12 Ways to Live More Sustainably / Frugally

by J. Money -

world in hands

Morning!

Caught a great list of 101 ways to live more sustainably, and while a lot of them were pretty common ones there were a few that got me to stop and ask myself if I could do better…

Here are a handful of them, along with some links they recommended which sent me down a rabbit hole for the past hour and a half, haha… But did you know Tesla also makes solar panels?? Or that the average U.S. household burns through 47 batteries per year?!

Definitely needing to up my game more here… Hopefully you find something new too as our planet needs as much help as it can get these days!

A dozen ways to be more sustainable AND save some $$$

  1. Stop lining your trash bins with plastic — Instead, Curbed recommends periodically washing and rinsing your containers – something I hadn’t even considered over my 40 years of life 🤦‍♂️
  2. Wash clothes in cold water — Around 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes comes from heating the water! Only 10 percent comes from electricity for the washing machine.
  3. Make your own all-purpose cleanser — Reduce the environmental harm caused by the manufacture, use, and disposal of toxic chemicals by mixing your own cleanser. Here’s a simple recipe they give: Combine 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda with 1/2 gallon of water.
  4. Hang-dry your clothes — “After the fridge and the washer, the dryer uses the most energy. A clothesline in the sunshine is a zero-emission alternative (and your laundry will smell terrific). Here are some pointers to get you started.” I’ll admit this one sounds the most time consuming and hardest to pull off in today’s faster world, however I’m seriously giving it some thought now that we have a decent backyard and enough privacy for no one to see our skivvies ;) Knowing me though I’ll go through all the work and then accidentally leave ’em out in the rain!!
  5. Install solar panels —  Because solar energy is still the most cost-effective source of renewable energy, “but you don’t have to use the bulky tack-on panels of the past. Companies like Tesla, Sistine Solar, and Forward Labs are introducing sleeker, lower-profile designs that blend into the roof of your house.”
  6. Join a time bank — Swap your services for someone else’s—and make the community stronger by working together. Putting an hour of time in could be as simple as giving someone a ride to the doctor.
  7. Use washable cloths instead of paper napkins or paper towels — The hardest one for me to break personally, but I’m back on round II of trying after a few years off :( So much harder with a million kids spilling stuff every 5 seconds!! But not giving up!!
  8. Switch to rechargeable batteries — “The average U.S. household burns through 47 batteries per year, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Instead, you could buy just 12 rechargeable batteries every four years (the average life span of rechargeables).” Another thing I haven’t been the best at over the years… Just picked up my first 8 pack of batteries last month and going to try and replace ALL batteries going forward as I find and scoop up good deals… Kids go through SO MANY for their toys!
  9. Buy solar chargers for your electronic devices — Didn’t even know this was a thing??! They recommend the BigBlue 28W USB Solar Charger to plug in on the go.
  10. Eat less meat — A hard one to do in our family (or, mainly for me – I love meat!!), but I keep reading over and over again how bad it is for our environment. Making a single quarter-pound hamburger requires over 460 gallons of water – which is the equivalent of 30 showers! Wild!!
  11. Don’t get too cheesy — Some cheeses also have a surprisingly large carbon footprint. Cheddar and mozzarella, in particular, which use 10 pounds of milk to get one pound of cheese.
  12. And lastly, here’s a good carbon footprint calculator so you can see just how much your family is contributed to the overload –> EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator

What do y’all do that you’ve found is pretty effective? Any game changers that have saved you bank, as well as make this place more greener for everyone?

Here’s the list of all 101 recommendations again: curbed.com/a/how-to-live-sustainably

If we all do just ONE extra thing together this week we’ll have a nice little impact here :) Let’s make it happen!!

*****
PS: Also stumbled across this site the other day for toothbrush alternatives: GivingBrush.com. The average person uses (and then throws out) roughly 300 toothbrushes during their lifetime, so their mission is to switch people to biodegradable handles using bamboo instead of plastic. Just ordered one from them over the weekend and excited to try it!

