, some even offer toy hire. There are several businesses out there where you can hire different items rather than buying new. Another option may be borrowing items from friends and family. This will save money and the need for extra resources to be used. In the past I have borrowed clothes from friends for fancy dress costumes and my husband has often borrowed tools from various family members. We have also used the toy library at our local library and hired play sets from a lovely local business rather than buying new toys.

9. Use lids on pans when cooking – Using a lid can reduce the cooking time as more heat is contained, reducing energy usage and therefore energy bills. Another tip for saving energy (and money) is using the right size pan for food being prepared. Using a pan that is too large will mean the food takes longer to cook than using a more appropriately sized pan. I'm not sure why but this is something that took me a long time to start thinking about. I use to see the lid on a pan as a bit of a nuisance but it does help to reduce cooking time. Obviously a lid on a pan isn't always appropriate for the cooking method you may be using but it is something to definitely think about.

10. Meal plan to avoid waste – meal planning can be a great way to save money and reduce food waste. Planning meals means being more prepared when buying food therefore only what is needed will be bought. This could then save money as extra food isn’t added to the bill. Since we started meal planning, we have reduced the amount of food that is wasted as I can plan what will be eaten and when, and how to use any leftovers. As we are planning our meals and making sure we get everything in out main weekly shop we have reduced our need for top up shops which often led to extra items being bought, costing more money.

11. Use up or donate left-over food – throwing food away wastes money. It can also be damaging to the environment as food sent to landfill doesn’t rot down harmlessly but breaks down and releases methane which is a harmful greenhouse gas. Some left over food can be frozen to allow it to be used later. Using up food will mean money hasn’t been wasted. Food that isn’t going to be used or isn’t needed can be given away to others. A good app for this is Olio. Items can be listed for others to come and collect. We try to make sure that we use leftovers for lunch or freeze them for dinners at another time. This also means the food we have lasts longer and saves us needing to buy extra.

12. Use water carefully – water is a precious resource that needs to be conserved. Simple tips like turning the tap off when brushing teeth, taking shorter showers and using eco cycles on washing machines and dishwashers will all help to reduce water usage in the home. In homes with water meters this will also help to keep down water bills. We currently don’t have a water meter, but we do still try to monitor our water usage. We have a water butt in the garden which is useful for watering plants in the garden. Having children, we do often have a paddling pool during the summer months, but we always try to use the water after for watering the grass or the plants.

13. Donate unwanted items to others – many perfectly good items (clothing, household etc) end up in landfill every year. This is a waste of resources and a waste of money. These items will usually be made from materials that will not break down and so they will just sit in landfill. By donating unwanted goods to others, it prevents landfill from being filled with useful items. Also, other people can often make good use of the items meaning less new items need to be made. Charity shops appreciate good quality items that they can sell but it is important to make sure the items are of an acceptable quality otherwise they will have to deal with disposing of them. Another option is to use Facebook or Olio to give items away or sell them. Within our friendship group we have a WhatsApp group where we share items that we have to give away. Sometimes friends want the items other times they don’t, but it is a useful way to get rid of items without them going to landfill. I have also had some success in selling items on Facebook which helps with making a little money.

14. Repair items rather than throw away - another way to save items from going to landfill is to repair them. Throwing something away that is damaged can sometimes be the easiest option especially if you don’t have the equipment needed to fix things however it may be that other people do and may be able to help. Repairing items though can extend their lifespan meaning money can be saved from having to buy new items. This may also offer the opportunity to learn a new skill. I have dabbled with repairing a few items – a flowerpot, a shoe loop – but it is something that I need to work on to help save items from being thrown away.

A black trainer with a broken loop.
A black trainer with the loop fixed

15. Delete unwanted emails - emails sitting in an inbox seem quite innocent as they seemingly take up no physical space, but they actually have an impact on the environment. They do in fact take up a physical space as the data involved in keeping emails is stored on servers in data centres which require huge amounts of power to run as they run 24 hours a day. Recently I spent time deleting old emails going back almost 10 years, there were well over 8,000 emails just sitting there pointlessly. Now I only have key emails saved and ones from the last 6 months. I will be setting myself a reminder to regularly delete old emails to ensure they don’t build up again. As part of this I also Unsubscribed from several different emails which I often wouldn’t read and just deleted straight away.

16. Walk or cycle - For shorter journeys switching to walking or cycling can help reduce the emission from driving a car. On short journeys car engines are just warming up which means they release higher levels of emissions. Walking or cycling will also save money as less fuel is needed for running the car. Another bonus could be greater levels of activity and therefore health improvements. I am fortunate to live quite close to a village and my daughter’s school. This allows for us to walk to these places easily (even if my girls sometimes object!).

This is not an exhaustive list of Low Cost Eco Tips and it may not be possible for everyone to be done. Every small change really is important and will have an impact. What do you think you could try?

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