First, I was obsessed with frugality. It becomes obvious that frugality is easier if you buy only necessities that last, so minimalism emerged. Now, I’ve found frugality and minimalism progress into zero-waste principles. The zero-waste lifestyle is a commitment, but to honor Earth Day, here are some budget-friendly options to get you started. There is an initial investment for purchase and some ongoing maintenance (such as laundry), but the savings will add up within six months or less.
How a Zero-Waste Lifestyle Leads to Saving Money …
I’m not sick or on the verge of tears, but Midwest temperature fluctuations and a touch of allergies mean that my nose drips all day. I used to keep a tissue in my pocket, but I always forgot to take it out, so shards of Kleenex covered my laundry. Plus, I used way too many tissues! These problems are solved with the classy handkerchief.
I recommend a box of tissues for emergencies (in other words, nasty colds), but expect to cut your daily tissue usage by 90 percent. Bonus: if you get the handkerchief at a flea market/thrift store, you can score them for $1-$2. Also, decreased nose chafing.
2. Reusable napkins and rags
When I had a pile of old T-shirts, I made my first batch of cloth napkins. They aren’t the best at absorbing liquid (cotton is the wrong fabric type), but they get the job done. To go the homemade route, use your worn clothing or fabric scraps. If anything, you’re giving the last bit of life to some cloth before it’s thrown out. Otherwise, you can purchase linen napkins for a more professional look.
3. Water bottle
Reusable water bottles have been trendy for some time, but imagine the impact if you vowed to cut out the single-use bottles, even if they’re free. Opt to bring your own bottle everywhere. Purchasing $1 bottles here and there is an unnecessary expense for something that’s basically free. At security checkpoints, plan to pass the empty bottle through and fill it up on the other side. If you’re concerned about water quality, consider a bottle with a built-in filter.
4. Reusable feminine hygiene products
Menstrual cups are making a comeback. Made from silicone, they can be reused for years with proper care. A correct insertion and you won’t even feel it. Depending on the heaviness of the flow, the cup can stay in place for up to twelve hours. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning. Costs vary from $20-$40, meaning that your investment is recouped after two to six months. And I promise that the cup isn’t any grosser than pads or tampons. It’s just a different approach.
For something less invasive, there are cloth pads. (Which, may I remind you, our grandmothers used, and they lived through their lifetimes just fine.) Find these on Etsy or follow a tutorial to make your own. The care standards include rinsing prior to washing and avoiding chemical detergents. Whenever you finally get around to trying these reusable options, you’ll kick yourself for wasting money on disposables all this time.
5. Homemade beauty products
Cut down on harsh facial products using homemade toner and masks.
Toner: mix apple cider vinegar and water in a glass container. The ratio should depend on your skin type: dry skin at ¾ water and ¼ ACV, normal and oily skin at 50/50. Apply toner with a washcloth, allow a moment to dry, then moisturize as usual. Don’t worry–the smell of vinegar dissipates as it dries.
Face mask: spoon out Greek yogurt, add a drop of honey, a dash of lemon juice, and mix with your finger. Apply to face (avoiding eyes, obviously) for ten minutes. Simple, edible ingredients that you probably already have on hand and much cheaper than purchasing a $1 single-use mask.
Planting a garden can be an investment in both your health and financial well-being. Not only will you have to purchase fewer groceries, but increased vegetable intake and time outdoors positively impacts your health. An indoor window garden is also visually appealing.
The best return on the investment comes from plants with multiple harvests. For instance, with correct harvesting and proper conditions, leafy greens produce almost all summer. Tomatoes offer a great harvest. Green beans can be processed and frozen for the winter. Brush up on your canning, pickling and blanching/freezing skills to truly take advantage of the bounty. Another great option, if you’re not able to have any type of garden, is to shop at your local farmers market.
Your introduction to zero-waste doesn’t have to include dropping money on reusable sandwich bags and glass food storage containers, although I heartily recommend them. Instead, simply give a little forethought to creatively reduce your consumption, reuse your stuff and recycle the leftovers.
Do you have any zero-waste tips that you use to help save money? Share them with us in the comments!
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