What are the best ways to save money and the environment in 2015? With a bit of work and creativity these things go hand in hand. Before we became a culture completely wrapped in the cellophane of convenience, those who came before us knew how to make it on less. You can cut costs, increase your quality of life and help the environment regardless of how much money you make or where you live. Let’s get started now.
Beat the Winter Blues With Spring Planning and Indoor Gardening
With brutally cold temps and record snowfalls for much of the U.S. Nothing beats the winter blues more than sitting down with a cup of coffee and daydreaming about spring. This is a great time to plan out some of the things you want to get done. By taking the time to plan and even begin indoor projects you will save time and money.
Research for garden planning. What growing zone do you live in? What supplies will you need? How much space will you need? What kind of garden will work best for your space?
USDA Hardiness Zone Finder
DIY Vertical Gardens or Living Walls – Step by Step Tutorials
Check out Garden Design on G+ for a beautiful curation of design ideas.
If you really want to have some fun, check out these two links and get digital while planning your garden. Who knew?
Start your plants from seeds in your house. Even with limited space it is possible. Small container or counter top gardening is a great way to reuse containers either for long term indoor use, or to start plants you intend to move outside. You will get earlier produce, you can use budget seeds from last season’s clearance, and improve the air quality in your home.
“But here’s good news for urbanites not graced with an abundance of space: herbs–like New Yorkers–are happy to cram themselves into small spaces.” – Erin Boyle
Set up your calendar with a timeline and goals for your spring projects. Work out a budget for projects that may take a bit of cash. By doing this work ahead of time you may be able to find ways to cut costs by shopping sales, ordering online, seeking out second hand items, reusing what you have buried in the basement, etc.
Spring Cleaning: The Purge
Spring cleaning. How does that save money or help the environment? Let’s take a look at the big picture.
- When you deep clean, change furnace filters, clean out air ducts, etc. your heating and cooling will work more efficiently.
- If your car sat in the driveway last winter because your garage is full of crap then chances are unless you live in area where having your car running is illegal, you wasted money on gas and emitted more gases than necessary for travel.
- When you clean out your clutter you may find items you can reuse, items you can sell to generate money, items you can donate to help others save money, and things you can redo to sell for money.
- Eliminating dust, mold and other hazards of a cluttered living space can reduce home allergens and help to reduce long term medical costs.
Homemade, Non Toxic and Cheap Cleaning Supplies
What you choose to clean with can be present on the surfaces and in the air in your home. Your family and your pets are exposed to these cleaners. Ultimately what gets sprayed in the sinks, tubs, and toilets ends up in our septic systems and water supplies. Not only are cleaning supplies expensive, but they contain harmful chemicals that are simply not good for the environment. By making the switch to homemade cleaning products you will save a fortune and help decrease toxic pollutants. A few good places to get started…
Eartheasy Non-Toxic Home Cleaning
Home Gardening and Composting
Earlier we chatted about garden planning. But now let’s dive into a few facts that cannot be ignored.
- A study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council revealed that ten years ago nearly 250,000 tons of global warming gases released in the state of California alone were connected to food imports to the state. You can read more of the report here.
- “Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead.” – EPA
The combination of home gardening and composting will help you save money and the environment. Avoiding harsh chemicals and pesticides while starting and maintaining your garden will allow you to eat guilt free products and decrease negative impact on our already comprised ecology. We need the bees guys. We can’t not have the bees.
Want to know more about what vegetables do well in containers outdoors and how big the containers need to be…
Cooperatives and Carpooling: Can’t find one? Start your own.
What is a cooperative? A cooperative is a group of people who get together and voluntarily work for mutual social, economic or cultural benefit. There are many well established food coops around the world. When people join established cooperatives some ask that you volunteer to work in a community garden/farm for so many hours on top of paying a monthly or annual fee for membership. Because some are simply not physically able to do the labor of gardening, most do not require it. There are also cooperatives where member fees help to purchase ethically produced and organic staple items (such as grains, dried beans, baking supplies, etc.) in bulk. Members bring in their own containers and save by not paying for expensive convenience packaging. This reduces your overall household waste.
Find an existing coop to be a part of…
If you can’t find one in your area, consider starting your own. If you want to learn how to become an official coop to get a few tax benefits and such, check these out…
Remember you can start a more casual family or neighborhood cooperative project easily by simply getting some people together during your beat the winter blues planning session for a bowl of soup.
- Call, message friends and family that may want to participate
- Sit down and make a collective list of the products you all want to grow
- Calculate how much food you want to yield collectively
- Divide tasks and set up meeting dates
- Plan on rotating crops for better soil and yield each year
Carpooling and ridesharing. Sharing rides to work, making arrangements with other parents to take turns getting the kids to and from athletic practices, club meetings, dance lessons, and carpooling to concerts, games and festivals has many benefits.
Grocery & Stuff Shopping
How do you shop to save cash and treat the environment with the respect it deserves? How you shop, what you use, and where you shop all affect the overall health of your family and the earth.
- Buy local. Gardening isn’t for everyone. Even those of you who do not have the time, patience, or were cursed with the infamous brown thumb can still make good choices when shopping. When you buy from local farmer’s markets you are boosting your local economy and getting more mileage out of your food because it hasn’t spent weeks in storage and being trucked across the country.
