Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2022 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Is it cheap being green?
We think it can be. Kate, our sustainability manager, has pulled together 100 expert tips on greener ways to save money – from cooking and cleaning to travel and shopping habits – and even a few ways for getting paid to be eco-friendly.
Kate's calculated that, even if you just pick a handful of these tips to follow, with little effort a household of four could easily save £100 a month or more, whilst having positive impact on the environment.
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With appliances such as ovens, dishwashers and fridge freezers, the kitchen is almost certainly the most energy hungry room in your home. After the huge energy price increases in 2022, a further 20% increase is expected next month. It's still worth making a few simple changes to help reduce your energy usage.
Use your dishwasher – but make sure it’s fully loaded
If you hate washing dishes, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s usually cheaper – and more environmentally friendly – to use a dishwasher rather than do the washing up in the sink. Dishwashers use less water and energy than filling the sink. However, dishwashers are still one of the top two home appliances that use the most energy in the home (second to a washing machine) so there’s further things you can do to improve a dishwasher’s energy efficiency. Use the eco setting if you have them, only use it once the load is full and position the dishes according to the dishwasher manual. Look out for plastic free, eco friendly dishwasher tablets. For pots that can’t go in the dishwasher, you can save on plastic scourers and elbow grease by using a bamboo pot scraper instead. A replaceable head dish brush can also work out cheaper than replacing a whole plastic dish brush every few months, buying a new head will save having to dispose of a perfectly good handle!
Fridge at 4
It turns out 75% of us are running our fridges too warm, costing us both in wasted electricity (the average fridge freezer costs around £50 a year to run) and spoilt gone off food. Instead, think ‘Fridge at 4’. 4 degrees is the most efficient temperature for your fridge to keep food fresh for longest. Alongside this, there’s other things you can do to make your fridge more energy efficient. Your fridge must work harder to keep cool when it's full, so keep space in your fridge - around three quarters full is best to allow cold air to circulate. Storing ready to eat products, dairy, and leftovers on the top shelf, meat and fish on the lowest shelf, and veggies and fruits in bottom drawers will keep them freshest for longest.
Use paper for your food waste caddy
Biodegradable caddy liners are convenient but cost around 10p per bag. With UK households on average throwing away almost 2kg of food everyday, you will likely be getting through 4+ bags a week - that's an annual cost of over £20. Instead line your council collected food waste caddy with old newspaper or wastepaper. You can even learn how to make a paper rubbish bin liner for your household waste here, it takes a bit of practise though! Of course, another option is simply to reduce your food waste. If you prefer to use a caddy liner, make sure it is one that will genuinely biodegrade in your home heap otherwise you will disrupt the smooth running of your compost bin! We like the Waste Not compostable caddy liners.
Ditch cling film and foil
1.2 billion metres of cling film is used in the UK each year, on average that’s around 2 rolls per house. While cling film is cheap, with a 40m roll costing around £2, it’s single use and non-recyclable so it goes straight into landfill, plus it’s just not necessary! You can use a bowl or plate to cover food in the microwave or in the fridge, and a lunch box for sandwiches. Whilst aluminium foil is recyclable – it usually ends up in the bin covered in food! If you use foil, you can buy recycled here and just keep washing it until it cannot be used -then recycle again as aluminium can be recycled endlessly. Or use wax wraps, which can be used for at least a year and even rewaxed for another year! Our range of wax wraps now includes singles from Abeego to try individually and larger multi packs from Abeego and The Beeswax Wrap Co for multipack savings.
Make the most of your oven when it’s on
An electric oven is the most expensive way to cook food, so when you do have the oven turned on, fill every shelf. Sweet potato and carrot peelings can be crisped up when you have the oven on for cooking dinner! They make a tasty snack with a bit of oil and salt in place of packets of crisps, or if you have chickens feed them plain cooked peelings. If you only have one thing to heat up, use your microwave instead – it uses significantly less electricity than heating your oven. When using your oven, set the timer for 5 minutes before the cooking time and turn the oven off. It takes a long time for ovens to cool so it will carry on cooking. After cooking, fill your dirty baking trays or cooking dishes with soapy water and return to the oven – they will clean themselves and steam clean the inside of your oven – with no elbow grease!
Look for incentives if you need to replace your boiler
Look for incentives from the government if you need to make a big investment in your home. They offer grants for upgrading your boiler to a more energy efficient model try the Eco boiler replacement scheme, Warmer Homes for Scotland and Nest for Wales look at the EDF energy advice page here. A more efficient boiler will save over £100 year for the average family as well as resulting in lower carbon emissions.
