Reduce waste, save money: sounds like a pretty good deal right?
Americans have so much STUFF and it’s a problem for our finances and our personal health. A 2018 study found that clutter leads to more procrastination in our lives, since the clutter requires sorting through before it be put away.
Digital and physical clutter can spike cortisol levels and make it more difficult to focus on one thing.
And all our stuff is a HUGE part of the climate crisis. take a look around your room right now; how much plastic do you see? Plastic in particular is bad for the environment because it uses a lot of oil and gas to create a piece of plastic. Then plastic takes about 450 years to break down, spending that time clogging up landfills, being eaten by animals, and becoming micro-plastics that end up in our water and food.
So if we can reduce waste, save money, and live better, why wouldn’t we? Here’s how to do exactly that.
Consume Less By Following The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Guide
Many of us in the states have heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” since childhood. It’s a phrase from the 1970’s when the broad environmental movement was being embraced by white middle class Americans. And it’s a great guide guide for our consumption habits!
A lot of people focus in on the recycle part; it’s ok if I use a plastic water bottle every day as long as I recycle it! Unfortunately, that’s not true, and we should begin at the start by reducing how much we consume in the first place.
If you use a plastic water bottle every day, that means that 365 water bottles now need to be transported to a recycling factory, sorted, broken down, and then re-used in some way. That’s largely not happening due to a lack of systemic funding and operations to do all that work. Each year the world produces 400 million tons of plastic, and it’s mostly just piling up on itself in the ocean and landfills.
So what we need to do is reduce how much we create and how much we buy. (And that leads to savings!)
And as more people realize how terrible plastic and other waste is for the planet, there’s more and more ways to opt out of buying brand new.
7 Ways to Reduce Waste and Save Money
Join a Buy Nothing Group.
Buy Nothing, how I love thee. Let me count the ways! Buy Nothing is a non profit founded in 2013 to encourage and support people to participate in local gifting and waste reduction. You can join a Buy Nothing group in your zip code either on Facebook or by downloading their app.
It works by people listing items they no longer want, totally for free, and other people taking them. It’s the gifting economy baby! I’ve seen everything from baby food to an air fryer to clothing being gifted for free in my Buy Nothing group. People can also ask for specific items. Once someone asked for a spatula in my group- I had three for some reason and was able to gift one away to someone who needed it!
These groups are fantastic ways to get some of your needs met without having to spend money or create more waste. In fact, you are keeping waste out of the ocean by taking items from someone who no longer wants them.
Shop the Street
Also known as trash picking or dumpster diving, I like to call it shopping the street. This is particularly fun and lucrative if you live somewhere with a college! Basically, you drive or walk around and look through people’s cast offs.
How many times have you seen a chair on the street corner? Or when college kids move out of the dorms at the end of the semester, piles of things like wall decor, mini fridges, or bed sheets? If all of that ends up in the trash, all of that is a major waste.
Invest In Green Companies
Taking your money out of fossil fuel companies is, in my opinion, the biggest single action any individual can do for the environment. Sure, fitting all your trash into a mason jar looks good on social media, but taking your money out of Exxon has a much bigger impact on the planet.
Fossil fuel companies use your money to do things like fracking, forest destruction, oil and gas drilling, and basically all the things that we know are trash for the planet.
You can divest your money from fossil fuels! It’s easier than you think. We also offer an ethical investing course that walks you through ethical stock market and real estate investing so that you can build a completely green portfolio for the long term AND build a secure retirement.
Practice Buy Nothing Days
Americans tend to shop in order to feel joy, and with this capitalistic hellscape we call a government I can’t blame us.
But I do think it’s a fleeting sense of joy that ultimately only adds to our overwhelm and our stress. Instead, it’s more radical and better for our money to discover ways of feeling joyful without spending money.
A buy nothing weekend day might look like making your favorite breakfast at home, calling your Mom, going for a walk with a friend, volunteering for a few hours, and then making dinner with another friend. All these activities have meaningful time and actions with loved ones or causes. And none of them require opening your wallet!
Buy For the Long Term
This one has been the hardest for me to implement, but I do think it’s one of the best actions we can take as consumers.
How many times have you bought something for a single use, or short term only? Something like an outfit for one Halloween costume, and then you threw it out?
Reduce waste, save money, BUY FOR LONG TERM. That’s what I should get freaking tatooed on my forehead. Start buying for long term needs and uses.
This applies especially to things like clothing. Buy clothes that are well made, that have classic color schemes (thing neutrals for your basics), and that can work with multiple outfits. Much as a trend might seem cute on TikTok, if you only wear something 3 times, it was a waste of your money.
Americans waste 30-40% of our annual food supply. Looking at that number is WILD. We are literally throwing away almost half our food every year! And food waste emits more methane into the atmosphere, which speeds up climate change.
Composting is a fantastic way to keep food out of landfills and cut that methane down! Compost is recycling your food scraps into a fertilizer you can use. Many cities are now offering compost pick up with trash, but if your city or town doesn’t never fear.
You can find a local farm and see if they offer compost drop off (they turn your old food into fertilizer to grow new food!) or look for a privately run non profit to come pick up your compost. Google “compost options + your city”.
Most of us have a “money leak” (or several) in our budgets. A money leak is money leaking away from you without a clear purpose.
Something like throwing a few extra items into your cart at Target is a common money leak. And it’s also a common waste creation point for most people. You don’t really *need* that extra thing from the $5 section and ultimately it ends up in the back of your closet until you find drop it at Goodwill.
Budgeting better helps eliminate these money leaks! We preach the good word of values based budgeting, where your budget is based on spending on your needs and values.
You can have plenty of fun (like taking a long trip or buying a new house) with this budget style, don’t worry. You’re just reducing the financial waste part!
You can check out our values based budgeting workbook and spreadsheets right here if you need a new budget.
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