Does Going Green Save You Money?

Smart Money’s on Green: Why & How it Pays to Go Sustainable

A pink pig figurine, representing a piggy bank

Our desire for a more sustainable lifestyle may be boundless. But our actual ability to live that goal is probably limited by a handful of different factors- one of course, being costs. But what if we told you that a lot of times, it pays off long term to go green? Seriously! We’re talking financial savings and eco savings- not just saving plastic trash from being created, but actually saving money, too! That’s a win for Earth, and a win for you & your budget. 

We’re here to break down the thinking behind some of our favorite sustainable choices to help show you how an initial investment in some smart choices can pay off.

Dollars and Sense

We want you to do a little homework before you decide to buy another box of zip-top bags vs. a 3 pack of Z Wraps—or any other of your everyday opportunities to invest in something sustainable. We don’t often say this with any enthusiasm, but here it's different: let’s do some math! 

Let’s break down 3 key items in our Eco 101 kit, some product highlights, and crunch those numbers. One important thing to remember here is that your unique mileage will vary: everyone has their own way of doing things and their own definition of when something is worn out, what other ways someone will or won’t reuse something, etc. Sustainable living is often a very personal thing! Please remember that these are just our best estimates and a little price checking (November 2021).

A 3 pack of Z Wraps

Average Total Savings per 3-pack: $15 to $25+  

  • Replaces at least 300+ uses of something plastic or non-recyclable: cling wrap, bag, foil, tupperware, etc. Your exact costs & mileage may vary.
  • Example: 4 boxes of ~90 zip top bags @ $3.59 each, you save $14.36 & 360 pieces of forever-trash.
  • Keeps food fresher, longer- which saves you money by preventing food waste.
  • It’s gone from the environment naturally in less than 2 months in compost, and will never contaminate our water and food with microplastic particles.
  • Its end of life is not definite- reuse for other purposes including travel, dry storage, art surface, placemat, garden, and finally firestarter.
  • Plastic-free package is FSC certified, product made with organic beeswax & jojoba oil.
  • Committed to low-waste studio practices.

1 Skoy Swedish Dishcloth 

Average Estimated Total Savings per individual cloth: depending on use, $25+

  • Replaces 15+ rolls paper towels (~$20+ worth depending on your exact choice)
  • Also replaces a 4-pack of sponges ($1.50 - $6 depending on choice)
  • Its end of life is not definite- use it for different tasks as it gets more worn out until finally-
  • It’s gone from the environment naturally in less than 2 months in compost & never becomes microplastic pollution.
  • Plus: no plastic packaging, all cotton & wood pulp used is sustainably sourced, earth-minded manufacturing process.
  • The company provides solid paid work for people with disabilities by partnering with The Arc of San Diego.

A roll of bamboo utensils & reusable straws

Average Total Savings per roll (1 year): $198-370

  • Bamboo utensils can last anywhere from 6 months to 10+ years depending on use and care. Bamboo can even be easily refinished!
  • With daily use for 1 year- let’s say, packing a year of healthy work lunches- your roll would save more than 1,000 plastic utensils! Over 1,000 pieces of plastic that were not made, bought, or thrown away.
  • 3 different straws (and brush to clean!) also prevents 1000s more pieces of plastic waste
  • If your bamboo breaks down, your roll can still hold a metal utensil from home- keep that good habit going!
  • Bamboo is sustainable, super tough, resists stains, and naturally antimicrobial, making it an eco-friendly material that will live a long life.
  • When we fake-shopped for this post, 500 compostable plastic utensils ran about $68, 100 non-compostable about $12; straws were  $8/100, and wooden chopsticks were $7/50
    • If your utensil roll replaces 1 year worth of each of these used daily, you’d save: 
      • 1095 plastic cutlery pieces (~$132 non compostable / ~$150 compostable)
      • 300-1000+ straws ($24-$80)
      • 300-1000+ disposable wooden chopsticks ($42-$140)

More Ways to Save

“Shop” at Home First

If you’re already using sustainable options, or something just isn’t in the cards right now, what else can you doIt’s simply not always practical (and definitely not eco-friendly!) to rush to buy something new just because it’s a more sustainable option when you may already have a perfectly functional choice on hand that you’ve already purchased. Using what you already have is often an effective eco-friendly choice!

