The Green Living Homestead: Ways to Save Money & Help the Environment at the Same Time
In Honor of Earth Day: I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but there was once a time when "green" living and helping the environment was not on my mind. I admit to once having been a complete consumer, and not a producer.
I was ignorant about environmental tragedies taking place in our world, and I wouldn't have known where to begin doing my part to save the planet. Plus, I thought that going green would end up costing more money! That was decades ago.
In the three decades since that time, after learning about natural health, taking courses, researching and reading all kinds of documents about the negative effects of processed foods, chemicals in commercial products, and general American materialism & waste, I have become an avowed "greenie."
In fact, homesteading and self-reliant living lend themselves to green living automatically. Mr. V. and I have developed (and continue to develop) a sense that the less we need to rely on commercial outlets like stores, the better off we are.
But doesn't it cost a lot of money to become more environmentally conscious? To take better care of your health through natural and organic methods? Luckily, not necessarily.
Here are some ways you can start living a greener, healthier life, help the environment, take your own small steps to improve the global ecology, improve and grow your self-reliance and homesteading skills, and SAVE MONEY at the same time! Yay!
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
How to Save Money and Help the Environment...at the Same Time
Chances are, if you are reading this, you are already doing some things that are considered "green" living. You may not be using dryer sheets, or maybe you have cut way back on your plastic use. Perhaps you are recycling or learning to repurpose items? Wherever you are on your healthier green journey, there are ways to do this and save money at the same time.
1) Line Dry
There is a romanticism I associate with line drying clothes. I remember my mom, back in the 60's, out there in the back yard putting sheets and clothing on the lines. I loved watching the sheets flap in the breeze and the fresh scent of the clothes that were naturally air-dried outside.
When I moved into our off-grid home in Cold Creek, NV over five years ago, I begged my husband to put in a clothes line for me. Oh...I know they are old-fashioned, but we really did have to conserve energy, as solar power needs to be stored in batteries, and once it's gone, needs to be stored up again.
You know what? We couldn't find one anywhere! He ended up buying me these little ridiculously flimsy lines that were not even close to what my child-hood memories imagined. I ended up just hanging our clothes on the fence....but we did save money!
I'm sure you are familiar with the latest Energy Star ratings, right? Well, dryers generally don't rate at all--even the newer ones. At least not that I'm aware.
Save yourself some money, be a little greener, and line dry your clothes! And if you find out where you can get one of those old-fashioned heavy duty clothes lines, please leave me a comment below! I'm still searching!
2) Kitchen Compost
I have three little kitchen composters I use. In our home, they fill up fast, and that's why I have three of them. One is certainly good enough, though!
These are attractive containers with a charcoal filter that you toss your compostable food scraps into. Things like any kind of plant matter, egg shells, even paper towels if you don't go crazy with them. The items tend to break down really quickly, too. When you get ready to add the contents to your regular outdoor compost area, you'll be surprised at how much decomposition has taken place already!
3) Amend Your Own Soil with Natural Compost/Manure
Closely related to #2 is using amendments to your soil that are natural. You really want to avoid buying bagged soils and commercial fertilizers if you possibly can. The chemicals in commercial fertilizers contaminate water run-off, even on a small scale. Besides that, anything bagged has to travel hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles before you get to buy it.
Instead, compost! Try vermiculture (worms) to naturally fertilize your soil. You can read about how to amend even the most horrible soil in the world here. Yes, it takes awhile, but when you can say that you have never put anything chemical or commercial on your garden/lawn, you will feel proud of that!
Besides---you will save a TON of money going natural with your soil.
4) Start a "Reuse" Group on Facebook
I thought about this one when I was trying to sell our kayaks recently. It seems Craigslist isn't what it once was, and so many people are now using Facebook instead. Well, why not start a "Reuse Group" for your area?
I know in our community, people love to reuse others' things. One person's trash is another person's treasure, right? So, those old hangers you want to just throw away? Or maybe that collection of DVD's you never watch anymore? Or those super great jeans you don't fit into any longer? Why not send them out into the world to do some more good for someone else?
Does this save you money? Well, if you are selling something, yes. If you are giving things away---maybe not so much. However---your home and space will thank you for decluttering, and I would argue that a simple life is priceless.
