12 Unconventional (But Easy) Ways To Save Money While Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Giving back to the planet does not have to be a pocket-purging, patchouli oil-wearing experience. In a mission to break this common myth, I write about some effective, tried and tested methods to do your bit for the planet while saving a few bucks.

After writing about budget-friendly ways to reduce the Big C footprint while shopping, here’s the latest on how to live green on a budget. We’re bringing together some unconventional tips and some classic hits (recycling, composting etc.), but they’re all guaranteed to be way less expensive than switching to an all-electric car or installing solar panels. So here we go:

1. Grow your own food: If you have a balcony, or a yard, or an opportunity to be a part of a community garden, make the most of it! Growing herbs, scallions, and some other fruits and vegetables is very easy, and once you get into the habit of not killing them (personal experience), they’re a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save lots of money at the grocery store!

2. Cook: That’s right. Make your own meals. This gives you the ability to choose the ingredients you put in your food (organic, local, etc.) and avoid waste by cooking to your own specific needs. Plus, you can cut out that pesky problem of bringing leftovers home in Styrofoam containers (ugh!) and save a lot of money.

3. Make your own cleaning products: Buying ingredients in bulk will save you quite a few bucks. There are numerous websites online that teach you how to make great eco-friendly cleaning products. Needless to say, you also send less to the landfill as you end up reusing the containers every time you make a new batch.

4. Replace your lightbulbs: CFLs were an upgrade from incandescent bulbs, and now LEDs are the way to go, saving even more on energy and dollars than CFLs.

5. Invest in a dishwasher: Or use one more often, on a full load. An Energy-star rated dishwasher can save you at least $40 a year — even more when you run it during off-peak hours. Check out these tips on using your dishwasher the “green” way.

6. Airdry your clothes: It’s a bit old-school, and weather-dependent, but we are recycling, aren’t we? Air-drying your clothes conserves energy, keeps your clothes in a better form, and saves you up to $200 in gas/power bills.

7. Eat less meat: Carrots and beets make better friends than beef. Veggies are cheap, meat is not. Veggies are sustainable, meat is not. You don’t necessarily have to turn into a TVP admirer, but cutting out meat a few times a week is a great way to be a planet-lover!

8. Redeem those leftovers: Store them well. Turn it into a stew, a pot pie, a sandwich. Share them with people. Food waste is a huge problem all over the world. Here are some tasty tips to help you with this process.

9. Compost/Recycle: Alright, alright, this one’s been wheeled out quite a few times, but there are still some new beats we can add to it:

  • Compost virtually anywhere by keeping your household compost in the freezer, which eliminates odors and any fluid build-up.
  • Up your recycling game by doing some research on your local community’s recycling initiatives. Many cities host special programs and competitions among eager recyclers to incentivize the process and spread awareness, like this one.
  • Start recycling simple items like stationery and cigarette butts.
  • Check if you can return certain glass containers and bottles for a refund at local supermarkets.


10. Pack your pet hair: 
If you’re looking for something even more unconventional, save up your pet’s hair and ship it off to The Clean Wave Program. These nice fellas use your pet’s hair to soak up oil spills. Or you can try any of these extremely creative solutions, too!

11. Shower bowls: You know what’s a great way to water your plants? Collecting your shower water, which would otherwise be yet another sad run-off story, not to mention wasted dollars. Place a big bowl/ bucket under your faucet as you wait for your water to get warm, and water your plants after. Do something similar for your garden, and set up a rain barrel. It really is that easy!

12. Unsubscribe from marketing/ shopping emails: It has been proven that a greater exposure to ads generates a higher expenditure in products you may not have needed or even wanted in the first place. Not only are you spending less by hitting that unsubscribe button, you are also adding less to the consumption cycle, thereby creating less waste.

There are many more things you can add to this list, but we wanted to get you started with a few new ones! Tell us about your budget-friendly sustainable inventions, and keep reading on.

Niharika blogs at Windsor of Change. She enjoys tropical loose leaf tea, bad puns, and eclectic travel destinations and lives in Windsor, Ontario. She thinks there’s nothing better than a dance in the first rain and nothing worse than a “can’t-do” attitude. Follow her on Twitter here.

  • Dana Ernest

    Love the recipes for homemade cleaning products! I would add – use old clothes/rags to clean instead of paper towels. This seems like an obvious one to me, but so many roommates I’ve had would use rolls and rolls of paper towels to clean instead of reusable sponges or rags.

  • Ella

    I would read the heck out of an article on composting at home. My city doesn’t have a composting program (don’t worry, I’m all over writing my councilor about that). I would love to compost in my backyard (or basement in a tupperware??) but need a little push in the form of an easy-to-read, encouraging article :).

  • Anna Yugova

    great tips, thank you!

  • The “air-dry your clothes” tip is fascinating to me, as air-drying your clothes is the norm in New Zealand (I thought people were lying to me when I was first told that hardly anyone in North America uses a clothesline). I love it when articles unintentionally highlight cultural differences!

    • Judith

      That’s the norm in Europe too. People tend to be surprised when someone actually owns a dryer, at least where I live.

    • PannaKocka

      I noticed that too. I live in Ukraine and one of my first childish memories is my grandma bringing frozen clothes from outside in winter. I was always surprised that clothes were dry even they were hard and covered with ice.

  • Squiderous

    The only problem with making your own cleaning supplies is how many of the recipes call for EOs, which are actually terrible for the environment (which is a real bummer)

    “Essential oils, which are made by steam-distilling or cold-pressing plant material, are incredibly resource-intensive to produce” from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-essential-oils-became-the-cure-for-our-age-of-anxiety

    • Patchouli Pagan

      Thanks for referencing that article. Interesting. I’ve used EO’s since 2002. I’ve only used Mountain Rose Herbs due to their business & ecological practices. Sadly, most of the stuff available inexpensively at stores like WalMart are not real EO’s. And EO’s are not a cure all for everything!

      • Squiderous

        I’ll have to check out that brand! I just recently started using them so I was super bummed to hear they’re so hard on the environment.

  • Patchouli Pagan

    Great tips! The caveat with vinegar for cleaning is to be careful on what you use it. One example, varnished toilet seats & covers. It eats through the varnish eventually, right down to the wood. Learned the hard way…

  • Keisha

    Love this! Would really dig more articles in this vein 🙂