Money Smarts Blog

Go green without going broke with this simple formula

Apr 19, 2018 | Sarah-Beth Floyd

man who knows who easy it is to recycle

Go green, people say. It will be easy, they say. Well, as it turns out, “they” are right for once. Going green doesn’t have to be a difficult task and doesn’t have to drain your wallet. Don’t believe me? It’s as simple as R + D + T = G: Remember to Recycle, Ditch the Disposables and Turn it off/down for a Greener life. Find out how much you can save and how much the planet will benefit with this simple formula below.

Remember to recycle:
The first step to going green is easy, and it doesn’t cost you anything! It may take some time, but mother nature thanks you. Here’s how you get started:

When you go through your disposables at home, make sure you’re only recycling items that have the this symbol:  as these 3 arrows let you know that it’s safe to put in the recycling bin. It’s critical to pay attention to because if you try to recycle something that’s not recyclable, it can contaminate any item it touches.

For example, if you gather items like pop cans and put them in a plastic bag then throw it straight into the recycling, it breaks every recycling 101 rule. It may seem like a clever idea at the time; however the bags jam the equipment, blow away from landfills and can’t be recycled. So, in the end, you do more harm than good.

Something else to pay attention to is your local recycling policy. It’s different for every area, and can typically be found on your city website. For example, in Moline, IL your items must be separated by different plastics and mixtures of fiber. Examples of items with different fibers are cardboard, newspapers, text books and brown paper bags. To make it easier on yourself, find your local policy and keep your recyclables separated at home.

Davenport and Bettendorf, IA are all in on recycling, and offer a single stream program. That means all recyclables can go into one cart without the need to separate paper and containers. With a system that easy, there’s no excuse NOT to recycle. But keep in mind that plastic bags of any kind are still a no-no, even with a single stream system.

Ditch the disposable:
Goodbye disposable products, and hello reusable! By making a minor change in your lifestyle, like ditching products that are made to be thrown away, you can make a huge impact. The simplest and most cost-efficient options I found were e-newspapers, reusable water bottles and replacing your disposable razor. Let’s start with newspapers.

If you’re used to getting a newspaper sent to your home every day, consider how much paper you’re throwing away (or hopefully recycling). A greener and much cheaper version of that same newspaper can be found digitally. For example, getting the Quad City Times delivered to your home everyday costs $23.25 a month. If you got a digital copy you’d only be spending $9.99 a month on that same product. That’s a $159.12 difference for the whole year!

Reusable water bottles are another way to kick the plastic to the curb (just kidding, recycling bin). It’s said that in the U.S, people open 1,000 water bottles every second and put 60 million plastic water bottles in the trash each year. Don’t be one of the 60 million contributing to more plastic waste, and buy a reusable water bottle. Not only will mother nature be happy, so will your wallet. I’m sure it’s tired of being used at 7/11 for a $2.50 bottle of Smart Water every day.

Onto something a little sharper, razors (see what I did there?). I know people love their disposable razors, but have you ever considered how much plastic you’re throwing away? Or how much money you spend on them? For the cheapest disposable razors at Target, it’s $3.99 for 14. For $3.00 a month with the Dollar Shave Club, you could get a nicer handle and 4 blades every. Single. Month. No more polluting the earth, you save money AND get a cleaner shave. And guys, beards are totally in, but the key is a well-kept beard. You’re welcome.

Turn it off/down:
Water and energy are two things people forget about when they think of “going green”. But most of these lifestyle changes are the cheapest and easiest to accomplish.

The simplest way is to plug your bigger electronics into a power strip, and make sure it gets turned off every night. Even though the TV or gaming system may be off, it’s still sucking energy from the outlet. If the power strip it’s plugged into is turned off, you’re saving energy and money. I call that a win, win.

Another way to save on energy is to buy a programmable thermostat. At your local Home Depot, these can range from $24.00 - $250 (just depends on how many features you want). And I mean, if you’re not at home during the day, why does the AC need to be on? When you set up a programmable thermostat you can make sure the air conditioning turns itself on before you get home and off when you leave for work.

Perks of owning this nifty gadget is that it remembers your preferences, so you won’t have to manually set it every time. It also saves you 10-12% on heating and up to 15% on cooling your home. In other words, this “smart” thermostat just made you greener and more cost efficient.

If saving energy doesn’t sound achievable, what about water? A low-flow shower head helps you save water without messing with the water pressure and you’ll see a difference in your water bill. This is because a typical shower head uses 3-4 gallons of water per minute and low-flow versions only use about 1.5 gallons of water per minute. This alone could save you roughly $80/year on your water bill. Who knew going green could benefit everyone?

So, remember, R + D + T = G. When you remember to recycle, ditch your disposables and turn it off/down, you’ll be on your way to a greener earth and more green in your wallet. And now it’s in an easy to memorize formula! If you’re still not convinced that going green will save you money, check out our How Much Am I Spending calculator. Then you can easily compare how much you’re currently spending vs how much you would spend given the green changes above.

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