5) Buy Local and In Season---and Preserve When the Bounty is High
You know those out of season tomatoes you may have just purchased that were grown in Mexico? Well, the cost to bring them to market thousands of miles away is incredible. Not to mention, the nutritional value of those tomatoes starts fading the moment they are picked in their green, unripe state. You know what I mean. They are tasteless by the time they reach us.
Why not make a point of buying from local farmers? Especially for foods that are grown in your area, it just helps everyone out to do this. What about in the dead of winter, you ask?
Well, the solution to that is to get really good at buying LOTS when veggies and fruits are in season and learn to preserve them. You can dehydrate most vegetables and fruits easily. Canning is becoming more en vogue, too. And if those methods aren't in your lifestyle, then maybe experimenting with fermentation might work for you. Freezing is another way to preserve fresh veggies and some fruits, but it's not as economical.
But this way, you will have access to healthy, local vegetables and fruits all year long!
6) Cook Fresh
Cooking fresh can save you TONS of money. Every time you buy anything that's been prepackaged, commercially canned, or processed in any way, you are paying a ton for it. Not only does the cost factor come into play, but these foods are really killing us with all the chemicals they either have included or that are in the packaging materials (BPA in cans, for instance).
Prepackaged foods also use a lot more energy to make, ship, and be delivered to the store before you even buy it. What waste.
So, cook from scratch. You will enjoy a more wholesome diet, a healthier life, you will help the planet, and you'll save a bit of money too!
7) Grow Your Own
This is the best way to get fresh foods. Just grow it yourself. I know that some folks think gardening takes a lot of time and energy, but really it doesn't. Once you get your garden going in the spring, it really only takes about 15 to 30 minutes of daily maintenance to keep it up. And before you know it, you'll have your very own fresh vegetables and fruits right from your own backyard.
You might enjoy reading 10 Things Every Beginning Gardener Should Know.
8) Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
Honestly, this is just one of the BEST ways to go green and save money at the same time. Really. Making your own cleaning supplies, such as disinfecting sprays, grease cutters, dryer sheets, and more is easy, SUPER inexpensive, and in my personal experience, they almost always work better than the chemicals you buy at the store.
Most of the time, all you. need are various combinations of vinegar, essential oils, baking soda, and other inexpensive ingredients. Here is an article about how to make a great disinfecting all-purpose cleaner, and I'll also share my favorite scrub with you right now:
Heidi's Favorite Gentle Cleaning Scrub
1/2 cup Baking Soda
1/4 cup Vinegar (or just use the cleaning spray in the link above)
Essential Oils (optional): Lemon works great to cut grease!
I sprinkle the baking soda on the wet surface to be cleaned, then spray on some vinegar or the cleaning spray. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda to make a powerful paste scrub you can then use to clean your stainless steel sinks, kitchen tops, stove tops, etc. Rinse and wipe---all set!
There are lots of other recipes out there on the webs that are just as easy! If you want a great book, check out Leah Segedie's book, Green Enough. I love this book because she really lays out a ton of research on what's going on in our environment, and she includes recipes for all kinds of things, too!
9) Make Cloth "Paper" Towels and Reuse Them
I know. I know. This sounds kind of gross at first glance---not as gross as re-using cloth for toilet paper, but still. However....hear me out.
When I switched to (mostly) using cloth towels instead of wasting paper towels over a year ago, I was amazed at 1) how much money I saved; 2) how well they worked; and 3) how easy it was. And if you are using scrap cotton cloth instead of buying it just for this purpose, that's even better!
Here is an article about how you can make your own "unpaper" towels too. These are easy, useful, help the environment, and save you money!
10) Get Rid of Plastic
So...over a year ago, I read this article about a whale that had washed up dead on the beach (I believe it was So. California, but don't quote me on that). It had died because of ingesting plastics floating in the ocean waters.
I don't know if you are aware, but there is a huge mass of plastic circulating in the middle of the ocean, and it is just disgusting. It’s killing the creatures in the ocean and making our waters unsafe and unhealthy for everyone. We have GOT to start doing something about our use of plastic, friends.
Plastic is full of toxic chemicals. Plastic doesn't break down. Plastic hurts animals and the environment. I hate plastic. And I know hate is a strong word, but truly, I do.
Sadly, plastic is everywhere. Just. Everywhere. It's hard to purchase anything these days that is either not made of plastic or packaged in plastic. Aren't there better options out there, friends?