If you are interested in low carbon forms of heating, such heat pumps check here to see if you are eligible for the boiler upgrade scheme (BUS)
Appliances and energy-efficient products
Spending a bit more on kitchen and household appliances means you get an energy efficient, reliable product that can save you money in the long run. Basically, you have a little maths to do before deciding how much to spend. Factor in your budget, along with how long you plan to own the appliance, and then look at its cost of operation. If you plan to own the item long enough that buying a more expensive—but more energy efficient—model will save you money in the long run, it's a sensible purchase. This is known as a cost benefit analysis!
Potential annual savings: From The Energy Savings Trust
Dishwasher: Uses approximately 8% of the home's electricity - D rated will save around £19 a year on less efficient models. Slimline models will save an extra £20- £30 a year if you only have a few dishes each day!
Fridge freezer: Usually have along life time and a more energy efficient model can have saving of around £35- 40 a year so over 15 years that would be £525 - £600 saved. Always buy the right size for your home as well!
Washing Machine: Choosing an A rating over a D rating will save £130 (and 105 KGCOe) over an 11 year life. And save water bills too.
Buy Spare Parts instead of new appliances
Kate uses a company called Ransom Spares, a family company with over 1 million spare parts. She has bought new shelves for her fridge and a door seal for the freezer compartment, wheels, a spray arm and a new cutlery tray for the dishwasher. All for a few ££ each. Her dishwasher and fridge are both 12 years old and working perfectly. You can usually find the appliance serial number inside the door of the appliance in order to get a perfect match. They also sell spare parts for garden equipment.
Due to the rising cost of food, the latest research predicts families face paying an extra £811 on their annual food shop this year. But there’s plenty of thing you can do to reduce it while also giving the planet a helping hand.
Reduce food waste
The fastest way to save is by reducing food waste – the average UK household throws away £60 of food a month – that’s £720 a year! Global food production leads to 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions. One third of all food produced globally ends up being unused and discarded. So OVER 12% of all annual global greenhouse gas emissions go into producing food that is wasted. And much ends up in landfill it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Food waste’s contribution to climate change is therefore massive and the one we can have the most impact on personally whilst also having a positive impact on our bank account.
Buy what you need
Shop to a list to keep focused and not distracted by offers you won’t end up using. Keeping to a list will make sure you only buy what you will use, we all pretty much buy the same things - we are creatures of habit and unless we have a lot of time or are very adventurous we usually tend to make the same meals. Knowing what is in season will also help as these produce items are usually cheaper when they are in season and have a very much reduced environmental impact. The Soil Association will guide you month by month!
Store your food correctly
Food storage: did you know you should store cucumbers out of the fridge! Here is an A-Z of food storage from Love food Hate Waste.
Learn how to freeze certain foods, for instance did you know you can freeze bananas and cheese? As soon as you freeze food (or drinks) you press pause on them going off so it is really worth finding out how to make your freezer work to cut out food waste. For the most comprehensive guide to what and how to freeze- check out Green That Life.
Don’t let food become waste
Use now bowl/shelf. Keep your oldest fruit and veg separate – you will be reminded to use it first and it won’t affect your new produce by being a bit ‘over ripe’.
Once you have put your fresh shopping away, look at what you have on your shelf/ bowl. Now is the time to get inventive! Soups, casseroles and even stir fries are great ways to use up older veg. If they’re looking a bit limp, freshen up by standing in some cold water. Carrots, lettuce, celery, spring onions, herbs all continue to transpire when picked (lose water) so standing or even storing in water will keep the crunch! Make sure you use up your oldest produce, packets, and tins first. We love a bit of stock rotation here!
Use your waste
Use food ‘waste’- eg chick peas liquid works as an egg white replacement, crusts can be whizzed up for breadcrumbs or toasted for salad croutons, and potato skins can become 'crisps'!
Why not have a list of ‘go-to’ recipes for leftovers. I like these Pinterest recipes.
The most wasted foods in the UK are potatoes, bread, milk, bananas and salad here’s how to rescue them!
Love Food Hate Waste is a fabulous resource for information about reducing food waste and has every food you can imagine (just about)!
Share your food
Sharing apps: check out your local Facebook and local food sharing sites for any local surpluses. Often community gardens will advertise gluts of beans and courgettes if you like them, grab them free!
Use food Sharing apps: for example OLIO the number 1 free sharing app in the UK! Join millions of neighbours all over the world who are using OLIO to share more, care more and waste less. Give & get free stuff, borrow & lend household items, and shop homemade – all directly from your community.
Too good to waste
Shopping for produce that is slightly past its best, but still edible is a great way to save you money and save food from being wasted. Win win. Look out for yellow stickers on items in the supermarket - often just before closing.
Lidl has just started selling a ‘slightly past best, but still edible’ box - £1.50 for 5kg fresh produce which is an absolute bargain, but make sure you have the ideas to use it all- or give some to a friend or neighbour!
