We all love to save money. And despite decades of attention on the environment, and some notable improvements in air, land and water quality, we are still a throwaway society.
We extract critical natural resources from the environment, use them to package our consumer goods, and the packaging ends up constituting over 71 percent of our solid waste stream. This is not only bad for the environment; it is costly, too.
Indeed, when many people outsiders think about American society, an unflattering thought they often hold is how much we waste. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Here are four ways to waste less, protect the environment, and save some money in the process.
Dispose of the disposables
You can lower your environmental impact and decrease your consumer and waste disposal costs by foregoing disposable items. Replace things you use once or twice and then throw away — plastic utensils, paper towels, grocery bags, and plastic water bottles — with their permanent counterparts. Using metal forks and spoons, cloth towels, canvas grocery bags, and re-fillable Nalgene bottles, all items that can be used again and again, will save you substantial sums of cash in the long run. And this will help take pressure off your local landfill, too. Put your money to better use.
Compost your waste
Your garbage costs you one way or another. Many cities require you to pay for trash pickup; as a minimum, the cost of trash bags adds up as well. One way to lower these costs, and put your waste to good use, is to simply let it rot.
Composting your own trash will decrease the overall amount of waste you have to dispose of externally, and will provide a great soil amendment for your vegetable gardens and flowerbeds. Virtually all of your non-meat food scraps, coffee grounds, paper products, and yard waste can be composted.
The aptly named book Let it Rot is a great guide for beginning composter’s, and can get you turning today’s trash into a great soil amendment that can make your garden grow better than ever.
Buy everything used
You can forego all of the unnecessary, environmentally unfriendly packaging and save a ton of money by foregoing new items, and purchasing everything second hand. These days, it is easier than ever to buy used items. Virtually every town has a thrift store of some sort to take advantage of; many major metropolitan areas have several, along with first-rate consignment shops. Go to these places to buy your clothes, books, and dishware, and you can save tremendous amounts of money on items that are often in excellent condition.
The internet also makes it easier than ever to buy used, discounted items, too. Sites like eBay are loaded with pre-owned items that people are looking to unload; similarly, Craigslist is also a great resource for finding an item you need at the price you want. And, when all else fails, your local classified ads are sure to showcase yard sales and flea markets in your area, where you can find bargains on items you need.
Fix stuff forever
Americans, more often than not, are in the habit of using something until it is worn down, tossing the item in the trash, and replacing it with a new one. You may want to consider instead to strive to use the items you have for as long as possible, and repair them when they are broken.
Hanging clothes up immediately after wearing them cuts down on dry cleaning, and extends the lives of jackets and slacks. Learning how to sew can help you stitch a hole in denim fabric, and extend the life of your favorite jeans for another year. Shoe glue, saddle soap, good polish can keep shoes and boots in good condition indefinitely. Similarly, a fine wood preservative or leather conditioner can keep your favorite furniture in fine form forever.
Finally, a little TLC – in the form of routine and preventive maintenance – can greatly extend the life of your automobile as well.