The economy and environment are at the forefront of our minds as governments the world over look for ways to improve the health of both, and as individuals, we try to make the financial and environmental aspects of our lives more comfortable. There are plenty of simple ways you can save money and the environment at the same time around your home, from making your own cleaning products to avoiding aerosol cans. However, if you want to make a real, measurable difference, you need to look beyond the obvious frugal tactics, and consider these 10 financially and environmentally life changing ideas.
1 – Eat less meat
Most nutritionists will tell you that cutting down on eating meat is better for your health, and the spend at the butcher would easily be the biggest portion of most family budgets each week. Therefore, with so many benefits already, the fact that eating less meat is also good for the environment is a bonus.
Research has shown that if we all ate less meat, we could reduce the cost of fighting climate change by $20 trillion. This research takes into account the consumption of beef and pork, and if land was not needed to farm these animals, vegetation would be able to thrive in these areas. Even though additional farmland would be needed to grow the alternatives to meat, less space would be required than is used to farm meat producing animals.
As well as the extra vegetation which would be allowed to grow, millions of tonnes of methane would be saved thanks to reduced emissions from farms. This would negate the need for expensive carbon saving technologies such as clean coal power plants. The methane is also released from the animals themselves, where cows in particular release methane when flatulent, and as their manure decays.
You wouldn’t need to give up eating meat all together, and instead need to look at how meat can accompany other foods, rather than be the star of every meal. If the global population were to eat a low meat diet of 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week , 15 million square metres of farmland could be used for more vegetation to absorb more carbon dioxide. The farmland could also be used to grow bio energy crops which could replace fossil fuels.
2 – Downsize your home
It is easy to think that you need a big house with a games room, three bathrooms, a separate study, guest room and formal dining room. However, if you were to downsize your home to accommodate your family in a bedroom each and one or two living areas you will be able to not only save money on mortgage repayments, heating and cooling costs but you’ll also find more time to spend together as a family for a richer lifestyle outside of your bank account too.
Plus, even if you do remember to turn the lights off when you leave the room, turn the air conditioner up in summer and down in winter and turn off your standby appliances, when your home and living areas are smaller and more compact, you are using less power in less space, and producing fewer emissions.
3 – Look in your own backyard
Your own backyard presents numerous opportunities to be frugal, for example, growing your own vegetables and collecting rainwater for use in the garden and in your home. However, as you’re saving money in your backyard, you can also be landscaping in an environmentally sensitive way to reduce your carbon footprint.
To design a backyard which is affordable to maintain, and also beneficial to the environment around it:
- Design your yard so it requires little or no mowing so you can get rid of your petrol powered lawn mower.
- Plant varieties which are native to your area and so require little to no watering or fertiliser.
- Research companion planting so you can grow your garden without using harmful chemicals, and can instead use natural ecosystems to control bugs.
- Make your backyard a relaxing and inviting place to be and you and your family will be able to enjoy evenings and weekends at home together and save on costly family outings.
4 – Renovate instead of moving
In many cases, reusing materials from old properties and refurbishing existing homes can save more carbon dioxide than building a new home. For example, the construction of a new house generates approximately 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide; however, the renovation of an existing home emits just 15 tonnes.
Plus, there is often little difference between the performance of an old house, compared to a new one, and it can take decades for the operational savings of a newer more energy efficient home to offset the carbon emitted during its construction. As a result, there is almost no difference in the average emissions of a new house, compared to a refurbished house over a 50 year period.
Therefore, while it is more environmentally friendly to renovate your existing home, compared to building a new home from scratch, it can also be much more affordable. When you renovate a home there are many materials you can reuse, even if not in their original capacity, for example, structural timbers taken out to open up a living area could split and sanded to be used for floorboards, a kitchen bench top or a dining table.
5 – Build a new sustainable home
If you don’t have a home you can renovate, building your own home is often more affordable, and better value than buying established where you are paying for landscaping and all of those expensive finishing touches, which might not all be to your liking anyway.
Instead, you can plan for a sustainable and energy efficient new home, which will be affordable and environmentally friendly to build and to run. You can do this by:
- Choosing a passive design. If you can get the design of your home to work to heat and cool your home, then you can save yourself turning on the air conditioning and heating. For example, using glass in measured architectural designs can mean warmth is admitted in the cooler months, and kept out during the summer months with modern glazing methods.
