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Save green by being green

By on January 3, 2009

photo by janey henning
Being frugal is eco-friendly. Some people don’t realize how frugality and green living go hand in hand. Both include being less wasteful, recycling and reusing items whenever possible. While you might want to invest in ways to save more money, such as buying a hybrid car, installing solar panels and shades, or updating all of your appliances to energy savers, that’s not always affordable. But you can still focus on small, practical ways to be frugal while at the same time being green. The important thing is to make the decision to be mindful over using only what you need and not more than what is necessary.
Here are a few ways to be green to save green.

HOME GARDEN: You can grow your own food and cooking herbs, gather and reuse rainwater in rain barrels, save seeds, reuse containers as planters, compost, can and preserve, plant ground cover instead of lawn that needs to be mowed, and plant trees for shade and to guard your home from wind. Consider manual or electric tools over gas-powered ones.

HOMEKEEPING: Use natural, homemade cleaners, microfiber cloths or reusable cloth materials for surface cleaning and cloth napkins instead of paper; line-dry clothing; and turn off heat drying on your dishwasher.

RECYCLE AND REUSE: Before throwing something away, think about whether you can reuse or recycle it. Materials such as newspaper, plastic containers, food scraps, wood, glass jars, paper, cardboard, etc., are all materials that can be reused around the house.

BYOB: Bringing your own reusable bottle or bag is frugal and green. Don’t continue to use disposable materials when there are reusable substitutes. If you’re buying only one or two items, refuse a plastic grocery bag when it’s offered.

SHOPPING: Buy products that have less packaging. Buy produce when it’s in season. Buy from farmers’ markets and secondhand sellers more often. Consider buying from companies that support or donate a percentage to a cause. For example, if you enjoy online auctions, try bidding at Buying there will support various schools and nonprofits.

UTILITY CONSERVATION: A hot-water insulator keeps your body warm instead of rooms warm. Use programmable thermostats, CFL bulbs and rechargeable batteries. Unplug electrical devices when they’re not in use. Put them on power strips to make them easier to shut off. Check for window and door drafts, and fix them. Install timers for lights. Use a low-flow showerhead.

TRAVEL: Combine errands, drive a fuel-efficient car or become a one-car family; carpool, bike and walk whenever possible. Keep vehicles well maintained. Don’t let your car idle if you can turn it off. Keep proper tire pressure.

FOOD: Cook from scratch more often. Make your own baby food if you have a baby. Use reusable coffee filters and lessen your meat consumption. Use reusable containers that can go from stovetop or oven to fridge instead of plastic wraps and baggies.

GIFT-GIVING: Give homemade gifts. Giftwrap can be a usable part of the gift. For example, instead of using a paper gift bag, use a reusable cloth bag, and you can use Sunday comics instead of tissue paper to tuck into your cloth bag, too.

READING: Swap reading materials with friends. Visit and support your local library or frequent used bookstores.

How are you green and frugal?


  1. Paige Rodgers

    1/3/2009 at 4:20 pm

    Great tips! Here’s an article I just wrote on the same topic that has some different tips that could be worth sharing.

    How to Save Money and the Environment at the Same Time
    One Mom’s Ten Easy Tips for Reducing Costs and Reducing Waste in 2009
    This year, my New Year’s resolutions have less to do with eating healthier or working out more. My 2009 list is focused on the more pressing issues that many families are also facing: saving money and reducing our impact on the environment. Here are 10 small things that we’ve already begun to do to make a difference in our budget and our carbon footprint.
    1. Switch from paper to cloth napkins: Switching from paper to cloth napkins can save a family $1.68 on average a week (according to the National Geographic Green Guide). Instead of purchasing rolls of paper towels and bags of napkins every few weeks, buy a dozen re-usable cotton napkins for everyday use. You’ll save money over time and you’ll greatly reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

    2. Eliminate disposables: Rather than serve meals on disposable products, use the plates, cups and utensils you already have. You may justify your use of disposables by the time you save in washing, but if your priorities are to cut costs and reduce waste, this is a good place to start. If your concern is breakage with kids or outdoor entertaining, invest in a set of hard plastic plates and cups and you’ll make up the cost very soon.

