Can you guess how many decisions you make in a day? It’s probably more than you think.
The average adult makes about 35,000 decisions each day (though you likely only remember a handful). With most of our choices made through habit rather than intention, it’s easy to recognize the challenge to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Making a change and sticking with it is tough, especially if it’s not convenient or budget-friendly.
But what if living sustainably could help you save money and the planet? Here, we offer a variety of ways to potentially do both.
Sustainable living doesn’t necessarily require overhauling your everyday routine or paying a premium for Earth-friendly brands (though these are great if you can shake it).
There’s so much we can do to lighten our impact on the planet as well as our expenses, from buying fewer new items to reducing electricity usage at home. All you have to do is work out which commitments match with your lifestyle.
What do we mean by “sustainable lifestyle”?
When we adopt a sustainable lifestyle, we’re making consistent choices meant to reduce our carbon footprint—from using refillable cleaning products to mending clothes rather than tossing them. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though.
Today’s conveniences and plethora of options don’t always steer us toward the most environmentally friendly option. And, as noted above, switching from convenient and habitual to sustainable requires conscious decisions about how our actions and purchases impact the planet.
24 ways to save money & the planet in 2022
If you think living sustainably is a luxury you can’t afford, that’s understandable. Many environmentally-friendly products tend to be more expensive than their conventional counterparts—from electric vehicles to organic apples. Yet bringing balance to the Earth and your finances is entirely possible, with plenty of ways to live sustainably no matter your budget.
Jump to a section for ideas on how to save money and be more sustainable:
- Buying fewer new things
- Cutting your household emissions
- Eating a lower-carbon diet
- Making everyday travel more sustainable
- Taking an eco-friendly vacation
Here are our favourite budget-friendly sustainable living ideas to get you started:
Try to buy less new stuff
The first, and maybe the most cost-effective rule for saving money is, quite simply, to buy less new stuff.
Any new product begins its life long before you take ownership. The resources are extracted and processed, then the product is made and packaged before it’s delivered to you or a store. All of that emits greenhouse gases (GHGs).
There’s no fancy formula for saving money here. The less you can purchase, the more money you tend to save. Here are some great ways to buy less new stuff and have a positive impact on the environment:
1. Keep your cell phone longer
The demand for new smartphones comes at a cost to the planet: The emissions produced to make a single phone is equal to the emissions that one phone will produce over the course of a decade. Waiting longer to replace your phone can reduce the industry’s impact on climate change, as well as save you money.
2. Buy refurbished electronics
Many big box stores and major electronic brands sell refurbished products at a discount. That they typically come with warranties makes this option a win for your wallet, and the Earth.
3. Choose preloved fashions
Our clothing and textiles are the cause of about 10 per cent of the world’s annual global carbon emissions. Rather than update your wardrobe with new pieces, consider shopping second hand. The rise in pre-loved clothes makes it easy to fuel your inner fashion diva—not your carbon footprint.
4. Make or mend your clothes when possible
From mending a loose hem on your dress to knitting your kids’ sweaters, Etsy has proven that getting crafty and creative is very much in style. DIY to save money and emissions (think no GHGs from packaging, shipping, or waste from mass production).
5. Repair what you have
Before sending that faded sofa to the dump or replacing worn sports gear, consider revamping your things with reupholstery, repair or refurbishment. You may be surprised at the number of businesses (like Patagonia) that fix up tired goods and save you mucho dinero, to boot.
Cut your home’s carbon footprint (and household expenses)
Our dwelling spaces are responsible for about 75 per cent of our personal carbon footprints. All those conveniences that power our households—running water, heat and AC, electricity—are directly or indirectly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. The upside? You have more control than you may realize to generate sustainability (and Earth love) in your own household.
These are some actions you can implement that have the potential to reduce your carbon footprint as well as your household bills:
6. Adjust your thermostat
Turn your thermostat down by two degrees in the winter and up by two degrees in the summer. Maybe even try three or four degrees each way. (Keep blankets handy for snowy days).
7. Plug the gaps
Make sure your home is airtight to keep the cold out, the heat in, and the monthly bills down. Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows and fill gaps in your insulation with foam sealant.
8. Choose reusable containers
Got leftovers? Ditch the plastic wrap that always seems to run out way too quickly and store your food in reusable containers—you can re-use empty glass jars which will cost you nothing, rather than buy new plastic ones.