*Solar charger link up there is an Amazon affiliate link

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate November 26, 2019 at 5:51 am

PS: NOT using the dryer to dry your clothes is much better for them and they will look better and last longer. I promise!

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2 J. Money November 26, 2019 at 7:24 am

Seems about right when you stop to think about it :)

Do you clothesline them all yourself, or have a different method? What if it’s raining – do you just hold off or strew them across the house? ;)

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3 Debbie M November 27, 2019 at 10:31 pm

So true that clothes last longer, especially stretchy clothes. And if it’s a breezy, dry day, your first load may be dry by the time your second load is ready, which is amazing. (Although if you have jeans or towels, they may not quite be dry.) Also, although it’s still possible to get static cling, it is much, much less likely.

On those clothesline tips, let me warn you that shaded means there’s something over them … on which birds are hanging out. So, check your laundry for bird poop. Personally, I don’t like that “fresh air” aroma because to me it smells like wet dogs, so I hang dry mine inside on a rack. Which means I only do one load a day (though I have a second rack I pull out for emergency catch-ups). I totally hang dry my dry-flat-only sweaters, but I’m draping them over a rod, which probably isn’t quite as bad as clipping two corners to a clothes line. So another advantage of indoor rack drying is you don’t need clothes pins. But it can take a while to dry, especially in winter. In winter, I recommend flipping the clothes halfway through (bedtime or when you wake up) and leaving on an overhead fan or box fan so they can be bone dry in less than 24 hours.

I’m hoping to add a screened-in porch when I renovate and if so, I think that a drying rack there would be the perfect combination of shaded, breezy, rain-free drying.

I don’t own a dryer, and I don’t have any tips for getting rid of the crunchiness. I’ve heard to use less soap, but I think I’m using the right amount for my hard water.

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4 J. Money November 29, 2019 at 7:42 am

Good point on the birds!! Haha… We’ve got scores of squirrels here too so I guarantee we’d have nut pieces all over our clothes, or at least dirty footprints from those guys scrambling across everything, haha…

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5 Josh November 26, 2019 at 6:28 am

We hang dry our clothes during the warm weather season. My wife washes most of our clothes on cold, that was a huge debate when we first got married as I insisted to do almost everything on either warm or hot…except the darks.

My wife also recently started doing a homemade all purpose cleaner. For most things, she thinks it actually does better. She even does a baking soda/vinegar/ and a small bit of dish soap for the dishwasher.

In regards to meat, we have reduced our consumption because of the cost and the resource intensity that commercially-raised requires. We buy local grass-fed ground beef from a local farmer once a year and put it in a deep freeze. You need freezer space and cash up front, but it can be worth it. Our family is still small enough where we can buy a quarter of a cow and make that last most of a year.

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6 J. Money November 26, 2019 at 11:43 am

Not a bad idea with that freezer route…

I just heard of the idea of doing Meatless Mondays as a good starting point, but if it’s followed by Taco Tuesdays then kinda evens out before the week’s half-way over! Haha…

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7 Heather December 6, 2019 at 9:56 pm

I’ve researched the topic of eating meat for a few years now with my college students in a class that I teach, and have come to believe that it’s not meat or veggies per se that matters (though yes, Americans generally do need to eat more veggies/less meat)–but whether the food is industrially produced or not. Google “regenerative agriculture” and it could be eye-opening. When I eat meat, I try to buy the expensive, grass fed or grass finished stuff (“pasture raised” sounds good but is not that meaningful as most beef cows spend time on pasture before they go to the CAFOs).

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8 J. Money December 9, 2019 at 10:58 am

Okay cool – bookmarking it now to remember to go google later – thx! You always hear so many different opinions on this stuff but always interesting to hear the different sides so you can settle on one yourself :) Appreciate it.

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9 MK November 26, 2019 at 7:35 am

I have been washing my laundry in cold water for years as an energy saver. I also use dryer balls instead of commercial dryer sheets (I used to use tennis balls but my kids upgraded me to the nice wool balls). I can only line-dry in the summer but I’m not as diligent doing that as I could be.

