Live Sustainably and Save Green

This post is my contribution to this month’s APLS Carnival, “Green on the Cheap,” which will be hosted by Robbie at Going Green Mama on August 19.

Back when Ed and I were first married, we had tons of money for kids our age.  We lived in a sweet little apartment over my parents’ detached garage, paid no rent, and had two good jobs.  Our only real bills were Ed’s truck payment and our cell phones.  Our savings account grew and grew, but we also had money to spend on whatever we wanted.  We weren’t wasteful really, but we never worried about not having enough money.

Flash forward five years.  We built our dream house and burned through that savings account quickly.  We’ve got a hefty mortgage to pay, along with electricity, heating oil, property taxes, insurance… the list goes on.  Needless to say our spending habits have changed, and in the process we’ve also become more sustainable.  Here are some ways we save money while going green at the same time.

Cook at Home

The Savings: Back in our early days of marriage, we thought nothing of going out to eat a couple times a week, probably spending $50 each time.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I can cook a pretty fabulous meal for more than two people for way less than $50.  If we went out to eat 2 times a week, that adds up to $5200 in a year.  Wow! What were we thinking? Now we go out to dinner once every couple months for special occasions, and prefer to have family and friends here instead.

The Bonus: When I cook at home, I control the quality of the ingredients and can purchase from local, sustainable sources.  The food I cook is generally healthier and lower in fat than restaurant food, too.

The Downside: Dishes.

Adjust the Thermostat

The Savings: Last winter, Ed and I kept our thermostat set at 50 degrees when we weren’t home, 55 when we were, and supplemented with wood in the wood stove.    By doing so, we saved two whole tanks of oil, which translated to a savings of over $1700  when we factored in the drop in oil price from winter 07-08 to winter 08-09.  This summer, we’ve used our AC sparingly and have seen savings on our electric bill.

The Bonus: More snuggling! We also dressed warmly, in sweatshirts and thick socks, and enjoyed the quilts our grandmothers made as well as the snuggies my mom gave us.  I also rekindled my love for fleece jammies.  Oh, right, in terms of sustainability, you drastically cut carbon emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

The Downside: Bringing wood into the basement and keeping a fire going.  Also, people complain that your house is cold, but it didn’t stop my brothers from their regular visits.

BYOW (Bring Your Own Water)

The Savings: When I first started teaching, I would bring about two plastic water bottles with me each day.  At about a dollar each, and 180 school days, that translates to $360 a year.  That doesn’t include all the other single-use plastic beverage bottles I purchased.  Those reusable water bottles filled with my own well water paid for themselves in a few weeks.

The Bonus: BYOW means reducing your plastic waste immensely! Plus, carrying around your own reusable water bottle makes you a sustainable role model.

The Downside: Darn it! More dishes.  Also, I forget to wash them out each night, so to solve that problem, I have a few bottles.

There are many more ways that we save green by going green, but these are simple examples that I could put some reliable numbers on.  By cooking at home, adjusting the thermostat, and bringing our own water, we saved a total of $7260 last year!

If you’ve got some suggestions for saving money while living sustainably, please leave a comment or contribute to the APLS carnival!


Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Sustainable Living

19 responses to “Live Sustainably and Save Green

  1. Gardening is another green way to save money. Growing your own food is like the precursor to cooking your own food – it’s cheaper and it tastes better, and you’re not shipping it from halfway around the world. Plus (I can say this from experience) earth worms provide free entertainment to children. It’s really a win all around.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how much you can save with just a few simple changes?! Think about how green our Grandparents were, just as a matter of living. I agree though, dishes stink!

  3. You forget very easily how quickly the little things add up. When I cut back on sodas during Lent, it added up to $50–and that was just for a six-week period! (Hmm…maybe I should go back on that.)

    I’d love to know how you convinced your husband to go down to 55 in the house. We finally broke the 70 barrier last winter, and I’d love to get it lower!

    • Actually, Robbie, I was the hold out on the heat. He loves it to be cool in the house. I would start a fire when I got home from school to warm up the house, then find any excuse to hang out in the basement by the woodstove!