9. Switch to natural cleaning solutions
Making the switch to refillable natural cleaning solutions eliminates the habit of tossing single-use plastic spray bottles into the recycle bin. For even more savings, use products in your household to clean instead, such as baking soda and vinegar, and make your own reusable cloth rags.
10. Use the dishwasher over handwashing
Using an energy-efficient dishwasher typically has a smaller carbon footprint and uses fewer greenhouse gases than manual hand-washing in many instances. Isn’t that less work for you, too?
11. Unplug more often
Unplug chargers, gadgets and appliances when you’re not using them. Even when an appliance is off it will use standby power, slowly pulling energy out of a socket when not in use.
Budget-friendly ways to a lower-carbon diet
Food’s carbon footprint, also called a foodprint, is made up of greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with every facet of food production: farming, packaging, transporting, cooking, and even disposing. The food you buy, how it’s stored, and the way you prepare dishes can make a difference in your carbon footprint, as well as your wallet (in a good way). Here are some of the most impactful changes you can make:
12. Buy less meat and more legumes
Removing or limiting how much meat you eat can have a serious impact on climate change when you consider livestock production accounts for approximately 70 percent of all agricultural land use and is responsible for 18 percent of GHGs. Consider swapping out meat for super healthy and more affordable legumes which include beans, peas, and lentils.
13. Purchase bulk goods without the packaging
Load up on your basic groceries at the bulk bins where packaging and cost is most minimal. You can even bring your own reusable containers at some stores for an added Earth loving bonus.
14. Buy seasonal local produce
Seasonal produce not only tastes better, it’s better for the Earth thanks to shorter shipping distances and less packaging by often smaller farms that follow earth-friendly practices. Keep a box or reusable bags in your car for quick stops along country roads dotted with fruit and vegetable stands.
15. Order in less often
A quick review of your latest takeout dinner is all you need to recognize how much packaging ends up in the trash, never mind the added emissions if your food was delivered. Reducing takeout meals is a clear win for the Earth and your bank account.
16. Freeze your food before it spoils
Cut back on the amount of food you throw out by tossing items before they have a chance to go bad. You might be surprised at all the things you can freeze, like shredded cheese, cooked rice, even eggs.
17. Adopt a meal-planning routine
Meal planning is a helpful tool to avoid waste in food and cash flow. It ensures you only purchase what you need and helps prevent the tendency to order in last-minute.
Travel with a lower carbon footprint
Transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S., accounting for about 28 per cent of all GHGs produced. Since a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions originate with everyday activities like driving from point A to B, we can make a mega-difference for the environment with a few adjustments that can also, you guessed it, save you money.
18. Work remote
Working from home has become much more prevalent due to the pandemic, making it easier for most of us to avoid the daily commute by car to the office.
19. Carpool when possible
Sharing a drive with others, whether it’s on the way to work or to your kid’s soccer practice, is an easy way to save on fuel and cut GHG emissions.
20. Ride your bike instead of drive
Look for opportunities to ride your bike, rather than drive, for shorter distances. Or consider replacing your second car with an e-bike if it fits into your lifestyle.
21. Take the bus
Taking public transportation is better for the environment and can be less expensive than driving, particularly when you compare the cost of owning a car, ongoing repairs, parking costs and gas.
Taking an eco-friendly trip
Whether it’s vacationing with the family or enjoying a weekend outing, how you spend your leisure time can be as impactful on your wallet as it is on your carbon footprint. Here are some ways to limit the impact on both:
22. Book vacations close to home
Air transport is responsible for about 2.5 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. One easy way to limit your carbon footprint is to simply fly less by vacationing closer to home.
23. Stick with an economy class seat
When you do choose to fly, book an economy seat over first class. Besides the affordability factor, the more economy seats on a plane, the lower the carbon footprint per person.
24. Get outside
There’s no better way to appreciate the Earth than to get outside and enjoy it. When possible, choose outdoor activities over indoor ones to enjoy your downtime. Consider hiking, geocaching, swimming, camping, and more for outings that tread lightly on the Earth.
Sustainable living can save you money
There are a variety of ways to incorporate earth-friendly habits into your lifestyle that won’t break the bank, and may even save money over the long term. While overhauling your lifestyle all at once is a tall order, making small but consistent adjustments in your routine is manageable and effective in building a sustainable lifestyle made up of habits that are friendly to the earth and your wallet.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada, RBC Ventures Inc., or its affiliates.