It is a common misconception that, in order to be eco friendly, we have to spend a packet. This is simply not the case.
It’s true, however, that most ‘green’ products you can buy are priced much higher than their non-planet-friendly alternatives. There are good reasons for this, and a lot of people feel that it is a necessary expenditure in order to invest in our environment. I love to buy eco friendly products, especially ones for personal care.
However, most of us just don’t have the money to regularly splash out on expensive green alternatives. The thing to remember about these products is that you are paying mostly for the convenience of purchasing something ready-made that is also earth friendly. There are many ways you can increase your green credentials whilst decreasing your outgoings, and most of them take very little effort!
If you haven’t got a composter in your yard yet, get one! Even if you only have a small yard, or just a balcony, you can still compost. You can obtain various sizes of composter for reasonable prices (shop around as much as you can). Into the composter will go all of your uncooked leftovers (apart from meat, which is not suitable for composting), teabags, eggshells and etc (check online for a list of what is and isn’t suitable for your composter) and out of it will come beautiful, nutrient-packed, home made compost for your plants. A composter is totally low maintenance too; all that is required is an occasional fork-through to move the contents around a little (however, we don’t even do this with our composter and it still works beautifully!). If you don’t grow flowers or vegetables in your yard, you can always give the finished compost to friends and family that do. And, of course, you will be saving money on trashcan liners if you aren’t throwing all of that food away!
Grow your own vegetables.
It doesn’t matter what climate you are living in, there will always be something you can grow, and every little helps. It can be a little daunting when you first start growing, and it’s hard to know where to start! So, start with something nice and easy like potatoes – they are hardy, will produce a bountiful crop if looked after well, and will store wonderfully in a potato bag (or, for long term storage, in a wooden box filled with sand). Tomatoes are a great one to start with, too. You don’t even need to have an earthy patch in your yard in order to grow food; you can buy grow bags which are suitable for tomatoes, cauliflowers, squash… anything that doesn’t need a huge depth of soil. Absolutely nothing can beat the fresh, full flavor of fruit and vegetables grown organically in your own garden – my 2 year old son wouldn’t touch carrots until he tasted my home grown ones, and they were my first attempt! Last year, all we grew were carrots and tomatoes – this year, our little yard is jam-packed with potatoes, carrots, cauliflowers, squash, tomatoes, onions and garlic. We even have a little strawberry plant that produces the sweetest little berries I have ever had the good fortune to taste.
Use natural household/personal care products.
Your kitchen cupboard is likely stuffed with items that have many hidden talents. Baking soda, for example, is one of the most versatile food items around. It can be used as a safe cleaner and deodoriser all over the home (and the body!). Lemons are another favorite; their fresh scent and gentle acidic properties work wonders on all kinds of jobs. For example, a very effective lung friendly hairspray can be made from just lemons and water! All you have to do is slice 2-4 lemons, pop them in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Let them simmer for an hour, adding more water as it evaporates. Let it cool down, before straining it and putting in a pump bottle (these can be obtained for a few cents at a drugstore). It will keep for about a week in the fridge, is very effective, and would have cost you just a few cents.
Re-use as much as possible.
So many things are thrown away that can be used over and over again. Try to retrain yourself to see everything you are about to throw in the trash as a potential item to re-use. Empty plastic tubs of various sizes can be cleaned out and used to store pretty much anything – children’s art supplies (your kids could even decorate the tubs themselves, providing a fun and free rainy day activity), loose screws and nails… the list goes on. Large, empty cordial bottles can be chopped in half and used to germinate seedlings in (just make sure you make some holes in the bottom for drainage). Plastic water bottles can be washed out, refilled with water or juice and kept in the fridge to grab on your way out of the door. When it comes to re-use, the only limit is your imagination! Of course, remember to recycle anything that you can’t re-use.
It’s always worth scouring the second hand thrift stores for essential household items, children’s toys, and furniture. Don’t be put off if you don’t see something great the moment you get through the door; take your time having a rummage around and you may uncover a hidden gem! Shopping from these stores is a whole lot cheaper than buying new, and you can often pick things up that are of nearly-new quality. And by shopping from these stores, you are being more socially responsible by avoiding mass-produced brand new items that have probably travelled thousands of miles to get to the shelves.
Learn to knit and crochet.
These hobbies are becoming more popular as time goes on, and not just with the elderly! You can create beautiful items of clothing and more by knitting and crocheting. They are hobbies that will provide hours of entertainment and your family and friends will really appreciate home-made gifts for birthdays and Christmas. And again, by avoiding the shops, you are supporting a healthier happier planet.
So, as you can see, there are many ways to care for your planet without breaking the bank. Use your imagination and enjoy being more self sufficient! It will improve your bank balance and your health, and you will enjoy a sense of accomplishment that simply cannot be beaten.