Bulk/batch cook foods close to end of shelf life. Cook everything and then freeze for use later. For some great ideas like vegetable lasagne look at our Pinterest page
Too Good To Go App is a great way to find restaurant quality food for as little as £2 a bag, have a look for your nearest participating cafe, shop or restaurant and save excellent food from the bin.
Buy in bulk
If you can afford to pay up front and have space to store it, buying in bulk can be a great cost saver, plus there’s less packaging and it saves fuel as it reduces the amount of journey’s (or deliveries) needed for shopping trips. Another option is to join a local bulk buying group. You can search up online.
On a smaller scale, look to take advantage of bundle buys – but only buy something that you genuinely need. For instance buying a bundle of 4 MACK cleaning products will save you 13% on buying the individual products.
Stop buying avocados
Avocados are expensive, with a large ripe and ready one coming in about 79p each, frequently disappointing - how many times have you cut one open to find it’s either rock hard or soft and brown inside? - and the environmental impact of extensive avocado farming is HUGE. Plantation-farmed cash crop commodities like avocados also encourage deforestation, as local farmers slash and burn huge swaths of natural land to make room for new and larger plantations. Deforestation also leads to climate change, extinction, and increased amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Removing forests also leads to soil erosion, which can cause flooding, mudslides, and other dangerous conditions (source). Instead of avocado with eggs on toast, Kate recommends spinach as a more sustainable – and cheaper alternative. Bonus points if you grow your own spinach – the perpetual variety is super easy to grow.
Grow your own living salad
Salad is one of the most wasted foods in the UK, with around 40% of bagged salad getting chucked. This is is despite there actually being a 'salad crisis' here in the UK! Per weight, it’s expensive to buy, yet it’s one of the easiest to grow. You can grow your own cut and grow salad on even the smallest window ledge. Packets of seeds start from as little as 50p and you can sow one tray, wait until it starts sprouting and sow another tray. By this time the first one will be ready for cutting and eating. Then start the second and resow the original tray - keep going! Keeping salad waste to a minimum with these tips will save you money and waste.
If you don't fancy growing your own, homemade coleslaw is a fabulous salad alternative, with cabbage and carrot storing for much longer than salad, and cheaper to buy too. When you buy or pick your leaves, wrap in a wax wrap to keep fresher for longer!
Shop according to the season
Selling some produce out of season has a huge environmental impact. Some fruits, like soft fruit, and veg are delicate, and need to be flown in, which results in a large carbon footprint. Others are 'forced' in heated greenhouses in the UK, which again results in a much larger environmental impact than growing in season. Buying in season is usually cheaper because it requires less energy to produce and deliver the food. But it can be a complex issue, for instance tomatoes shipped from Spain in March have less impact than if they were grown in the UK at that time! Here is a handy guide from Hubbub to help you choose fresh fruit veg in season from the UK.
Out of season, purchase tinned and frozen vegetables. Tinned and frozen vegetables have a considerably lower carbon footprint than fresh, out of season produce. Plus as it can be stored for so much longer, less likely to end up as food waste. In addition, on average they're between 20-50% cheaper than fresh. Tinned is the best option - generally cheaper to buy, and use less energy so better for the planet – the supermarket doesn’t need to transport them in a refrigerated lorry, and you don’t need to store them in the freezer – both of which use electricity!
Switch from coffee to tea - and make it loose
Jennifer Wood, founder of speciality tea company Canton Tea points out it has a considerably smaller carbon footprint than coffee, and it works out cheaper too. According to BBC News' "Climate change food calculator," a cup of tea every day adds around 33 pounds to an individual's annual greenhouse gas emissions with coffee coming in at about 10 times.
After water, tea is second-most-consumed beverage in the world. But teabags are ultimately, a single use item. And many actually contain plastic – even the ‘premium’ ones you can find in the supermarket – shedding billions of microplastics into the water. Instead consider loose leaf tea as the greener choice. Especially if you’re buying speciality tea, loose leaf is often cheaper than a teabag. As an added benefit, many loose leaf teas and be infused multiple times. But wait you need a tea strainer and teapot! Pick them up very cheaply at a second-hand shop. If you prefer a herbal tea, rather than buy it from the supermarket raid your herb garden! Chamomile, mint and lemon verbena are all very easy to grow.
Buy food unpackaged
Buying unpackaged food in general can be cheaper - you only pay for what you need, for instance you might only want 4 apples, not a pack of 6. Refilling rice or pasta containers means not paying for the packaging and should be cheaper. A recent Which survey found that 75% of unpackaged goods at one supermarket (Waitrose) were cheaper than the packaged versions. So look at your price per 100g or per 100ml to compare. With soft fruits, grains, cereals and wine having the biggest saving unpackaged! Collect a selection of bags, jars and containers at home. You can repurpose old jars and tubs, but if you need to add to your collection, have a look in our shopping collection for useful organic cotton bags and stainless steel containers.
