Being frugal is eco-friendly. Many people don’t realize how frugality and green living go hand in hand. Both include being less wasteful, recycling and reusing items whenever possible. While you might want to invest in ways to save more money, such as buying a hybrid car, installing solar panels and shades, or updating all of your appliances to energy savers, that’s not always affordable. But you can still focus on small, practical ways to be frugal while at the same time being green. The important thing is to make the decision to be mindful over using only what you need and not more than what is necessary.
Here are a few ways to be green to save green.
HOME GARDEN: You can grow your own food and cooking herbs, gather and reuse rainwater in rain barrels, save seeds, reuse containers as planters, compost, can and preserve, plant ground cover instead of lawn that needs to be mowed, and plant trees for shade and to guard your home from wind. Consider manual or electric tools over gas-powered ones.
HOMEKEEPING: Use natural, homemade cleaners, microfiber cloths or reusable cloth materials for surface cleaning and cloth napkins instead of paper; line-dry clothing; and turn off heat drying on your dishwasher.
RECYCLE AND REUSE: Before throwing something away, think about whether you can reuse or recycle it. Materials such as newspaper, plastic containers, food scraps, wood, glass jars, paper, cardboard, etc., are all materials that can be reused around the house.
BYOB: Bringing your own reusable bottle or bag is frugal and green. Don’t continue to use disposable materials when there are reusable substitutes. If you’re buying only one or two items, refuse a plastic grocery bag when it’s offered.
SHOPPING: Buy products that have less packaging. Buy produce when it’s in season. Buy from farmers’ markets and secondhand sellers more often. Consider buying from companies that support or donate a percentage to a cause. For example, if you enjoy online auctions, try bidding at www.biddingforgood.com. Buying there will support various schools and nonprofits.
CONSERVATION: A hot-water insulator keeps your body warm instead of rooms warm. Use programmable thermostats, CFL bulbs and rechargeable batteries. Unplug electrical devices when they’re not in use. Put them on power strips to make them easier to shut off. Check for window and door drafts, and fix them. Install timers for lights. Use a low-flow showerhead.
TRAVEL: Combine errands, drive a fuel-efficient car or become a one-car family; carpool, bike and walk whenever possible. Keep vehicles well maintained. Don’t let your car idle if you can turn it off. Keep proper tire pressure.
FOOD: Cook from scratch more often. Make your own baby food if you have a baby. Use reusable coffee filters and lessen your meat consumption. Use reusable containers that can go from stovetop or oven to fridge instead of plastic wraps and baggies.
GIFT-GIVING: Give homemade gifts. Giftwrap can be a usable part of the gift. For example, instead of using a paper gift bag, use a reusable cloth bag, and you can use Sunday comics instead of tissue paper to tuck into your cloth bag, too.
READING: Swap reading materials with friends. Visit and support your local library or frequent used bookstores.
Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail email@example.com.