Zero waste and saving money

Filed in Blog by on July 24, 2008 14 Comments
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how to save money while going green
Joy and Rebecca over at Green Baby Guide asked me to take part in their first Thrifty Green Thursday carnival. The emphasis of their site is on combining eco friendly with frugal.

Many people think that ‘being green’ involves lots of disposable income. When you look at solar panels, geothermal pumps and hybrid cars, it can certainly seem that way. I know I have found that doing our zero waste challenge *can* result in more ‘expensive’ choices, but sometimes we need to remember to look at the bigger pictures, rather than just look at the cost to our purse, of an item.

Our cheap, disposable lifestyle is having a huge impact on the future of the environment and on our health.
Electronic goods with built in obsolescence, junk food where chemicals cost less than fresh ingredients and cheap long haul flights all contribute to a questionable future.

Some of the choices we’ve made at Chez Green throughout our zero waste challenge, however, have been more frugal, so I’m going to share five of them here. It’s a win-win situation when you can help the environment and your bank balance profits in the process.

There are plenty more to come in future posts. In fact, my busy mind has been on this one all morning and I think there’s an article just waiting to happen!

1- Making bread and yogurt

Making our own bread saves on packaging and on the cost of the loaf itself. I use a bread maker which costs just 0.6p electricity to run for one loaf. I’m going to make an assumption that unless the oven is full of other goods, using a bread maker is cheaper than using the oven.

Even though I’m still procrastinating heavily on making my own yogurt I know it works out far cheaper than shop bought. It works out at less than half price in fact. Plus there isn’t non recyclable plastic going into the landfill from the pots and lids.

2- Saving packaging

Any jiffy bags or nice sturdy cardboard boxes that come through the door, here at Chez Green get squirrelled away for another day. Little Miss Green’s better quality clothing, old books, outgrown cds and the odd soft furnishing has been known to find its way onto eBay and that’s where our saved packaging gets a new lease of life. Packaging can cost quite a bit to buy new, plus it seems crazy to throw envelopes and bags away, only to buy new ones when you need them.
Any envelopes are carefully opened and reused too (especially the ones that are already postage paid thank you very much).

3- buying in bulk

I’ve done the maths and since lost the figures, but trust me that buying in bulk means you have a LOT less packaging to get rid of. It was astonishing when I worked out the difference between the weight of one 5ltr container and five 1 ltr containers of washing up liquid. I’ll have a hunt around and find the stats sometime. Also, the cost of the product is cheaper.
You can buy in bulk from Co-Ops such as Suma. From Suma I bulk buy eco friendly laundry products and dried fruit and flour, while friends buy lentils, rice and nuts

4- less food waste

According to WRAP’s Love food, hate waste campaign, we throw away a third of the food we buy each week in the UK. So careful housekeeping in the kitchen is a no brainer. We must be saving upwards of a thousand pounds here at Chez Green just by not wasting food. If food waste is a problem in your house, check out our top tips for reducing food waste.

5- black gold

By using our kitchen scraps for compost, we end up with, well, free compost. Every year, people across the land throw their food scraps into the bin and then go out to garden centres in the spring to buy compost in plastic bags. If you’ve got room for a compost bin in our garden, why not have a go at making your own? Most councils have special offers to make buying one affordable or you can make your own from old pallets.
If you don’t have room for a compost bin, then a wormery takes up much less room (you can even keep them inside) and you will be rewarded with rich plant food for your houseplants.
A bokashi bin is smaller still and will sit happily on your kitchen work surface.

Towards the end of the year, we have a fabulous wormery, courtesy of our generous friends at Wiggly Wigglers up for grabs in one of our competitions. This month, you can win a bokashi bin from our equally lovely friends at Natural Collection. Find out how to win a bokashi bin on our competitions page.

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (14)

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  1. Hmm, I could do with a second compost bin……

  2. Isn’t it wonderful how often frugality and environmentalism overlap? A lot of the frugal things that I do are also healthy for the earth.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Great post! I can’t say we’re down to zero waste, but we throw so little away that we reduced our trash service to once a month instead of once a week. This saves us over $75 a year.

    Do you make your own yogurt with a yogurt maker? I make it with two large glass jars (formerly applesauce jars) and an electric heating pad. You can try making it without the heating pad, but you’ll get more consistent results using extremely low, even heat.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I think if you have the room then two compost bins is great – one to be added to while the other is magically processing the compost.
    Kristen, I love the whole ethos of combining frugality and the environment too. I think Joy and Rebecca’s idea for the Thrift Thursday is great and I hope to see many more people sharing ideas over the coming weeks.
    Hi Rebecca; Wow – a monthly collection; that’s fabulous. So you have a choice about what you can sign up for over there? Here you get given what you’re given in terms of refuse collection ;)
    I have a yogurt maker yes. I’m sure I could make it in jars over here this time of year, but in the winter our house gets quite cold.

  5. jen cleanbin says:

    I like that idea of making yogurt with jars and an electric heating pad. I’ve been wanting to try it, but can’t buy a yogurt maker because of our “buy no material goods” rule in our year long project.

    As for saving money, some places give you a discount when you bring your own container or shopping bag.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Yes, here in Portland we are able to choose the level of service we want. You pay less if you have a smaller trash can (20 gallon vs. 32 gallon vs. a big roll-cart) and less if you get it picked up less frequently. It’s great!

