Buy this energy saving gadget, eat extortionate organically grown vegetables.
We are constantly being sold expensive products in order to try and reduce the enormous burden we place on the planet. Whilst I would definitely recommend some of these (low-wattage light bulbs, for example), there are many ways we can reduce waste and minimise consumption for free, which may well have more of an impact anyway! It is one of my New Year's Resolutions to implement all of the following methods wherever possible, and I hope you'll join me.
- Recycle – Yes, yes, you can recycle your paper, cans, clothes and plastic at home, but recycling goes deeper than that. Can you repurpose things that you no longer want into something else? Frugal Down Under is amazing at turning old things into beautiful new gifts and items for the home. You can find a home for a lot of unwanted possessions on Freecycle. Use a comparison website to see who will give you the most money for recycling your old mobile phone, either for yourself or for charity.
- Re-use plastic bags! – Shops in Wales charge a fee for plastic bags even at supermarkets now and it's only a matter of time before the rest of the UK follows suit. Re-use plastic bags you already have (for free), or invest in a few Bags For Life which can be replaced when they wear out. I travelled to Germany about six years ago and I was so impressed to see that people take along their own containers to buy fruit and veg, rather than using the little plastic bags we have. I can't believe this hasn't caught on here yet, so let's start doing it today!
- Grow your own – Fresh, organic vegetables can be easily grown. The initial outlay for seeds and tools will be easily compensated by the amount you save later in the year by eating your own crops. Plan what you are going to grow – there are multitudes of websites to help with this (use one based in your own country). Dig out a vegetable patch, or turn over the soil of last year's patch if you already have one. You can begin planting in March. Use your waste vegetable matter (raw) to begin composting for a great fertiliser in a year's time. (See my beginner's guide to composting).
- Turn it off! – Leaving a laptop on standby overnight uses 15-40 watts an hour, depending on whether the battery is charging. This alone will cost you a pound or two a week, which soon adds up when you think of all the other red lights blinking in the dark in your home.
- Print sparingly – Print only when you have to, and always use both sides of the paper. You can even set documents to print two sheets per side, which is usually easily legible.
- Don't buy bottled water – The Mother Nature Network states that bottled water results in 1.5 million tonnes of plastic each year and less than 20% of bottles are actually recycled. With prices of up to £1 per litre, bottled water can be nearly as expensive as petrol!
- Short showers – Showers are viewed as less wasteful but try putting the plug in one day to see how much water you actually use. Aim to halve it.
- Look after your possessions – Perform the required maintenance tasks, keep items clean and learn how to fix it when it is broken. Cars can actually use significantly less fuel if the oil is changed regularly and they are looked after properly. (See my post on hypermiling, the art of making fuel go further).
- Get on your bike and ride – How long does it take you to drive to work? If you live within five miles of your workplace it will take less than 20 minutes to pedal yourself there. That is INCLUDING that great big hill on the way there, and think how much fun it'll be whizzing down it on the way home!
- On-line banking – Stop the unread bank statements from cluttering up your home. You can keep a real-time eye on what's going in and out of your account using online banking. Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and firewall software installed. For more security advice, read this website.
Ten small ways to save money, reduce waste and save energy. Ten easy ways to make a difference. Join me in my mission to reduce my impact on the planet in 2012!