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Is it possible to be green if you’re not rolling in money?
Do eco-friendly AND budget-friendly products really exist?
Does the tag eco-friendly come hand in hand with over-priced?
As a broke student, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure this all out.
See, I live in a constant struggle. I want to be as sustainable as possible, but I also kinda want those fancy zero waste items I see on my Instagram feed day in, day out.
Like…I want to buy them all with the money I don’t have. The struggle.
But no more.
Of course I’d love to have those cute gadgets some day, but right now looks aren’t the priority – wasting less is.
It’s actually being a lil greener and reducing your waste just using stuff you have lying around the house is preeeeetty easy.
Read more about zero waste
How to reduce your waste on a budget
1. Stop buying bottled water – if you haven’t already
An easy one to get started.
Honestly, if you live in a place with a safe water supply, there is no reason for you to use bottled water. Just do the math and think how much money you’ll save just by not buying bottled water every day.
Instead, get a reusable bottle. No matter how expensive your reusable bottle is, you’ll be using it so much that the little investment will pay off.
There are TONS of great and budget-friendly options, you just have to find your perfect match. Make sure you choose the best material for you (glass, stainless steel, copper,…) AND make sure that your bottle doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals such as BPA.
You can find many lots of cheaper options here.
BUT if you want to go the extra mile and invest in your forever bottle, I recommend 24Bottles. Why, you ask?
- Their bottles are freaking works of art – like, literally, some of the designs are made in collaboration with artists. They’re beautiful. Seriously. Check them out.
- They’re made of stainless steel, and they’ll keep your hot tea warm and cozy and your ice tea nice and frosty.
- They’re 100% phthalates, BPA and toxins-free – all these are nasty chemicals that you don’t want in your drink.
- They’re carbon neutral. They don’t settle with doing good for our planet by producing reusable goodies, but they also offset all the emissions of their production: from the extraction of the raw materials until you and your bottle are together. They plant cacao, mango, orange, coffee and avocado trees in different countries, in the forest thy call Oxygen. You can check a very cool interactive map of these forests on their sustainability page.
So if you want a long-lasting and fashionista-worthy bottle, 24Bottles is your place.
Just avoid using those little produce bags they offer for vegetables in the supermarket. Do you really think bananas need them?
If you really need to use them for certain products, you can save the ones from previous supermarket trips and reuse them.
For more tips on how to do low-to-zero waste groceries without going to a bulk shop, check this post.
And the same goes for shopping bags: don’t be scared of reusing the plastic bags you already have at home.
You can also get a canvas bag, which are super unexpensive in most supermarkets, and will last a lifetime.
3. At the market, go for products packaged in glass or carton rather than in plastic
Did you know that glass and aluminium can be endlessly recycled without losing their quality? And that plastic can be recycled only once or twice?
So always try to go for the packaging with the lowest impact, and either find ways to reuse it or learn how to recycle it correctly.
For example, some egg packages are made of biodegradable carton that you can either compost or upcycle into something new (definitely check Pinterest for ideas).
And those glass jars you buy pickles or tomato sauce in? Go to the points 9 and 12 of this list to get some ideas on how to reuse them.
4. Think twice before visiting your go-to fast fashion store
Do you need something new or is it just a whim?
If you really really need it, is there another way to get it? Maybe from a vintage store, or borrowing it from a friend?
Changing your mindset about how you consume fashion will be super beneficial to you in the long run.
I say this on every single post about fashion and sustainability: by quitting fast fashion you’re doing a favor to your wallet and to our planet. Think of all the money you’ll save and all the resources you’ll avoid sending to waste.
Need help quitting fast fashion? Check out this post!
5. Use recycled pens and pencil highlighters
There are pens made of recycled bottles, like these ones from Pilot I’ve been using since forever. They last for a really long time, they’re very affordable AND refillable – so extra eco points for that.
Using fancy fountain pens is also a more eco-friendly option to your regular plastic pen, given that you can keep refilling them instead of buying a the whole thing over and over again.
Also, instead of using felt-tip-pens, you know, those you use to underline school notes, use highlighter pencils. They last for WAY longer than the markers, and you’ll skip the plastic. You can find them in any stationery store, and here.
6. Switch from paper planners to digital ones
As a stationery freak, this one has been a tough one.
There are many online organizers you can check out on your app store, such as Evernote and Moleskine Journey. But I have to admit that I love just using the built-in calendar on my phone.
You have another option: buying eco-friendly stationery. Surprisingly, they are not that expensive, and there’s a lot to choose from.
7. Dare to DIY
If you cannot afford to buy beauty products from sustainable brands, just do them yourself. This goes for beauty products, food, even clothes if you have the talent to make them!
I’ve been doing this for a long time and, even if at the beginning it looks like an investment (buying oils, extracts, etc.), it ends up being waaay cheaper than going to the shop and buying a fancy final product.
And many times you can use stuff you have already at home.
Some of my favorite beauty DIYs are coffee body scrubs and oil-based hair masks. How rewarding is using something you made? Love it.
8. Stop using tea bags
Doesn’t matter if you’re an avid or an occasional tea drinker, just ditch the tea sachets and get leaf tea in bulk. Not only is it way cheaper, but in case you didn’t know, these little bags are often partly made out of plastic!
When you put them in hot water, they release tons of tiny microplastics in your drink. Ew.
Why don’t you get a french press, they are very very affordable and versatile. I guarantee you that french press leaf tea will taste x100 better than bagged tea.
Do you know which other VERY UNEXPECTED everyday items contain plastic? Check this post!
9. Ditch the disposable coffee capsules
These pods are usually way pricier than normal coffee grounds, and you will be saving a lot of plastic and aluminium from going to waste.
Aaaand as an alternative, switch to a French press – told ya, you can use it for everything – or use a stovetop espresso maker. I love how old-school these look.
Pro tip. On that same caffeinated line: an elder family member told me that every day for work and since the 80s he uses a MASON JAR for his coffee. Like how is it possible I had never thought about that before? It looks pretty aesthetically pleasing, too. Such a breakthrough.
10. Start using bars of soap
And use them for everything: for your hands, in the shower, and to do the dishes.
Seriously, dish soap in bars is a game changer. You can find them easily online, but actually any fragance-free natural soap does the job.
Your skin will thank you, and each soap bar lasts for A G E S (ok, not literally, but they do last for a looooong time).
Bottled gels and soaps sometimes have additives that you don’t need in your life.
Pro tip: use bar hair products as well – shampoo and conditioner. LISTEN, I was terrified about using these products. I thought they would let my already complicated hair all stringy and EW. But actually they’re doing a great job with my very long, very curly and very messy hair.
If you need help finding zero waste beauty products:
11. Make your snacks instead of buying packaged ones
I guarantee you that they’ll be x5 cheaper, x10 healthier and x20 tastier.
Like these delish + healthy snicker bars. Want to learn how to make them? Click here!
12. Reuse mason jars you already own
The ones you buy pickles in? Those ones.
Use them for meal prep, for your takeaways, to store your cookies, your coffee, your leftovers. The sky is the limit.
Bring your lunch in them to work. They look kind of effortlessly cool, which tricks people into thinking you have my life together.
Some day you will have a cute, expensive and instagrammable mason jar. But for now you can live without it, hang on with the pickle jar.
Repeat after me: you don’t need fancy stuff to go zero waste.
So these are my humble tips. But hey, I’m no expert, so I would love to hear your own eco-tricks. Tell me in the comments, or in my social media places.
Now it’s your turn to kick waste’s ass. Affordably and sustainably.