  4. Ab,
    What great ideas! So many think that living “green” takes more “green!”

    Like Heather said about her grandparents just living green, it’s so true! I thought my parents (your grandparents) were just plain cheap: growing their own food; hunting for meat; Mema sewing our clothes; NEVER going out to eat; re-using and recycling clothes as hand-me-downs; etc. I didn’t know how fashionable that lifestyle would become! Your grandfather would be so proud of you!

  5. Great post Abbie! That is an incredible amount to save!

  6. My green tip is to think about the things you have before buying something new. Often, things can be re-used or repurposed. We were able to build a fence around our vegetable garden using leftover material that was sitting around in our garage.

  7. Great post! I struggle with this one- we pay rent and don’t pay for our heat. But we do control our heat and last winter we sealed our windows which we VERY drafty, even though we didn’t ‘pay’ for the consequences.
    My biggest challenge by far- limiting my specialty coffee purchases. I LOVE mocha’s… but now I only have two a week and the rest of the time we grind and french press our coffee at home. I add fair trade chocolate powder and local unpasturized honey and that seems to help make it more special 🙂

  8. Nan

    Our woodstove is in the kitchen and we have two chairs near it so there is always a warm place to be in the house. I keep the thermostat at around 60 during the day and lower at night. If people come over, then we turn the oil heat up so the living room will be cozy and warm.

    • I’m pushing to get a combined wood/oil furnace like my parents have for heat and hot water. Until then, our little old wood stove in the basement will have to do.

      I’ve found that when I turn the heat up for guests, I’m hot!

  9. Like you and Ed, we eat most of our meals at home . . . it seems so long since my hubby and I went on a real date, 🙂

    We also drive less (because we’re at home with our daughter) and spend leisure time locally too (our town center is just a mile and half from our house so we have close access to many different things to do).

  10. It’s amazing to me how the simple changes add up so quickly. Plus how I go into them thinking they are going to hard but in reality they are seamless transitions in many ways. I have also noticed one change rolling into another without looking!

    Thanks for popping by today – it’s nice to finally feel party of a broader community. It’s slow going and I’m still getting the hang of the ‘dos and don’ts’ but hopefully I’m learning quickly!

  11. After living in Illinois and New York, I miss the feeling of snuggling in cozy PJs and warm socks on a cold winter’s day. OK, I miss the cold only occasionally but this post triggered that snuggly feeling!

    Now in Texas, I’m much more focused on keeping cool in the summer rather than staying warm in the winter. After a few years of gradual changes, we now have our AC set at 83 while we are home. For folks who want to cool off inexpensively, I can highly recommend ceiling fans, cold water (we keep a pitcher in the frig), cool clothes, and bare feet.

    Thanks taking me back!

  12. The cooking at home one is right on!! It’s so great to enjoy homemade, delicious meals that are made from ingredients I control and trust but ARGH!! the dishes!!

  13. Great post! We, too, turned down the thermostat last winter. Unfortunately our wood burning stove is in a weird place and didn’t help to heat the house much. We’re going to have to work on a different option this year!

  14. You must feel like I do about dishes. 🙂

    My husband and I could keep our house very cold but right now we are living with my in-laws (helping them out as my MIL is not in the best of health and that way we don’t have to rent for the short time before we decide where we want to live) and my MIL is cold when it’s in the 80’s (I keep telling her this isn’t normal…). We do keep it pretty cold (bought her more blankets and thermal socks).

    We have our A/C set between 75-76. It would help if this house held the heat and cool air better, which we are working on.

    We hope to have their house greened a bit and better for resale before we move out. They can’t really do the things that need done. My FIL is not at all hands on! And my MIL is disabled so my hubby is doing the things that need done. I don’t think they will ever want us to move out hehe. I think we will be back often to help with projects.

    Anyway we have saved money by going green (in every way but groceries which are getting better but we have switched to all organic so it went up some but not to bad) and saved the in-laws as well. I just hope they will decide to keep up with some of these things when we do move as they are not environmentalist at all!

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