Cook from scratch and save
If you have a food processor, there’s a lot of things you can make with minimal effort for cheaper than you can buy ready-made – and it saves on single use packaging too – such as hummus and soup. We have tried making soup from all the wilted veg in the fridge and it was delicious.
Make simple foods instead of buying pre-made or mixes for example pancakes and cakes recipes.
It is around £1 for a ready made pancake mix or £1.80 for 6 ready made pancakes and the ingredients from this recipe will cost 60p for 10 pancakes!
Switch your supermarket
You can save almost 30% by switching from one of the most expensive to cheapest supermarket. But be conscious of which one you choose. On average, 48% of supermarket packaging CANNOT be recycled. According to Which? Lidl and Waitrose are the greenest supermarkets.
Not quite perfect
Using a subscription fruit and veg delivery such as Oddbox. They take farm surpluses or veggies and fruit that are just too wonky (or funky if you ask me!) and prevent them from ending up as waste. They are perfectly edible and super cheap too. They use minimal to no plastic packaging. On average we have found them to be a couple of pounds cheaper than other subscription boxes and at least as cheap as buying individual items from the supermarket.
Some supermarkets, like Lidl and ASDA have started selling a ‘wonky veg’ box, They are usually priced low. Just make sure you have a use for all the items, or you will just be adding to the food waste problem!
Forage for free food
Foraging is effectively free food, that's natural and packaging free and, when done correctly, actually increases biodiversity and creates habitat for myriad species. However, Kate advises it can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing - for instance, wild garlic looks like and grows alongside certain poisonous anemones. So always make sure you know what it is before you eat it. Plant ID apps will help, or a guide book or you could join a foraging guided walk.
Make vegetables the main focus of your meal
They are cheaper than meat, and there are environmental benefits for reducing the amount of animal produce you consume. If you have picky eaters, a great way to get more veggies in to meals is to replace the meat content. For instance, a 300g portion of soaked red lentils will ‘disappear’ in a spag bol or shepherd’s pie meaning you can halve the meat (or remove it completely!) start with small amounts and build up if you are unsure whether your family will like it.
Use reusable shopping and produce bags
– and remember to take them with you! Single use plastic bags cost 10p in England, and it all adds up. Save up old shopping bags and use them for as long as possible, when you need to replace them, consider going plastic free or recycled plastic. These shopping bags from A Slice of Green and Kind Bag are really capacious, comfy to carry and fold up small to pop in your hand bag or pocket so you won't forget them!
Make your own dried mixed herbs
If you’re lucky enough to grow your own herbs in the spring and summer, they are fantastic fresh but you can also dry them or freeze them for use all year round. Drying -simply pick a whole stem of oregano, basil, parsley etc and hang upside down by the stems – tie them together with hemp fibre or string – to dry in an airing cupboard or dry shed. Once the are thoroughly dry you can put the leaves into jars. Freezing works well for basil, chives, oregano, lemon balm, mint, or tarragon. – chop up fresh leaves and put into ice cube trays- top up with a little oil and freeze. Empty the trays into a container and keep frozen until you want to cook with them
The biggest environmental impact from conventional cleaning products comes from the chemicals they contain, but also the single use, plastic packaging they usually come in- up to 30 bottles per year. On average, UK households already spend over £140 a year on cleaning products (Statista.com), and due to a supply chain crisis on the raw materials and packaging, and increased cost of transport, a substantial price rise could be on the cards. However, there is plenty you can do to reduce the cost of cleaning in a way that is far friendlier to the environment.
Use one product for many uses
The average household uses 30 bottles of cleaning products each year - many of them sit in the cleaning cupboard, taking up space and are only used occasionally. Are all those plastic bottles stuffed with chemicals really necessary? No! Save ££ buying a bathroom, glass, and surface cleaner, Ocean Potion from Eco cleaning experts MACK! It reuses an existing spray bottle to save paying for packaging and transporting volumes of liquid. Cut down on plastic waste enormously!
Have a tool kit of natural cleaning products
For example, Kate has a tub of citric acid. It comes in recyclable cardboard packaging and costs around £2 to buy. She uses it to descale kettles, iron, shower heads etc. Plus Kate uses it in elderflower cordial making! Other mainstream descalers on the market cost £1.20 for 3 single use sachets. However, she has been using the pack of citric acid for 2 years! Bicarbonate of soda, lemons, castille soap, white vinegar, olive oil and salt are all potential cleaning products: We have put together a few simple cleaning recipes for you using all natural cupboard staples!
New generation of eco-friendly cleaning products
Brands such as MACK and Ekologic are effective and considerably cheaper than bottled eco-friendly cleaning products. They come as refill pods, meaning you can reuse existing spray bottles which save paying for packaging and transporting volumes of liquid. It cuts down on plastic waste enormously!