Conscious practices such as careful maintenance, mending, repair, and upcycling are also ways you can reduce your demand for new products and reduce what you end up throwing out. When it’s time to replace something, or you have a need for an item that you don’t already have, take a moment to think carefully before you buy. Do you need to own this item, or would borrowing one from a friend or neighbor work? Does the item necessarily need to be new, or could you visit a thrift store for a used one, or check your local or Buy Nothing group for someone giving one away? Do you need the item right away, or could you wait and see if you spot one at a tag/yard/garage sale etc? There is so much that is already circulating in any given community. What you need really might be closer than you think, and it’s worth looking!

When It’s Time to Buy

When it is time to buy something and you’ve decided it should be new, try whenever possible to purchase something you know to be high-quality and well-made. This might mean some research is necessary. You might need to comb through some reviews, or ask around for a recommendation from folks in the know. After all, being frugal doesn’t only mean saving money- it means making the wisest, most considered decisions when it comes to decisions of value vs. costs. It’s about making smart buying decisions now, that then allow you to save for goals or emergencies because they were effective long-term. There’s not much frugal about something you have to buy again and again. Avoid the mental trap of, “I’ll just get the cheapest one at/on ________” - not only does this thinking tend to hurt small and local businesses, it also increases waste and emissions from shipping and returns, and frequently results in a return or subsequent alternative purchase when the initial item doesn’t work out, breaks down, or just isn’t that good at what it’s supposed to do.

Ready for BIG changes that pay?

Alternative energy like Solar can end up not just paying for themselves, but paying your home energy costs or even paying you by essentially selling back to the grid any excess electricity generated by your solar array. Adding renewable energy systems, and home efficiency updates like updating insulation, checking water usage and updating to low-flow toilets and showerheads and eliminating any leaks, and upgrading old major appliances to more energy efficient models can all reduce your utility consumption and costs. They can also add significant value to your home should you choose to explore the real estate market at any point down the road. 

Check with your state or local government offices too: there may be rebate and incentive programs you qualify for where you live. In our home state of Massachusetts, residents can contact MassSave to find out what they might be eligible for.

Make the Investment - For you & for Earth

Doing something for Earth is full of its own intrinsic rewards. There’s the satisfaction of knowing you left something better than you found it, that you cared about something so much greater than yourself, or that you took action to leave a healthier planet for your children and taught them to care by your example- just to name a few.

To invest today in something that promises a more sustainable tomorrow is inherently intrinsically rewarding. And those kinds of genuine, natural rewards are a big deal! They are hugely motivating for us. Because they tap into some of our deepest shared connections- connections between groups and between individuals, between humans and the natural world, and our connection to a sense of shaping the future- intrinsic motivations are incredible drivers of human behavior. So in that sense, sustainability initiatives have an advantage: they’re naturally rewarding in that way. 

But reality is often harsh, and many of us have to make careful decisions about what we invest time and money in. We can’t always immediately go with what we know to be the best option overall, sometimes we have to go with what we can afford to do right now. If you’ve been interested in making some sustainable changes to your everyday routine at home but have held off because of up-front costs, we see you. And Kudos to you for prioritizing a healthy budget before looking at any kind of investment!

We hope we’ve inspired you to run the numbers and see whether now is the right time to start saving money and reducing waste by switching to some eco-alternatives. By looking at everyday sustainable swaps, which may cost more initially than another option, as an investment over time instead of something that’s just “too expensive” to be worth buying, we can see how the savings for even 1 sustainable switch can quickly add up!

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