How To Save Money While Helping The Planet

This has already been a big summer for the environment. June brought record-breaking heat with the 2021 Western North America Heat Wave. A few weeks later July’s tropical storm Elsa pummeled the East Coast. California is on fire again this August, and hurricane Ida just ravaged New Orleans.   

These major weather events may seem like one-offs, but they’re part of a larger shift in global systems that we’re all a part of. 

Here at CARD, we want to open a conversation about how the environment and the economy are connected. 

🔥 The effects of Climate Change are becoming more and more destructive as the US endures more and more climate-related disasters – from heat waves, to wildfires, to hurricanes

🌏 The buildup of greenhouse gases (a.k.a. Global Warming) in the atmosphere will completely change large-scale systems like agriculture and industry. Over time, it also has the potential to affect everyone’s homes, families, lifestyles… and wallets. 

💸 One study conducted by professors as UC Berkeley estimates that if no action is taken on climate change, by 2100 the income of the average person on earth will decrease 23%.

But do your best not to let these facts get you down! 

In general, it’s a handful of multinational corporations that are at the root of many major issues (like greenhouse gas emissions, and the plastic problem) – not individual consumers. 

The Bottom Line: You didn’t cause Climate Change, but there’s a part we can all play in building an eco-friendly culture. As consumers we can make conscientious choices and work alongside policy makers to pave the way for a greener economy

Here are 2 concrete actions you can take in your daily life to help combat the climate crisis. And here’s the best part: they can save you money!

1. Ditch Plastics for Reusables (And Try to Go Zero Waste)

The scary reality is that only 9% of plastics used in the United States are recycled. A whopping 40% of all plastic produced globally is in the form of packaging, designed to be used once, then thrown away. 

Reusable Packaging With Loop

To combat pollution, some companies are imagining a new system and new markets. A startup called Loop signed household names Clorox, Gillete, Crest, and even Häagen-Daz ice cream to test reusable containers for their products. 

Here’s how it works: Pay a refundable deposit, and receive a durable, reusable container full of product dropped off at your door in a tote bag. When you’ve used everything inside, you can drop off (or schedule a pickup) your tote. The reusable containers inside will be sanitized, refilled, and sent back. 

This creates a closed loop system (a.k.a. Circular Economy), and has the potential to transform the way you think about waste in your daily life.  

How to Start a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Have a company like Loop take care of the logistics or join the Zero Waste Movement. Zero Waste was popularized in a now-famous 2010 New York Times article about mom Bea Johnson, a.k.a. “The Priestess of Waste-Free Living”. 

The goal is to produce as little physical waste as possible. Johnson was famously able to fit an entire year of her family of four’s waste into a single mason jar. 

Here are some first steps: Start your collection of reusable containers for storage in your kitchen. Or, try switching out disposable items like paper towels and saran wrap for reusable items like washable cloths and beeswax wrap

You could go cold turkey on plastic water bottles and drink exclusively from a refillable bottle. Try giving up plastic-packaged grocery store food for whole foods, or goods from your local farmer’s market. Even feel better about your morning routine with products like Zero Waste toothpaste

Save On: Household Costs  

Here’s where you might be thinking: Is this really achievable for me on a budget? 

The reality is that, yes, reusable containers and disposable replacements can cost more up front. However, advocates like Johnson say the investment pays off in the long run, both financially and emotionally.  

She started her family’s switch to a Zero Waste lifestyle during the 2008 recession when her husband was trying to start a business, and they were on a tight budget. Johnson claims that her Zero Waste journey cut her household’s costs by 40%. 

Kathyrn Kellog, author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste says that she’s saved $18,000 by switching. She stopped buying items we might take for granted (from cleaning products to toilet paper) and saw savings with the replacements she came up with. When she ditched packaged grocery store food, she saved 100$ a month on grocery expenses. 

At the end of the day, not everyone has the time and money to plan out an elaborate Zero Waste lifestyle that fits into a mason jar.

Only take on sustainability goals that match up with your definition of financial independence. Small, everyday choices can make a big difference in your environmental footprint… and your budget. 

2. Conserve Water, Conserve Cash

Did you know that only 3% of all water on earth is freshwater? In the US, we use it for industry, agriculture, drinking, and for watering our 30 million acres of lawns.

However, 2.5% of that freshwater is locked away in the atmosphere, glaciers, and soil. That means only about 0.5% of water on earth is available to us! 

With growing populations and Climate Change altering our water systems, drought is a problem all over the world in 2021.   

Water = Energy = $$$

The average American family shells out around $1,000 per year in water costs, and the average American person wastes about 100 gallons of water per day. An average household wastes over 10,000 gallons of water every year – just due to leaky faucets and toilets!

Water has its own price at home, but did you know it’s also closely linked to energy costs?

Households with electric water heaters spend about ¼ of their electricity bill just to heat daily-use water. Also, a lot of water is used as a coolant at electricity production plants, and there’s energy expended to transport water to your home.  

In a nutshell, more water usage means more energy usage, which results in a bigger environmental footprint, and bigger utility bills for you to pay. Take a closer look at your personal impact using this water footprint calculator.

 When you conserve water at home, you can help combat drought and keep money in your pocket where it belongs.

Have Some WaterSense

50% of all water usage at home occurs in… you guessed it, the bathroom! Finding and fixing leaky toilets, faucets, pipes, and appliances is one of the easiest ways to stop wasting water (and money) at home. Check out these resources for info on how to identify and stop leaks.

In addition to repairs there are some easy, permanent upgrades you can make that can lower your water usage and save big money over time.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a program called WaterSense. They assess and label fixtures and appliances proven to be at least 20% more efficient than “standard models”.   

Here’s how it works: Say goodbye to that crusty old shower head, and get a WaterSense labelled replacement. BOOM, use 4 gallons less water every single time you shower. Install an aerator on existing faucets or replace them with WaterSense approved models, and save around 700 gallons per year.

So many mechanisms manage our water usage in the background: irrigation (sprinkler) systems, hot water delivery systems, toilets and plumbing, and more.

Replace all those old systems with verified efficient appliances and save at least 20% more water. Plus, save hundreds of dollars a year in water and energy costs!

Save On: Utility Costs

For businesses and individuals who own property, WaterSense upgrades are proven to have a strong return on investment (ROI) with payback periods as short as 2-3 years.

Here are some first steps: Switch out all your old toilets and you could save $130 in water costs every year. Installing aerators and replacing leaky, inefficient faucets can equal $250 in savings over each faucet’s lifetime.

Typically, the biggest savings come from upgrading outdoor irrigation systems. After all, outdoor water use accounts for 30% of home water use. Installing controllers on your sprinklers can save the average home up to 15,000 gallons of water a year. That’s enough to fill a mid-size swimming pool!   

However, just like with ditching plastics, there are some serious upfront costs to water-saving upgrades. Appliances cost real money and large-scale maintenance is not feasible for every American household – and that’s okay! Just like with plastics, there are small choices you can make that have a big impact.

In addition to fixing leaks, one of the most low-cost and low effort ways to save water is by finding the best aerators for your home’s shower heads and faucets.

Recap...

Try your best to keep in mind that caring about the climate crisis is not about assigning blame to ourselves or others. It’s more about looking at the world with open eyes, being open to research and facts, and listening to scientists.

🌱 We depend on natural resources to make the world go round, and the economy and the environment are deeply interwoven.  

Individual’s actions might not be able to solve climate change on their own, but they are essential in building the earth-conscious culture we will need to weather big changes together.

Follow these steps and use these resources to find small, everyday ways that you can help the planet while saving money.   

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