Freshen the air with house plants rather than air freshener
Plug in air fresheners use electricity to work, chemicals to fragrance and they’re pricey to buy too. You can create clean air naturally with house plants. There are a few plants that are particularly recommended as air cleaners for instance the spider plant. Make sure they are all suitable if you have pets, a list of non- toxic plants is available here.
The average adult does 208 loads of washing loads of washing a year. Depending on how efficient your washing machine is, it will usually cost from 21p to 32p for electricity and water to wash a load of clothes, plus own brand supermarket laundry capsules cost around 15p each - so you may be spending around £100 a year on washing - not even factoring the expense of running a tumble dryer.
With each wash you do, electricity and water are used, and synthetic fabrics shed thousands of microplastics into the waterways, along with harmful chemicals from conventional laundry detergents. Kate shares her advice on how to reduce the financial and environmental cost of laundry.
Do less washing!
This one will be music to your ears. Doing just one less load of washing a week can save you around 25% on your annual washing bill. Not only this, it will help your clothes to last longer too. Clothes that sit directly on your skin such as underwear and socks will need washing after each use, but most other items can be worn five times or more before needing a wash. It's a relatively recent phenomenon to only wear something once before washing it. Prolong time between washes with spot cleaning and freshening up either by hanging outside to air or with a natural odour spray such as MACK's Bad Medicine.
Air dry your clothes
The cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to dry your clothes is outside. It's worth noticing plastic clothes pegs are a total false economy - the sun weakens the plastic and they break in next to no time. Wooden clothes pegs cost a little more but can last for decades. If outside is not an option, a ceiling airer keeps wet clothes out the way, and using a dehumidifier will dry your clothes fast for around half the cost of a tumble dryer. If you do need to use a tumble dryer, wool dryer balls speed up the process.
Fully loaded machine
Make washing machines and dishwashers are the top two home appliances that use the most energy in the home. Reduce your energy consumption (and your electricity bill) by washing full loads and using 30 degree temperature or eco settings if you have them. Currently, a quarter of all washes are not full loads while half are washed at a temperature of more than 30 degrees. A full washing machine will also reduce microfibre shedding significantly.
Swap your laundry detergent
Own brand supermarket laundry capsules cost around 15p each. Packed full of chemicals and in a single-use plastic tub, they’re costly and they’re not great for the planet. There are alternatives. Laundry Eggs reduce your single use plastic and are kind to your pocket – just 14p per wash and 10p per wash when you refill. Or Soap Nut Shells make for an all-natural alternative and cost less than 5p per wash. There are plenty of alternatives to plastic bottles of laundry softener. Wool dryer balls help to soften clothes naturally along with speeding up the time it takes to tumble dry clothes, or using a natural, laundry sheet can mean not needing additional softener as they contain coconut oils.
Buy bulk shampoo/ conditioner/ handsoap
if you have storage the cost per 100ml is much less and less packaging to dispose of. Better still, are solid toiletries as long as they are affordable swaps. Try to get packaging free to reduce costs as well as pointless waste.
Face wipes, make up remover pads, cotton swabs and baby wipes all have good, inexpensive reusable, plastic free alternatives now. Savings over the life of facial wipes would be extensive and you will have no packaging to dispose of. Use reusable cotton pads instead of cotton wool for removing nail varnish or for toner. A make up remover cloth can do away with the need to buy a face wash or cleanser. If you’re not ready to do away with cleanser totally, use with a reusable cotton cloth instead of a disposable face wipe.
Use a cotton shower puff rather than a plastic one
You can pop it in the washing machine so it lasts much, much longer and can be composted or recycled rather than end up in landfill. If you hang it to dry each time it will last a really long time, I like this organic cotton one from A Slice of Green.
Swap shower and hand gel for soap bars
This not only saves plastic packaging, but money too. The equivalent shower gel against a shower block is £3 per 100 ml. As most people use 10- 20 ml shower gel per shower, that could be as few as 5 showers. A £4.50 Shower Block will last the average family up to a month and is a solid bar. You can store easily without much space. They have gorgeous scents too, keep your bathroom fresh at the same time!
Plastic free periods
Switching to eco friendly period products can seem pricey at first, but with reusable items, for example, you’re making an investment that will actually reduce the cost of your periods over time. Independent Lifestyle
It’s estimated that each person who has a period will spend approximately £492 per year on sanitary products!
Reusable period wear such as period pants could save you up to £40 year plus prevent 100s of disposables thrown or flushed away (prevent blocked loos too!) I like Wuka period pants and you can also get reusable pads that can be washed in your machine.