And here is how you can do your little part to help. First of all---try to avoid buying packaged items if you can. I know that sounds crazy, but just try it. You'll be surprised at how much you can actually cut down.
Another thing you can do is stop buying plastic bags or cling wrap. What? Don't think you can? Think again. Here is an article about how to make your own re-usable cling wrap that can double for plastic bags OR a cover in the fridge.
AND....beeswrap/re-usable cling wrap works WAY better (I did an experiment for that article to prove it), and you will SAVE money! :-)
11) Stop Buying Bottled Water
Ugh. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in bottled "water"? Well, surprise! Often, it's not just water you're getting, but things like sodium bicarbonate (for "taste"). Dude. Water is not supposed to taste wonderful, although if it comes from a natural well or spring it probably does.
Treated water is usually the worst tasting stuff in the world. AND, it's expensive. Come on....$2.99 for a liter of water? Seriously?
But the most important reason to stop buying bottled water besides the fact that it's expensive and often has additives, is that the container is plastic. I just harangued you about plastic above, so this is about all I'll say here.
Just save yourself some money, get a little healthier, and just use a water bottle that is stainless steel and re-usable. It will taste just as good, too. And if you are not into your local tap water, consider buying a little water filter.
Another little plus about using your own water bottle is that you can also monitor how much water you are drinking each day a lot easier too! Win!
12) Buy in Bulk and Build Your Food Storage
When you buy in bulk from the large food coop stores like Costco or Sam's Club, you will save money, and you'll be helping the world too. The packaging for a large bag of flour is not that much more than for a smaller 5 lb bag of flour, and the cost to get it to you is about the same.
The other thing about buying in bulk is that it's a great way for you to build your food storage in case of emergencies. And that's just a smart thing to do.
13) Go Solar
I love solar electricity. Just love it. After living off grid for five years, I have developed a terrific appreciation for the cost effectiveness of the power of the sun. But if you are on the grid, as most of us are (and we will be too, once we move to Idaho to our new home), then using solar for as many things as you can will save you money and save energy.
Here are some examples: How about "happy lights"? These are those electric strings of lights many folks love to use to brighten up their homes as decorations. I call them "happy lights." That's my name for them.
Or the lighting you use along walkways? You can now find lots of solar options! Even motion lights can be found with solar panels. Keep an eye out! You'll be surprised how much you may be able to start doing with solar power.
14) Use Power Strips for Appliances
This is a really simple thing to do. Did you know that many appliances suck energy even when turned off? T.V.'s, computers, and many more suck energy continually. The solution? Using a power strip to plug in multiple appliances, then just flipping that one switch at night before bed will save you money and help the environment.
15) Go Paperless
Save some trees! Most institutions these days provide paperless options for us. And just think---you will be reducing the clutter in your home with all the mail you won't be receiving any more.
Final Thoughts on Green Living and Saving Money
You know what? If more of us start living with intentionality in the area of trying to be greener, and we talk about it with others--spread the word, so to speak, then collectively, we will be helping the environment. We will also be saving some money in the process, and who doesn't like that?
I remember when I was a kid, and littering was a big deal. Everyone started talking about it, and it became a BIG no-no in most cities to drop your trash on the ground. And then it became a great habit for most people to save their trash for a proper trash can. But there were public service announcements all the time, signs around, and teachers educated students in the classrooms. And it became a "thing."
I believe that green living in general can become an even bigger "thing" if we all start doing our little parts and talking about it. I am no hippy, although my daughter sometimes claims I am. I am a pretty conservative person. But I do believe that we can all help save the environment through education, awareness, and intentional living. And I personally love to save money too.
What do you think? Leave comments! I just know I left some things out. The comment section is below---
Also, you may be interested in these related articles:
10 Money Saving Tips from Survivors of the Great Depression Era, and lots more on the blog!
Hugs, Health, & Self-Reliance,
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P.P.S. Have you ever wanted to start your own blog? Most of the classes and books out there are expensive and not-so-great. My favorite resource for when I first started out is by my friend Victoria. In her book, Make Money Blogging at Any Level, she teaches you everything you need to know to get started, and it's only about $20. That was the best $20 I ever spent!
Ridgecrest Herbals: 2018 Almanac.