I hardly ever recycled (other than turning in soda bottles and cans for Michigan's $.10 deposit) growing up, and I shrugged it off as too much of a hassle in early adulthood — especially when I lived in rural areas that didn't provide curbside recycling pickup. It wasn't until I moved to Washington a few years ago that recycling truly became a habit for me, and now I can't imagine not doing it.
Recycling protects the environment for only a small cost to us. It's a good way to redeem waste, but what if we could create zero waste in the first place?
Many environmental-focused nonprofit organizations encourage consumers to adopt this lifestyle, which includes practices such as composting kitchen scraps, choosing products with re-usable, minimal, or no packaging, buying used goods, and re-purposing items you would ordinarily throw away.
And it's becoming very popular — not only because it helps people feel like better stewards of the planet, but also because it helps them save money. While you might not be ready to dive into no-waste living as extremely as some of its enthusiasts, anything you do to be more conscientious of waste is a step in the right direction. Here are five ways adopting a low-to-no waste lifestyle could have a direct impact on your finances.
1. Less wasted food and smaller grocery bills.
Food waste tends to make up a large percentage of our weekly trash. One of the best ways to waste less food is to make a grocery list after meal planning — and only buy items that are on sale if you have (or can quickly create) a plan for them before they expire.
Zero-wasters point to buying fresher, more local ingredients as another way to cut down on packaging waste, save money on groceries, and eat healthier. Yet another simple thing that saves money while keeping tons of plastic out of landfills is drinking drink tap water. Install a faucet filter if you must, but it's the same water that's in those brand-labeled bottles — really!
2. Less spending on paper products and other disposables.
Most of us throw away or recycle plenty of paper cups, paper towels, and plastic bags. Even though they're initially more expensive, reusable versions of these everyday items (such as fabric napkins, dishcloths, rags, and canvas bags) will trim your consumables spending over the long run — and maybe even immediately. Did you know some coffee shops offer a discount if you bring in a reusable mug? The same goes for many retail stores if you bring in canvas totes.
3. New clothes for (way) less.
Buying used clothing isn't relegated to those who can't afford to shop new — it's the trendy, environmentally-conscious thing to do these days. Many no-wasters shop second-hand to keep clothes out of landfills as much as to keep money in their pockets. If "used clothing" conjures up pictures of low quality, out-of-style items, you need to explore more online marketplaces, clothes-swapping apps, and thrift shops in wealthy neighborhoods.
4. DIY household products cut the cost of brand names and packaging.
A portion of the cost of household products is their packaging and branding, so when you decide to go no-waste and make your own, you'll automatically save. And it's not as tedious as you might think. There are plenty of helpful tutorials and resources online (Pinterest is one of my favorite destinations) to show you how to make your own cleaners and beauty products. Many of these solutions work just as well, if not better than, their store-bought counterparts.
5. Consuming less + creating less waste = saved time = saved money.
One of the best arguments in favor of the link between living a no-waste lifestyle and living more frugally is that it forces you to be a more conscious consumer. Watching the types of products and packaging you take into your home, with the purpose of creating less waste, will eventually lead to streamlined shopping and less impulsive spending. Because it helps people consume smarter, and consume less, a no-waste lifestyle aligns with frugality and has bottom-line benefits.
Written by Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.