  7. Joy says:

    I can’t wait to read more about your adventures in yogurt making. I too have been dragging my feet but it will be so fun to be able to produce wholesome, organic yogurt for a fraction of the price. I didn’t even know about yogurt makers until now! Thanks so much for the tips!

  8. Hi Sarah – I’ve just got my second compost bin after 10 years of composting. We were trying to squeeze too much into the top of the old one, so the second one is a real relief.

  9. Louise says:

    Couldn’t agree more with some of the comments above :-)

    We existed for about 10 years with one compost bin and finally invested in a second one just over a year ago – much better – fill one up, leave it and then fill second one up etc etc. As I prefer to leave my compost as long as possible before using this makes my life easier! We were also lucky enough to get a fab garden shredder through freecycle, meaning all our woody prunings can get composted – whereas before they were collected by the council green waste collection (much better for our garden if we can compost them though!)

    Bread – we were getting through a loaf a day (at £1.09 a loaf!). Now I’m making it – sometimes by hnd, sometimes with a BM (another freecyle bonus!). We are actually getting through less at the moment as well – but that’s partly because it’s summery and we’re eating less stodge! I’ve been baking so many more biscuits and cakes recently too – not sure it’s cheaper, but there’s no packaging on each individual one and I know exactly what’s in there and can often sneak something else (*good*) in too :-) Oh – and bulk buying comes in here for the vast quantities of baked gods being produced! (although I’ve tended to do this from a monetary saving rather than planet saving point of view, I have to confess – but it has mutual benefits!)

    I’ve always saved packaging to reuse. Even as a teenager I used to reuse envelopes with labels purchased from animal welfare societies. My friend has a home business and will reuse large amounts of bubble wrap, large boxes and those air pocket things from me. (Freecycle is also a good place to get rid of excess packaging if you build up too large a stock, too!)

    Back to food waste: we waste very little unplated food now – I calculated less than £5 in June and we’re up to the grand sum of about £2.10 in July (mainly from some remaining bacon which went off within 2 days). However, I do have food waste in my bin :-( There’s the fat from meat (even if you buy lean cuts there’s always some more to come off!), bones, the odd mouthful of potato left on a plate (we’re talking squished into gravy, so it can’t be rescued towards something else) and the veggie peelings which have been boiled up with chicken carcasses for stock (unboiled ones are composted – natch!) Would a bokashi cope with all of this? (possibly excluding bones?) Although I don’t want more clutter on my (fairly minimalist) kitchen sides…..

    Keep up the good work! We’re coming down too – now at a swing bin liner per week – getting there (very) slowly!

    The ‘other’ Green family :-D

  10. http://www.recyclenow.com/

    Most councils have some sort of scheme, go to home composting and put in your post code for cheaper compost bins. Or do what I’m going to and ask on Freecycle for some wood/pallets to make one.
    My current bin is never truly full but equally never really gets enough time to compost properly either. This year we’re growing more and as a result producing more waste, so we’ll be wanting a second bin by Autumn I reckon.

  11. Louise says:

    LOL! “My current bin is never truly full but equally never really gets enough time to compost properly either. ” Isn’t that just the case – however much you get in there, there’s always more room a few days later to get another bucketful in!!

    Two bins are working well for us – the first one has a decent amount of time for everything in there to compost – meaning that now when I empty a bin I’m not having to fork a load of partly-composted stuff back in to carry on, like I was before – the whole of the bin can get emptied into my garden (as my back garden is essentially a raised bed contained by abrick wall with about 1n inch of top soil over a clay base it needs all the help it can get!!)

  12. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Jen,
    Well you never know – you might get lucky on Freecycle. I gave away my old yogurt maker a few years ago. Great news that you can get a discount for taking in containers and bags; I’d like to see more of that happening over here.

    I love the sound of your system over in Portland, Rebecca.I’m hoping we get something like that too. Although I don’t know if they’ll do carrier bag sized bins ;)

    Joy, you and me, making yogurt together – how cool is that! I hope you are able to find something that works for you :) Do keep us posted on your progress.

    Hi Louise – lovely to see you. A garden shredder – how fab! We end up putting out things like hedge cuttings for the council because we can’t compost it at home, but a shredder would take care of that. What a great find! I agree it isn’t often cheaper to make your own cakes and biscuits, but I’m more interested in the packaging and the nutritional content rather than how ‘cheap’ it is. Like you say, it’s a good way to sneak in some of the wholesome stuff!
    One swing bin liner a week is fabulous – well done you :) It sounds like you’ve really got to grips with food waste too. I believe a bokashi would cope with that, but don’t quote me on it. We’re supposed to be having a guest article from someone who is a seasoned bokashi user, but she’s very busy with other things at the moment (polite way of saying perhaps she has forgotten :D )

    Thanks for the link Sarah; I’ve found some of the offers on there to be really good. :)

  13. Oh I LURVE Freecycle….. Collected a dalek style second bin this afternoon and started putting things in it.

    Ah yes, guest article, soap nuts wasn’t it?

  14. Mrs Green says:

    :D I wasn’t talking about you LOL! But yes, we want the dirty on your nuts when you get a moment please :)
    Someone has just contacted me to say she’s been using soapnuts so I’m sure there will be a lot of interest………….
    Congrats on your new compost bin – may you have years of wonderful compost and another hearty Yay for Deron; the wonderful person behind the birth of Freecycle.

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