- Heating and cooling ratings. When you purchase the heating and cooling system for your new home, look at its energy star rating as the more stars it has, the more energy efficient it is to run. Another environmentally and financially friendly option is to choose a ducted system, with individually controlled vents, which allows for the system to be turned off in any room which is not being used.
- Solar or gas hot water. Solar and gas hot water systems are the two most energy efficient systems to heat the water in your home, and you can make your unit even more efficient by insulating around your hot water pipes – the first two metres from the hot water system in particular. You can also choose a hot water system based on its Renewable Energy Certificate which determines the performance of the system – the more RECs the better the system.
- Lighting. In your new home, make sure you install energy saving light bulbs, and choose the lowest wattage you can for an area to save power. Also, while down lights have become very fashionable in new homes, try and avoid them when building as you will need a lot to light up a room, and a lot of heat can be lost through the holes in the ceiling where the lights are housed.
- Solar power. When you build a new home, consider running it on solar power from the beginning as panels on your roof can collect enough sunlight and convert enough electricity to power your home, and have power left over to send back into the grid to power other homes and businesses.
6 – Your free time is free
If you are looking for ways to save the environment, and some money, start by looking at home – and staying there. Spending time with your family at home or around your neighbourhood can reduce your carbon footprint, and save you money in fuel and long distance family holidays. Consider the emissions you would produce going on long road trips or towing a caravan around the state, or even towing your boat down to the shore. Instead, find affordable holiday destinations closer to home, or rent a caravan at a caravan park when you arrive, instead of using gallons of fuel to tow your own, or fish from a jetty or the beach instead of towing your boat to the ocean, and then burning fuel all day out on the water.
7 – Creative clothes shopping
Have you ever looked at every item in your closet and thought about how many times you’ve worn it? Chances are that while you have your favourites, there are dozens of pieces which you’ve only worn once or twice, and others you haven’t worn at all. So the next time you see a skirt on sale, or a pair of shoes you think would be perfect for your son, think of all the clothing, materials, time and money which have already gone to waste in your wardrobe, and consider whether this really is a smart purchase.
To reduce the impact of your clothing purchases, look for more creative ways to expand your family’s wardrobe. For example, if you get together with friends to swap hand-me-downs, it doesn’t matter if your daughter doesn’t like the top you chose for her, because it is being reused, not wasted from new.
8 – Stop using your car
This doesn’t mean you have to start walking everywhere – although you would certainly be able to save on a gym membership – but instead, simply consider whether you really need to drive to where you’re going. With a little planning and organisation, you can cut down your vehicle usage, and save on the wear and tear of your car, fuel costs, and fuel emissions.
For example, make a list before you go shopping so you don’t have to go back to the supermarket for forgotten items, wait to go to the post office until it is time to pick up the kids from school so you can make one trip.
Your family may even be able to look at getting rid of a second car with some organisation and timetable scheduling. You might even donate a car to charity to help transition the process.”
9 – Switch your car’s fuel
Petrol is one of the most expensive and environmentally damaging fuels you can be running your car on, and if you are able to convert your car to gas or to run on bio-ethanol, the financial and environmental savings can be worth the investment. If you are already looking at buying a new car, consider the fuel it runs on as a priority, right up there next to power windows and Bluetooth, and look for vehicles which produce less harmful emissions running on alternative fuels such as ethanol, hydrogen, electricity and even diesel.
10 – Save your paperwork
Whether you run your own business, work from home, are part of a corporate office environment or are just looking at the contents of your home filing system, you are probably surrounded by paperwork. Curbing your paper use is just one way you can save money and the environment in your office and you can start by:
- Printing double sided when you print documents, or reusing old printed pages.
- Having bills sent electronically, rather than posted as paper printouts, you also often save several dollars for receiving electronic bills and bank statements.
- Making notes electronically on your computer desktop, your email manager or your smartphone to save on note paper and Post-its.
- Think twice and three times before you print a document or email.
- Organise the files on your computer for easy access to electronic documents as this will retrain you to search electronically for the information you need, so you can avoid printed copies of your work.
Alban is a personal finance writer at Home Loan Finder, a home loan comparison site.