Reuse, Recycle or Do Without. It’s an old saying, and it’s the crossover point between saving money and saving the environment. With the three topics, we can take examples of each, and evaluate the overlap of where saving the planet can also save us money:
We should pause before buying new, and evaluate whether we can fill the need in a re-used manner. If we ask this question everyday, we can reduce so many thoughtless costs. Every throwaway item has a cost, every single-use plastic bag, plastic straw or paper cup has a cost to the environment and to our wallets, whether as a direct cost in our purchase, or as overhead in the places we shop. All of it is reflected in higher prices. The cleanup costs to society are even larger, as these items litter our public spaces, cause greater energy consumption and pollution and remain in the environment after their single use is long gone. Always choose to reuse, avoid single-use items, and question every purchase. Your wallet will thank you, along with a cleaner community.
Sometimes we will reach the end of the useful life of an item, and we cannot continue using it in its current form, or for its intended use. Does that mean it’s trash? Never! Even dirt has value in the garden. Some items can be recycled in the home and repurposed to a different use. Many paper items can be composted in that garden, just as many food scraps can be fed to chickens or composted, and added back into the garden. Stained t-shirts or old towels can be recycled into cleaning rags, and reused many times more. We’ve forgotten many of the older ways of valuing our limited resources, such as the Depression Era repurposing of flour sacks into clothes and using magazines for paper dolls. In this way, we can have a long reuse of an item, and then follow with a caring and artistic recycling of that original item into something else useful. This will keep money in your wallet, while still having all the items you need.
3. Do Without
This third strategy is also sometimes referred to as ‘Reduce’. This is the most aggressive of the three strategies, and the most underrated in our high consumption society. The minimalism movement has brought back some of the questioning of how much is really needed to live our daily lives, and we can always build on this movement. How many items do we need in our daily lives – how many shirts, shoes, etc. does a single person, or single family, need? The best way to save money is to not buy something in the first place, and the best way to conserve resources is to not use them at all. A Prius will use less gas per mile than an SUV, but walking or biking instead will use no gas at all. It is the most extreme, but also the most thorough and money/resource saving option.
Whichever combination of options you use, consider the impact on both your personal finances, as well as your community. There are very noble reasons to go green and consider your impact on the earth, as well as very personal reasons to work towards financial independence. You can work towards both at once — it just takes some discipline to question what you really need.