As I was trying to explain Earth Day to my four-year-old, and what it means to celebrate the planet on which we live, I began to realize that conservation isn’t only to preserve our resources, but it can also be economical. Little changes in our daily lives can save some dollars and help the Earth too.
Our Disposable World
How many people have that Starbucks habit? I’m sure most have heard of the Latte Factor, where a daily habit can build up to a large sum—the average American spends $1100 annually on coffee. Now imagine that cup that daily coffee came in, multiplied by thousands of people and you get a staggering number. Starbucks goes through 4 billion paper cups per year , not to mention all the plastic lids to top them. Instead, invest in a reusable cup and if you’re looking for extra savings, brew your own coffee. If you can’t imagine your day starting without a visit to your favorite barista, you can still take your own cup. Only 2% of Starbucks customers use reusable cups , and for encouragement, you’ll even get a discount on your coffee.
If coffee cups were bad, plastic water bottles are worse, with over 200 million water bottles ending up in the trash. Ditching bottled water alone can save the 1.5 million barrels of oil used annually for US water bottle manufacturing. Not all bottles are recyclable, and even so, only about 23% are recycled. This plastic never degrades; it only becomes smaller bits of plastic that can continue to leach chemicals, pollute our environment, and disrupt ecosystems. The actual water in that disposable bottle only costs 4 cents , but the markup is 25x or more, so save a couple of dollars a day by going reusable.
I’m all about reusable, especially at home. I’m not trying to be fancy using cloth napkins; I’m actually trying to be frugal! The average person uses 584 plastic straws, 230 paper plates, and 45 pounds of paper towels per year. If these were in my Amazon cart, I’d be spending about $200 a year on these items. Meanwhile, my eco-friendly Amazon cart could have a $50 set of dishes and $15 for a dozen cloth dish towels/napkins, and my one-time cost is less than my annual disposable life.
The Food We Eat
As a foodie, raising foodie babies, we’ve been growing our own vegetables and fruits for 3 years now. It started as a fun project to teach my kids about plants and they get to dig around in the dirt, but it now gives us the freshest food at the shortest distance. According to some estimates, 15-25% of climate change is attributed to agriculture. Even if you can’t grow your own food due to space, interest, or just a brown thumb, you can shop locally and seasonally. Not only will you use fewer natural resources, but you’ll taste the benefits too.
After growing my own food, I realize how much time and resources go into feeding us, and wasted food brings more meaning than it did before. Uneaten food—in 2010 over 33 million tons of food was thrown away in the US—enough to fill the Rose Bowl every day. It comprises the largest single source of solid waste, and 13% of US greenhouse gas emissions result from the growth, manufacturing, sale, transportation, and disposal of food. Not only is food waste bad for the environment, but we’re throwing away an average of $640 per person each year. For a family of four, that’s $2560, and it ends up being $165 billion countrywide! Make a meal plan and be realistic about what you’ll really eat, and you’ll have the highest chances of success.
One day I was out with my kids hanging out with some friends, and we had snack time. The kids love snack time, but I don’t love the 5 snack wrappers per kid I end up with. On average, we use 540 baggies per year. While individually wrapped food is convenient, it certainly creates a mountain of trash. Buy your favorite snacks and staples in bulk—judiciously so you don’t waste food—and a couple of reusable containers to make your own single-serve packets.
In 2015, Americans consumed 140.43 billion gallons of oil, which breaks down to about 656 gallons per driver per year. At an average price of $2.15 per gallon (national average), we spend about $1400 or more (living in California) on gas alone. Add in the costs for maintenance and parking, and skipping the car drive a couple of days a week or even once in a while can help save money and use less gas. Carpooling can be an easy solution, but with technology today, telecommuting can be even better. Your commute time can be one minute from the bedroom to the home office.
However, if you must get out there, though, walking or biking can be a good option. We pay a premium to live in a city with nearly 300 sunny days that average 72 degrees, so why not get fresh air and exercise as you travel to your destination. My son’s preschool is one mile from our house, and I usually drive, mostly because that’s what I’m used to doing. Instead, walking gives me exercise and allows my son and me to take time and just enjoy the day, the scenery, and each other even though the journey may take 10 times longer.
Earth Day began in 1970, and there are so many little steps that can not only sustain the environment, but also benefit each of us individually. Living greener can save you a dime, and give you a richer life at the same time.
By Wendy Turk
Investment Advisor Representative
viii. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015- 08/documents/reducing_wasted_food_pkg_tool.pdf
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which course of action may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
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