I use old t-shirts & dish towels as cleaning cloths, same as my mom did. I also use old bath towels as general clean-up towels. They’re good for a lot of bigger jobs like drying the car or sopping up a big spill. I suppose they would be good for drying out the garbage can after you’ve washed it but I just can’t bring myself to not use a liner!

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10 J. Money November 26, 2019 at 11:46 am

The big question that I’m just now realizing with the liner is what happens when you need to put it into the *bigger* trash can that gets picked up weekly?! No way they’re gonna take it w/out it being in bags! In fact, i think that’s a rule around here although I haven’t confirmed that yet… I guess you’d need to dump them yourself in that case, which is a whole other level of commitment (we have gotten better about dumping old food in our compost piles though… Haven’t had one in years but our new home has so much land for ’em!).

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11 Kelly November 26, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Growing up, my family would only have a liner for the garbage can in the kitchen. So whenever the garbage can filled up in your bedroom or bathroom, you had to go dump it in the kitchen. I guess it’s still using plastic bags, but hopefully fewer of them in the long run. This also forced me early on as a kid to learn to empty my own trash can, hah.

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12 J. Money November 27, 2019 at 6:53 am

Hah! I just went around our house and collected all the trash from the smaller trash cans… And actually, none of those have plastic bags in them – only the main kitchen one – so thanks for making me feel a bit better! :)

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13 Lisa O November 26, 2019 at 9:52 am

Absolutely love drying clothes on the line! Today in NY it is going to be 55 and I washed the bath rugs before work and will line dry them. You cannot beat the fresh clean smell! So you not only save on the dryer running but no dryer sheet needed!

I use homemade cleaners but sometimes you just need the tougher stuff.

I cannot bring myself to not use a liner in the garbage. We are a 1 bag family per week! I compost what I can and I keep another garbage can in the garage for the stinky stuff. Then the stinky stuff gets transferred over to our one bag. The garage garbage has an empty big dog food bag that is tough and sturdy when pulling out to dump.

I try not to use paper towels or napkins but…….

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14 J. Money November 26, 2019 at 11:51 am

1 bag a week – amazing!!!

At this rate you’ll be like Bea Johnson who’s gotten it down to one JAR a YEAR!!!

https://zerowastehome.com/2017/02/02/whats-in-our-2016-jar-of-annual-waste/

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15 Adam November 26, 2019 at 10:20 am

Count me among the hang-dryer folks. We’ve technically got three bedrooms; one we sleep in, one is my telecommuting office and our library, and the third is our guest room — which means for the 350 days a year nobody’s sleeping in there, it’s where we hang clothes and iron them.

I mounted one of these behind the closet door and it’s the best couple dozen bucks we’ve ever spent on household stuff: https://www.amazon.com/Polder-Retractable-Mountable-Contract-Multi-Room/dp/B000GBK2WO

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16 J. Money November 26, 2019 at 11:54 am

Ahhh that’s so smart!!!

We’ve got one of those rooms now too and solves the rainy/snowy/crappy day problem!!!

Though I guess doesn’t add the nice fresh smell everyone talks about, but still – a helluva compromise.

Starring it now as a possible Xmas gift to ourselves… :)

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17 Tonya November 26, 2019 at 8:11 pm

I like that door dryer thing! Great solution for someone like me who lives in a city a doesn’t have a yard. Although I also don’t have a bedroom not in use. I find hanging things on hangers and putting them in the bathroom with the door closed in the winter time helps them dry quickly because when the heat runs, it gets really warm in the small room.

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18 Candice November 26, 2019 at 10:36 am

Line dryers here, too, at least until we moved into this new house where it would require lugging the basket up and down several flights of stairs. Also, it’s Minnesota, so half the year it’s extra complicated. I miss it. Sooo much. We do have a large laundry room and have lines strung across the ceiling and a drying rack on the floor. But with six of us, I can’t dry a load before the next one is ready like I used to. So I do as much as I can.