    3. Carry a coffee cup with you: First, start by cutting down on buying coffee when out of the house; this is a quick way to save an average of $2.50 a day. But, if you feel the need to indulge, have a travel mug or even ceramic mug from home with you. Some cafes will discount your coffee if you bring your own mug, and you’ll reduce the number of paper cups going into the trash bin.

    4. Give up plastic water bottles: The very day I read that an estimated 40 million bottles a day go into the trash, emitting toxics into the groundwater and taking a whopping 1,000 years to biodegrade, I gave up disposable water bottles for good. At the time, about 3 years ago, it was purely an environmental decision. Now, I am happy to acknowledge the hundreds of dollars I’ve saved over those years.

    5. Buy in bulk. The cost savings of buying larger quantities of items can be calculated immediately (just stand in any isle of the supermarket and compare). And by buying in bulk, you’re also helping to save the environment by cutting down on packaging. No more individual cheese sticks, small raisin boxes, juice boxes and single serve apple sauce. It’s just as easy to serve the kids at mealtime, or fill small reusable containers for the lunchbox, and you’ll immediately cut costs and waste.

    6. Pack a waste-free lunch. On average, a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. Packing a waste-free lunch means using reusable containers, utensils and water bottles, a cloth napkin, and no packaged foods. You’ll save money by using food you purchased in bulk (along with the cloth napkin instead of paper), and you’ll cut down on all those pounds of waste.

    7. Shop at consignment stores. From buying birthday gifts (many consignment shops have never-used toys still in their original packaging) to kid’s clothing and furniture, consignment prices will always be less than what you’d pay for the same brand in a retail store. And, by purchasing something that has been around a while, you’ll decrease the carbon emissions of creating something new. Also consider for second-hand shopping online.

    8. Stop using wrapping paper. A lot of the wrapping paper is not recyclable, and if you think back to the last Christmas or birthday and the bags full of wrapping paper, you’ll know where I’m going with this. I save and reuse every gift bag I receive and I haven’t wrapped a present in a long time. I’ve also got cute cloth holiday bags in varying sizes that my mom made and I use them every year for Christmas presents. It’s our own family tradition that my kids love. I even sometimes wrap with newspaper (comics for the kids, the sports section for dads, and style section for moms) – it’s fun, less expensive and eco-friendly.

    9. Bring your own bag to the store. This one has gotten very popular in the past year. Now there are many trendy fabric shopping bags you can buy to replace the paper or plastic the stores supply. I say don’t spend any money buying cute shopping bags and just grab your gym bag, or the plastic bags you’ve hopefully saved from years of grocery shopping, and you’ve instantly reduced the number of new plastic bags piling up in our landfills and saved money. If you don’t have the gym bag or reused plastic bag option, you can find one for $1.00 or less and buy a bunch to keep in your car.

    10. Cut down, or cut out, newspaper delivery. My mom announced quite proudly just a few days ago, that by switching from daily delivery of the newspaper to just Wednesday through Sunday delivery, she cut her fees in half. What she didn’t realize was that she also made an eco-friendly decision to reduce paper waste. This seems almost too easy. Just skip Monday and Tuesday delivery, get your news online, and you’ve reduced your bill by 50%! Better yet, cancel the delivery all together and bookmark a few favorite news websites to read each day.

    Written by Paige Rodgers, co-founder, Fabkins – kids’ cloth napkins (

  2. Greg

    1/4/2009 at 2:34 pm

    With regards to utility conservation and installing low flow showerheads, if you are going to do that then you should install low flow faucet aerators. These typically cost under $10 and are easy to install. Typical low flow aerators allow 2.5 gallons per minute or as low as .5 gallons per minute of water flow. Here is a link to examples you can’t buy them there but it will give you an idea of what to look for at the hardware store.

  3. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Frugal Village: Save green by going green

  4. Kelly

    1/7/2009 at 6:49 pm

    A great comprehensive list of money and earth-saving ideas! Very helpful for those who need small, inexpensive but effective ways to start.

  5. Mary Ellen

    7/22/2009 at 8:10 pm

    While wrapping Christmas packages this past Christmas, I found some “used” bows in my collection, and, of course, they wouldn’t stick to anything. I used to use Scotch tape to tape it to the package, but it always seemed to look “tacky” to me. This time, I remembered I had just bought some double sided rug tape, and decided to try that. It was just the right width, it worked perfectly, and it only took a small snip of it to hold, so was very cost efficient! Much less than replacing the bow!

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