An 8-minute shower costs around 11p for energy, so a daily shower for a household of four will cost around £160 a year, plus water rates. An easy way to reduce this is by showering for one minute less, which will knock off £7 per person per year. Alternatively, consider showering less frequently than everyday. Our skin has a delicate ph balance and micro biome. Frequent washing or harsh chemicals will disrupt these and they work hard to help your immune system to prevent infections! A wash using a natural soap and reusable cotton wipe or flannel will keep you just as fresh, and if you switch to a shampoo and conditioner which doesn't contain SLS you will soon find you can wash your hair less often too.
More than £16bn was spend on gardens in the UK in 2021, and surely, what could be greener than gardening? You may be surprised. Modern day gardening practices can have a sizeable carbon footprint, such as using synthetic fertilisers than contaminate natural soil reserves, excessive plastic consumption and destruction of peat bogs for compost. A keen gardener herself, Kate shares her advice on how turning to eco-friendly gardening can save you money.
Ditch the garden centre for plants
It’s so easy to nip to the garden centre for one small thing, and come away having spent a lot of money on plants – and the average household in England spends over £150 in garden centres a year (Statista.com). However, garden centres can rely heavily on peat compost and of course lots of plastic pots! Instead save your money by buying them cheaper at local plant sales or even better, sourcing your plants for free. Kate has a blog post coming soon on how you can do this!
Make your own compost
A council garden waste removal wheelie bin costs nearly £50 a year. Rather than paying for it to be disposed, use your garden waste along with compostable food waste to make your own compost or donate it to a community compost scheme. You’ll save money on the waste removal bin AND on buying compost from the garden centre. You can make your own compost bin or buy a dedicated compost bin like this Green Johanna. But don’t buy it from a shop, go onto your local council Great Green Systems and pop in your postcode for a drastically reduced price compost system. Here’s Kate's guide to composting if you would like more details on how to do it.
Swap shop bought fertiliser for homemade
It comes in a hard to recycle plastic bottle or tub, and many chemical plant fertilisers contain an excess of nitrogen which contaminate the soil. Instead, for a free plant food collect your vegetable cooking water – just let it cool first! There’s also plenty of natural low cost plant fertiliser you can make at home. Use used teabags or loose leaf tea to feed your garden with the acidic tannins of caffeinated tea and rejuvenate plants (especially roses and ferns) by breaking open used tea bags and sprinkling the contents over the soil below the plant. And banana skin plant food will add potassium and other nutrients to outdoor and indoor plants.
Install a water butt to your home or shed guttering, save money on your water meter and using fresh rainwater is better for your garden, especially for acid loving plants like camellias, the rainwater will bring more blooms. A water butt collects water from rainfall, reducing the amount you have to use from the mains supply. You could also use the water to wash cars or windows. To create a system you only need some guttering, a down pipe and a water butt- you can even set it up along a fence if you don’t have shed, or don't want to tap into your home guttering. Useful at allotments and right down the end of a long garden! Ask Kate how to do it!
Don’t waste money on plant tags or plant pots
So many super easy ways you can make your own with next to no effort. Bamboo toothbrush handles, wooden ice lolly sticks, twigs from the garden (carefully use a knife to remove some bark and write on the exposed wood with a marker pen or pencil), wood offcuts, pebbles, bamboo canes, broken plant pots, repurposed wine corks, broken wooden pegs, even old plastic lateral flow tests! Use egg boxes as seed trays - biodegradable and save money on plastic seed trays Make plant pots from waste paper. Start seeds in plastic yoghurt pots or even stand up loo roll holders or kitchen roll holders if you use it. Cut them into two inch high cylinders and place on a flat surface before filling to quarter inch below the top and pop in your seed.
Borrow garden tools, rather than buy
Don’t visit the garden centre for tools! Check out all avenues first, free ads, swap shops, library of things! Your garden doesn’t care if it’s new and you will save tools from landfill.
Plant for where you live and plant drought resistant plants that require less watering
Plant what suits your garden too, don’t grow plants that slugs love if you have a problem with them! Don’t use chemicals (now banned slug pellets- hurrah) instead share your garden with the wildlife who are supposed to live there and the whole ecosystem will heal and thrive without you having to spend money battling ‘pests’. It is now known that certain stressors in your garden such as pests, will result in hardier plants with better resistance to the pests. In fact, in vegetable gardening, the presence of pests will increase the nutritional value of the plants that make it! You won't need to buy any pest control, and you will save yourself time and money.
Mow your lawn less often
Don’t mow so often - save time and money on electricity or petrol. Most of our native insects are in their larval or grub stages now and early mowing can wipe them out. Plus it will cut the early pollination plants that keep the bees fed in early spring. Keep your mown grass to mulch around shrubs and trees- it will feed the soil and prevent water from evaporating in hot weather – a lot less watering will be needed! Or layer up on your veg bed to create a ‘no dig’ garden.
