Green living doesn’t have to be expensive

By Andreas Wilson-Späth

Reducing your ecological footprint — the cumulative impact all of your activities (from watering the front lawn to commuting to work every day) are having on the environment — should be a priority for everyone, right?

Easier said than done. Have you looked at the cost of organic food these days? Feeding a family of four on earth-friendly veggies and free-range chicken might benefit the planet, but it’ll also inflict serious damage to your wallet.

The same is true for many other green living options, like taking your home off-grid by harnessing the power of sunlight or making your own biodiesel out of used chip oil. If you can afford it, by all means, go ahead and buy an electric car and put those solar panels on your roof, but what are the rest of us supposed to do?

As someone who considers himself to be reasonably environmentally conscious, this has been an issue I’ve been grappling with for years. I write articles encouraging people to go green when paying the bills every month remains the top priority in my own life, regularly trumping other concerns out of sheer financial necessity.

The good news is that there are many eco-friendly things you can implement right now that are inexpensive and might even save you money.

Again: easier said than done. A couple of years ago, my wife Sam gave me an awesome-looking wooden worm farm for my birthday. I filled it with shredded newspaper and salad leaves the next day, added a bag-o-worms, placed it in a shady corner of our garden, and… completely forgot about it.

Apparently even garbage eating worms will abandon their lodgings, no matter how luxurious, if they are not serviced regularly. I’ve since learned that a simple compost heap in the same corner of the garden is more amenable to my relatively hands-off approach to home-based waste disposal.

So while there are plenty of simple, money-saving green solutions out there, they do require some tinkering along with an investment of time and effort. Here are three examples you should definitely give a try:

1. Composting
 Following my early worm-related troubles, I’ve become a bit of a composting fanboy. The average family of four probably produces about a bucket of compostable organic waste (apple cores, potato peels, egg shells, leftover coffee grounds, etc.) every week. Add grass clippings and leaves from your garden and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for starting your own compost heap. If you generate less material or don’t have the space (a compost pile needs to be about a metre on each side in order to work properly), a worm bin is the answer. In case your worm husbandry skills are on par with mine, try the worm-free, bokashi system. Both of the latter are available at most nurseries and offer odourless indoor composting solutions.

Environmental benefits: You’ll be reducing the amount of rubbish you contribute to rapidly growing waste disposal sites where rotting organic waste generates lots of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution.

Financial benefits: No more buying of surprisingly expensive compost for your pot plants and garden. You’ve turned trash into cash.

2. Grow your own food
 It always surprises me how little space you need to produce a substantial amount of fresh food — a couple of square metres or even just a few well-placed pots on a balcony will go a long way to growing everything from lettuce and lemons to chillies and eggplants.

Environmental benefits: Lower your reliance on veggies and fruit that are mass produced on distant industrial farms before being refrigerated, packaged and shipped to you all while contributing to soil, air and water pollution via chemical fertilisers, pesticides and fossil fuel consumption.

Financial benefits: Super fresh, tasty, healthy and organic produce at the price of a few seeds.

3. Recycling
 Invest in a couple of sturdy, lidded containers, line them up in your garage and hey presto, you’ve got your own recycling facility, effortlessly separating paper and cardboard from tins, plastic and glass waste.

Environmental benefits: Instead of contributing ever more stuff to the rubbish dump, you’ll be ensuring that these used-up goods are given a new life without wasting precious natural resources and energy.

Financial benefits: Pay it forward and support your local green economy. Why not deliver your trash to a recycling outfit in your neighbourhood, many of which are small start-ups or not-for-profits that provide much needed employment and some of which will even collect directly from your home.

Once you’ve got started on these, there are many more, similarly accessible green living choices that will save you money. It only takes a bit of online research and real-world experimentation to discover what works best for you.


Originally published at blog.22seven.com on March 3, 2016.