If you forget the laundry and it rains, don’t worry. The rain isn’t going to make it dirty. Just let it dry out again. :D To be honest, my time outside hanging clothes was a time to breathe a little and just… be.

I didn’t know that cheese took so much water! I’m going to have to look into that and see what else there is that is better. We’ve been eating a lot of muenster and the kids love it. I wonder where it lands on water usage?

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19 J. Money November 26, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Noooo idea, but good point about the raining and clothes! haha… d’uh… Amazing how many skills/habits we’ve lost over the years due to technology and such :)

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20 Chris @ Mindful Explorer November 26, 2019 at 11:38 am

Thank-you for sharing with your readers one of my most concerning topics and what we must 100% all work to doing better. The word sustainable is a bit tricky, due to the fact what we are doing as society is un-sustainable. We need to dial things back, find a new normal and then make sure we don’t go back to the old ways of doing things. Cheers

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21 J. Money November 26, 2019 at 12:02 pm

All true words, sir!! I’d like to think I’m fully on board with it all too, but Lord knows I’ve still got a ways to go personally… At least I’m not giving up! :)

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22 Hannah November 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

A few years ago, you mentioned that you bought approximately 100 cloth towels in an effort to reduce paper towel consumption. I did the same, and now use way fewer paper towels (still more than zero, but less than one roll per month).

We also clean most things with either watered down ammonia, a vinegar, lemon and water solution, or baking soda.

My only other sustainable hack is to try to design your life, so you don’t need to have two cars. We did it for six years, but now we’re back to two cars since we’re both working right now. Still, can be a frugal hack.

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23 J. Money November 27, 2019 at 6:51 am

Yes indeed! Still kicking myself for not trying the 1 car route years ago when we had the perfect opportunity to ourselves :(

And I still have those cloth towels!! Getting back into the habit of trying to use them again – so cool you are!

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24 Bex November 26, 2019 at 1:47 pm

It’s amazing how often environmental decisions are also financially sound. In our house we’re already doing some of these (homemade cleaners, line drying, solar panels, mostly cloth wipes, recycling and composting, bamboo toothbrushes) but always room for improvement (rechargeable batteries) and things I can’t imagine yet (no bin liner!).

One thing not on the list that I am evangelical about is the eco egg. These little eggs have laundry stuff in them (and come with refills) and have lasted us literally years! We got them because they are good for sensitive skin but love them because they are so economical and environmentally friendly compared to ‘normal’ laundry products and their packaging. I have converted several households to them over the 5 years we have used them.

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25 J. Money November 27, 2019 at 6:55 am

Going now to google them!! Thank you!! (And you’re killing it over there with eco-stuff, love it!)

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26 carlotta bosso November 27, 2019 at 4:23 am

on the all purpose cleaner , please please.
baking soda and vinegar are not cleaners and also not particularly green.
More over, if you mixed them in advance, because they are an acid and a base, you will null thier potential. you will just spray basically water all over.
signed: all chemists of the world .

p.s. it’s just wrong, and very wasteful. ….

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27 J. Money November 27, 2019 at 6:59 am

whaaaa really??

so what’s the best to use/mix then?

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28 carlotta November 27, 2019 at 7:52 am

you can use them, just know that: they are not disinfectant, they are not cleaners( don’t work on grease), they are not “green”.
They are useful, in combination, when you have to “lift” something as in : clean a burnt pot or a stain of food on the carpet: but some baking soda on it, than spray vinegar ( or lemon juice) and the chemical reaction between an acid and a base will create carbon dioxide (the bubbles!). is the reaction that works. if you do it in advance, the reaction will happen in the bottle, and what you’ll spray will have zero impact.
The best thing to do for the environment is use the proper whatever but use little and only if necessary.

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29 Debbie M November 27, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Plain water or soapy water work for most things. I just use plain water and a sponge for mirrors and then wipe it as dry as I can with a wash cloth–you don’t need windex and you don’t need microfiber.