Many councils run initiatives to drive tree planting, such as this one from Banes where you can buy a trees worth £25-£50 for just £5-£10!
You can apply fro your local school or community space to receive free trees, some fruit trees included from the Woodland Trust. A great way to grow apples is in a community orchard!
Insulate with plants
A well-insulated home saves on heating, but do you know you can insulate the outside of your walls and your roof with plants to beat with winter cold? A living wall can reduce a building’s heating demands by 4%.
PARENTING & BABIES
Don’t waste money when wiping bottoms
A supermarket pack of disposable baby wipes costs about 65p, and over two years of use you’ll use around 100 packs – costing you around £67. Most are not biodegradable and will take at least 100 years to disappear from landfill. A kit for reusable cotton baby wipes costs around £25, so a significant saving plus once you’re done with wiping bottoms, you can use them for general cleaning cloths, passed on to someone else to use or composted. You can see just how easy reusable baby wipes are to use.
Reusable nappies v disposable nappies
The average cost of disposable nappies is in the region of £800 for the two years plus they use them. Reusable nappies, including the cost of washing them, work out cheaper although you do have the upfront cost. Some councils offer free or reduced price starter packs or incentives to start using them. Have a look for your local offer here.Ditch individually wrapped snacks
Individually wrapped snacks are a parents dream - quick, convenient and mess free. However there is just so much single use packaging. Take Soreen Lunchbox bars for example. Each of the 5 bars in the pack is individually wrapped in plastic film, it contains a cardboard inner and then the whole thing is further wrapped in another coat of plastic film. In contrast, a full size Soreen Malt Loaf has just the one layer of plastic film wrapping. Plus, the individually wrapped bars cost over 20% more when you compare by weight. Instead buy full size versions and decant into reusable containers or snack bags. It takes moments and the small savings will quickly add up, and you'll see a noticeable difference in your recycling or trash bins.
Buy one (decent) drinks bottle
Children’s drink bottles and beakers are almost as notorious for leaking as they are for being difficult to recycle. Instead of buying lots of cheap bottles, invest in one decent stainless steel bottle such that will last for years – as they grow, simply swap the lid for an age appropriate one, rather than buying a whole new bottle
Create a tat box
Despite your best eco efforts, it’s highly likely you will end up with some plastic toy tat in your house – you know the type from party bags, magazines, happy meals, Christmas crackers. Instead of chucking it once your little person is bored with it, put it in a box that’s out of reach. Then when it’s one of those day where you’re desperate for an activity and have zero energy, get it out. Give them the tat box to explore and play with. They will act like they’ve never seen all this crap in their lives. It extends the life of the toys and saves them from landfill. And give you five minutes peace. When your little ones have finally out grown it, pass it on to a friend with a younger child. A genius recommendation from Five Minute Mum.
One lunchbox can last a lifetime
Invest in a good lunchbox, one that will last and last. Stainless steel is a good option, and if you choose one with separate compartments, a seal and locking clips then you will have a lunchbox that will last through primary and secondary - then you can 'borrow' it back! Add dividers to increase versatility to an existing lunchbox.
Don’t buy plastic toys
First try toy circles, toy libraries, toy rental. Otherwise buy second hand – charity shops, Facebook marketplace, and Gumtree are all good places. Plastic toys are incredibly hard to recycle and usually end up in landfill. Children are incredibly fickle and new toys get put aside in next to no time. Create a treasure basic/Heuristic play with household items - then use them for intended purpose when no longer played with
Bathe them less
In recent years it’s become the norm for babies and children to be bathed every day. But young children don’t sweat like adults do, and experts suggest bathing them 2-3 times a week is healthier, providing they have a daily ‘top and tail wash’. It is estimated it costs between 30-90p to run a bath, so by dropping down from nightly to twice a week can save you between £75 and £223 a year – plus of course reducing energy and water waste!
Reusable pouches rather than single use
Plastic pouches have become mainstream for feeding babies and young children, and even older children seem to like them. They’re super convenient, lighter to carry round than a plastic or stainless-steel container and relatively mess free but not widely recycled. For all the benefits and none of the waste, buy reusable silicone pouches. They can be filled with homemade puree (just blitz up your adult meal!), yoghurt from larger pots and smoothies.
Babies and children grow fast – in the first year they’ll likely need 4 complete wardrobe changes alone! Rent clothes, ask friends if they have any lurking in the attic going unworn, buy second hand. Buy bundles. If you do buy new, look for companies who join force with children’s clothing library SuperLoop such as Little Green Radicals. Return your preloved, but wearable clothes to be used again and be sent a gift voucher in return.
Reduce food waste
Batch cooking, freezing and meal prep are all essential skills when juggling busy lives and trying to prevent food waste with a young family.
