From organic vegetables to vegan skincare products there’s no denying that sometimes the eco-friendly option is the most costly. But reducing your impact on the environment is ultimately about consuming less and making more considered choices - something your wallet will thank you for too. Here are some of ways that being more sustainable can actually save you cash.
Invest in reusables
The UK, more than 35 million plastic bottles are consumed each day and 16 million of those are not recycled. Refilling a reusable bottle can make a huge difference. Whether you’re into patterns and pastels or infusing your water with fruit, there’s a bottle out there for you and you can get a good one for less than £10. Given the average Londoner buys three water bottles a week, you could make your money back in five.
Reusables can help you get your lattes for less, too. And if there is one thing we learned from our Year in Monzo review, it’s that most of us have an expensive coffee habit. Did you know that if you bring a reusable cup many cafes now knock 20- 50p off the price? The cup will have paid for itself in no time.
Finally, if you have periods, switch from tampons and sanitary pads to a reusable Mooncup. The silicon cup costs £22 but can be used for years. Channel4 estimates that people spend £128 a year on sanitary equipment, so you could make a bloody good saving.
Go second hand
It’s never been easier to buy and sell second hand clothes, shoes or furniture with companies like eBay and Depop. You could also try “shwopping” - swapping clothes with pals. As well as second-hand books, Amazon sells various pre-owned or refurbished devices. If you make an order, check out the ways you can reduce its infamous excess packaging first.
Get recycling rewards
Some retailers offer discounts in exchange for old items that can be recycled. H&M Group accepts clothes from any brand in any condition and will reward you with either a voucher or discount at its H&M, Monki or & Other Stories stores. M&S has a similar scheme in partnership with Oxfam, where you’ll receive a £5 voucher in exchange for old clothes.
Buy in bulk
Purchasing larger quantities of product is almost always better value and the plastic to product ratio will be smaller.
Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way you can reduce your impact on the earth as an individual. There’s no need to go cold turkey: scientists recently revealed that a global flexitarian diet, which is mostly plant based but includes small portions of meat and dairy, could feed a future population of 10 billion people and minimise greenhouse gases. It’s all about being more conscious and turning meat into treat.
The BBC has created an interactive infographic to explain how your food choices affect the environment. Beef produces the most greenhouse gases by far, so if you can, try and save it for special occasions.
The good news is that vegetables are much cheaper than meat. The key to keeping things interesting is to explore how different spices and herbs can transform your veggies. So rather than buying meat substitutes, which you might get bored of more quickly, try experimenting with different recipes. Jamie Oliver has more than 500 vegetarian or vegan recipes online.
Meals you buy on the go, like sandwiches, wraps and salads are usually drowning in plastic packaging. Making your own packed lunches in tupperware boxes avoids this waste and can save you heaps of money. Even if you just spend £5 on food out everyday, you could save more than £100 a month.
More than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables are thrown to waste because they are misshapen or the wrong size, according to research by the University of Edinburgh. Thankfully, there’s been a wave of supermarkets changing their ways and selling the produce afterall, but at a cheaper price. Lidl, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco have all offered veg boxes in the past, so keep your eyes peeled at your local stores.
A number of startups are also trying to tackle the food waste problem. Too Good to Go lets you purchase restaurant and cafe food that’s about to be chucked at a reduced price and Olio helps neighbours and local shops share leftover food with each other.
Grow your own
The most sustainable way to eat is to grow your own produce, which, once you’re set up, is completely free. This is obviously easier if you have a garden or an allotment, but fruit and veg like carrots, lemons and tomatoes can grow well indoors, especially if you can put them next to a sunny window.
Walk or cycle
The average car costs UK drivers £388 a month and public transport can also be pricey, especially in London. If you live in a city, walking or cycling enables you to get around for free, reduce emissions and keep fit. If you’re interested in cycling but worried about being safe on the road, check out TfL’s free Cycle Skills courses.
Take a staycation
Flights to far-flung locations can cost a fortune and the global aviation industry produces around 2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions. While travelling to and around mainland Europe by train can cost less than flying at peak times, the UK has plenty of holiday destinations to offer too, from the beaches of the English Riviera in Devon to the magnificent mountains of Northern Wales.
Shorten your shower
The average shower lasts eight minutes and uses approximately 16 to 40 gallons of water. Having a quicker wash with a shower timer, or lathering with the water off, helps reduce damage to the planet and your water bill. Using your washing machine and dishwasher less has the same effect - so try only using them when you’ve got a full load to clean.
Switch your bulbs
Swapping all the halogen light bulbs in your home for LEDs will save you about £35 a year on your electricity bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Love your gadgets for longer
Manufacturing mobile phones produces large quantities of greenhouses gases and uses valuable natural materials like lead, mercury and cadmium. So before you routinely upgrade your phone, think about whether it’s really worth it. There’s not a huge difference between new and older handsets these days, so if yours is working fine try and hold onto it for a year or two longer. Switching to a SIM only package can cut your phone bill in half.
You could also invest in an ethical modular smartphone from Fairphone, which are built to last longer than usual handsets and are made more sustainably.
Invest in a Nest
A Nest thermostat can reduce UK customers’ energy consumption by 8.4% to 16.5% by only switching on your heating when you need it. The clever thermostat (£199 - £219) will pay for itself over over time.
A study last year found that half of the cheapest 10 tariffs were for green energy deals, but many customers (42%) still assume going green is more expensive. Commissioned by uSwitch, the survey found that green offerings from companies like Outfox the Market, Pure Planet, Bulb, Yorkshire Energy and People’s Energy offer tariffs at least £267 less and in one case £354 less than the average default tariffs offered by the ‘big six’ energy providers.
For more tips on how to save and budget better, head to Monzo Money Tips👇