Living Green for Less

21 Sep

When my daughter was born almost three years ago, I began researching ways to make our lives more environmentally friendly, to feed her foods that weren’t full of additives and pesticides, to keep our home clean without worrying about her crawling on a floor coated with cancer-causing chemicals. As usual, I went a little overboard – shopping almost exclusively at Whole Foods and squandering a huge portion of our budget on premium natural cleaning products and groceries.

As the months passed and our bank account dwindled, I realized this kind of lifestyle wasn’t compatible with our single-family income, especially not while living in Orange County (and paying Orange County rent). So I started looking for alternatives, and was surprised at what I found: In many ways, greener options can actually cost less, while helping to save the planet. And what budget-conscious parent can pass that up?

Here are just a few easy tips that you can implement today:

Instead of buying disposable items, put your money into things that will last.
Paper towels and napkins can get really expensive. We bought a large pack of white washcloths at Costco and use them as all-purpose kitchen towels and napkins. We end up picking up a roll – one roll – of recycled paper towels every few months for things like bacon grease or pet messes. Bonus – the washcloths wipe down tables and food-covered faces better than any paper product I’ve tried.

These are similar to what we use.

As a prettier alternative to paper napkins, you could also try something like these flour sack towels – just cut them in half and hem. You could even add some embellishments, a strip of coordinating fabric… OK, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

We also regularly use reusable bags when shopping. Many stores offer a per-bag discount on your grocery bill. If you want to use something a little nicer than what the stores sell for $1, try the Cute and Easy Tote Bag Tutorial.

Instead of buying new clothes, toys, gear and household items, buy used (or borrow) whenever possible.
Consignment stores, garage sales, Craigslist, eBay – there are so many options for buying used items and so many people looking to unload their stuff for a little cash! Buying used means less packaging and you’re keeping items from going to the landfill.

We rarely buy new books, instead opting for borrowing from the library, buying them from the library bookstore for $.50 or picking them up at garage sales. (P.S. The library is also a great resource for renting movies and your favorite magazines!)

Most baby gear is used for six or nine months and then stored. Borrow from a friend or buy used.

Find clothing at local consignment shops. Most are picky about selecting items free of stains and in good condition, so you can get excellent brand names for half the price (or less) of new. And with the way kids destroy clothes, this is a great deal.

Look for toys at consignment stores, thrift stores and garage sales. Just be sure to check that it hasn’t been recalled. Some great finds we’ve made are a like-new Memory game for 50 cents and a Push and Ride for $3.

Instead of buying prepared cleaning products, try your hand at some natural solutions.
Although I am a huge fan of certain natural brands, including Biokleen, Dr. Bronner’s and Seventh Generation, I regularly reach for a spray bottle of distilled water and vinegar for cleaning around the house. You can buy a giant jug of vinegar at Costco for just a few dollars. If you’re worried about the smell, it does dissipate after about 10 minutes. Trust me – I even used it when I had morning all-day sickness! You can find some excellent uses for vinegar here. Baking soda is another super inexpensive, natural cleaning product.

Use them in combination with some old washcloths or microfiber towels instead of paper.

Stay tuned for more tips on Living Green for Less!


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