- Use reusable containers. Use canvas bags, boxes or crates for hauling items home from the store. Take your own containers into coops for anything from steel cut oats to soy sauce. Take smaller containers in a bag into the larger grocery stores that have dispensaries. Reuse one bag for all of your weighing and dump the items (such as walnuts or almonds) into your own containers. When you print the upc code out simply stick them all on one piece of paper for quick and easy scanning at the register.
- Look for ethically raised proteins such as free range chicken and talk to your friends and neighbors to find out what local farms sell beef and pork that is ethically and organically raised.
- Pack your own drinks and snacks while on the go. Not only is this a healthier option but think of the money, energy and landfill space you will save if you cut out that daily 20 oz plastic bottle purchase.
For grocery shopping help and overall fitness help, consider following or working with an environmentally conscious online life coach for insider nutrition and fitness tips. You can choose to follow and learn a great deal for free or pay for extended services. I’m sharing this one because this life coach is dedicated to an overall social movement. She updates resources almost daily and believes in the environmental impact of healthy choices.
Harvest and Scavenging
In addition to growing your own, shopping farm markets or the organic food section, do not underestimate the power of scavenging. Paid you-pick farms and orchards are great. Scoring peaches from a neighbor’s tree for free is even better.
- Put your friends list to good use around harvest time. Pay attention to posts where people are exhausted from picking and collecting fruits or vegetables. Offer to come pick for a share. Sometimes people simply have more yield than they need or want. Don’t let those opportunities pass you buy.
- Learn to identify places where you can pick berries, collect nuts, hunt for spring and fall mushrooms at no cost. It may be in your own woods, a neighbor’s back yard, or scoring wild asparagus in the ditch line by your child’s school. I’ve actually collected edible fall mushrooms beside my child’s school football field (with permission of course).
What to do with all of these beautiful money saving foods you have grown, collected or purchased? You don’t want to let good things go to waste. In addition to the info to follow, remember to consult the people in your life who have passed down generations of knowledge. Spending an afternoon with your grandma talking about how she used to can and freeze the fruits of her labor will help you and make her day.
Canning is hard work but well worth it.
Even if you don’t want to tackle canning, you can freeze a lot of produce with great results. One of my favorite things to do is to toss a bit of sugar and lemon juice on a bowl of sliced peaches while preparing, laying them out on wax paper on baking sheets, freeze for at least an hour, and then toss in a bag. Then you can take the leftover juice in the bowl and rock out a stellar cocktail…a best ever cocktail. The individual freezing process makes it easy to pull out a handful for kids lunches, cocktails, toppings for baked goods etc. And there is nothing better than pulling out a bag of frozen cherries in the middle of winter and cooking them down into a pie filling consistency for a hot cobbler with the taste of summer.
Dehydrating is also an excellent choice. If you have fruit that is perfectly ripe and no plans to use it, dehydrate it and store in a dry container in a cool place out of the sun. Purchase a dehydrator and you are set for a fairly easy way to save money on food. It is a great option for a busy schedule because once you peel, clean and layer your food into the dehydrator you simply walk away for hours, sometimes days.
How can you help the environment and save dollars while decorating your home? Get creative.
- Bring in natural elements in your decorating choices for low cost options that establish good feng shui. Collecting twigs, rustic logs, using fresh cut flowers, rocks, and water elements will give your home a sense of peace and save money.
- Reuse, upcycle, repurpose. Give an old shelf a make over. Transform an old entertainment stand into a place for toy storage. Create art from old pictures, books, and fabrics.
Entertaining and Gift Giving
How do you throw down and eco-friendly party? First off consider having storage containers filled with old plates and tableware that you pick up at second hand stores, rummage sales and giveaways. If you entertain often, the more you cut out throw away cups and plates, the more money you will save and you will reduce waste.
- Repurpose holiday lights for indoor or outdoor festivities. You may burn some energy for the evening but it will cut out the cost and waste of one time paper decor.
- Cut costs by having a potluck style gathering.
- Be sure to make recycle only containers available for guests who bring bottles or cans.
Save money, channel your creative side, and help the environment by giving homemade gifts. Whether it is the holidays, a birthday, or you just want to give someone a meaningful gift, consider making a homemade gift item. Involving children and family members is a great way to spend time together. By making products yourself, you control what goes into it.
Cut Energy Costs
Cutting energy costs reduces expenses and helps minimize your impact on resources. Consider these tips:
- Purchase energy efficient appliances.
- Replace old outdated light bulbs with LED lighting.
- Make your landscape work for you by planting evergreens to border property lines to block wind and shade trees in optimal locations.
- Consider a residential geothermal heat pump system which will pay for itself in a few years and significantly reduce costs.
Get Busy and Work Together
By making a lifestyle change to save money and help the environment, you will be setting the foundation for your own family and future generations. I’m ready to fix another cup of coffee and play with some of this garden planning software.
Please share your own ideas, links, tips and photos in the comments. The more we share our ideas, the more we can learn from one another and change the path we are on from hot pavement to soft grass under our feet.