My favorite change I made was switching from tissues to washable cloths. I started with fancy hankies from thrift stores. Now I make my own hankies (out of worn-out shirts) now that I’ve figured out I usually like them smaller than average and made out of flannel or other soft cotton. And I use a sponge instead of paper towels for most things. Yes, yes, germs, but I’m not sure smearing things around with a paper towel is sterile, either. So I settle for microwaving the sponge regularly (yes, yes, germs survive, but not the kind that smell!).

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30 J. Money November 29, 2019 at 7:43 am

I didn’t even know you could microwave a sponge?!

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31 Debbie M December 3, 2019 at 12:42 am

Yep, 1-2 minutes. You can also throw them in the dishwasher (but I don’t have one).

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32 J. Money December 3, 2019 at 5:50 am

Ahh, very cool – thx!

Just had to look up whether dishwasher’s are actually good or bad for the environment now (wanna take a guess?) and found the answer – pretty interesting!

https://www.thoughtco.com/are-dishwashers-good-for-environment-1203932

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33 Debbie M November 27, 2019 at 11:23 pm

After reading the full 101 ways article you linked, I remembered that I also love bringing my own plastic containers with me to restaurants and parties, just in case there are leftovers to be had. Knowing that I can still have the food later encourages me to exercise decent portion control, too. And it also saves money because each thing I save is one less meal or snack to buy later.

I also bring my own shopping bags and have a smallish one for my purse (from wrapsacks) so I never have to take plastic bags. I really like carrying my own water bottle around with me too. It wastes less water than water fountains, plus I drink more when I have it with me. I even got a sling to hold it from one of those outdoor sports stores so I can have it with me on hikes without needing a whole backpack.

Another strategy I like is checking out things in walking distance. Definitely check online first to not learn the hard way. But you might have a treasure in your back yard you didn’t know about. You could make a field trip on the most convenient mass transit route (if there is one) and see if you get more ideas on different places to shop, eat out, etc.

And last year I finally moved my savings account and credit card from big banks to a credit union (I highly recommend Alliant Credit Union). I had known I would take a cut in rewards from my rewards credit card, but I was wrong! (I now get 2% cash back on everything. I used to have one with 3% on random categories that changed each quarter and one with 1.5% on everything–now I just use one card for everything. It’s nice.)

And I love mending clothes when I can. It’s like getting exact copies of my favorite clothes! You can put iron-on patches on the inside, and round the corners with scissors to make them less noticable. And re-sewing a seam or hem is another strategy I use.

And just a comment on cooking at home. Once you get a good recipe, it’s yours forever, even if restaurants go out of business. And you can tweak it to your liking. I’ll find the least amount of sugar I like and use only whole grain flours, for example.

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34 J. Money November 29, 2019 at 7:53 am

Always love seeing your comments here, Deb :) You’re always sharing new ideas and tips with us – thank you!! And good job condensing your bank accounts and credit card like that – I keep a very minimalist approach with banking too, also under one main roof (USAA). Happy Thanksgiving!

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35 Debbie M December 3, 2019 at 12:40 am

Thanks. USAA is the best! (I don’t qualify, though. I’ve just heard all about it.)

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36 Jill November 28, 2019 at 7:55 am

I have a no paper kitchen as well and found that the best towels for cleaning are bar towels from restaurant suppliers (online or storefronts) and with kids I have at least 100 baby wash clothes from target. They are small squares. My daughter grabs those for any kind of mess when most kids would need a paper towel.

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37 J. Money November 29, 2019 at 7:50 am

I need to channel you badly here, haha…

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38 Jill December 1, 2019 at 2:47 am

I have cut down some things but not everything for sure. I also bring many jars to the grocery store to buy bulk items just to avoid plastic.but then I go and buy take out… after this Black Friday madness I definitely need to be channeling you and challenge everything!

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39 J. Money December 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

Taking jars in counts for double the points! Haha… That’s hard to do! And more than makes up for other fails ;)

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