Feed children the same as the rest of the family
Don't make a habit of buying special baby or toddler meals for young children! The sooner they can eat the same foods as the rest of the family, (providing they are safe and healthy foods!) the cheaper your shopping bill will be! Pouches and packs of little people food are every expensive and create lots of single use packaging waste.
CHOOSE TO REUSE
Over the past 30 years or so, we’ve moved towards a culture of single-use. But using something just once (or a couple of times) is bad for your pocket and bad for the environment. The government is planning to ban single-use plastic in the coming years, and you don’t need to wait until then. And of course, the ultimate reusable is of course simply using what you already have.
Make do and mend
We throw away £140 million worth of clothes to landfill every year in the UK (Keep Britain Tidy). Keep some of that in your pocket! Simple mending is easier than you might think! Sew up holes, fallen hems, split seams rather than throw away into the waste stream and buy new. Beeswax food wraps can be revived and refreshed by adding new wax. If you break or lose part of your reusable product (such as a lid from a stainless steel water bottle or lunchbox clip) rather than throwing it away and replacing with a brand new one, contact the retailer you bought it from. They should be able to let you know how to get a replacement part – saving you the expense of buying a whole new product. Many products have spare or replacement parts listed alongside them like these replaceable lunchbox seals.
Repair Cafes are a thing! Take your bike, electrics, furniture, jewellery, anything you can carry/ ride and see if one of the attending experts can repair something you might have otherwise thrown away, there is no limits to saving money and preventing landfill waste. Each region has their own version: here’s where to find one closest to you: Repair Cafe
Look at your waste with a different mindset – as a resource. Do you have a pair of jeans that are full of holes and a broken zip? You have a child’s pencil case in the making! Broken fork- garden plant marker, torn tee shirt -fabulous and unique carrier bag. Google it!
Invest in sustainable, reusable products
Reusable products may cost a little more upfront, but you’ll soon find you save as you use them again and again.
Wax food wraps have multiple benefits. Use instead of single use cling film to wrap food. They can also prolong the life of your food by letting it breathe.
Paper towels, Straws, Produce bags, Handkerchiefs, Facemasks –all these are available as single use and disposable AND are now available as reusable, long lasting alternatives. When used for their lifetime, these reusables will save money and so much single use waste from the bin!
Repurpose your waste
Clothes that are stained or have holes cannot be mended can be cut into fabric to use for crafts or cleaning rags. Ditch paper towels and other disposable cloths/kitchen wipes. Use bedding, towels, tee-shirts, and other clothes that have gone too far to be saved! If you have a sewing machine, cut into squares and stitch a zig zag stitch around the edges to prevent fraying.
Visit the Scrapstore
Crafty? Save a fortune on your craft supplies by visiting a Scrapstore! Scrapstore moto is ‘making reuse child’s play’ also known as ReusefulUK is a national network of scrap-stores, resource and creative reuse centres which share information about issues, barriers, opportunities, good practice, achievements, promotions and publications. Find your nearest Scrapstore and see what you can find for virtually nothing – and it’s all prevented waste! Save a fortune on your craft supplies.
Take a look through your recycling bin
You’ll be surprised by just how many things there can be reused. Egg cartons, glass jar, toilet rolls – even if you don’t need them yourself, collect them and offer them for free in someone in your community on a swap/share site so they can make use out of them. Nurseries and primary schools are often want things like boxes for junk modelling and crafting. Save the packaging from any deliveries you receive, it can be reused time and time again. At Everyday Green we reuse boxes whenever possible to package up our orders – and you can do the same at home.
On average, adults spend £420 on gifts each year, but apparently over 21 million people in the UK receive gifts they don't want each year, with 19% of unwanted gifts ending up in landfill. We love to give gifts, so much so our sister company Green Tulip specialises in ethical gifts. Kate spoke to founder Charity on how to reduce the environmental impact - and cost - of giving gifts.
Reusable gift wrap
Wrapping presents is a tradition that’s hard to give up, but wrapping paper is a complete waste. It’s expensive, hard to reuse and frequently not even recyclable. Luckily there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives such as furoshiki fabric gift wrap and cloth gift bags – use a produce bag or make a simple drawstring bag out of old clothing or sheets, or reuse packaging you’ve been given. Here's a lovely guide to gift wrapping beautifully on a budget.
Put the card at the heart of the gift
We love to send (and receive) greetings cards, but ultimately they are a single use item. Instead, why not buy the prettiest card you can find and give a picture frame as a gift – that way the recipient can frame the card afterwards and display as a piece of art. We love the range of cards from our sister site Green Tulip.
Don’t buy cut flowers
They are terribly harmful for the planet, often grown in huge heated greenhouses, sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and insecticides which are dangerous to local wildlife, especially pollinators like bees. They create polluting run off and are often flown to the UK, causing pollution and have a very high carbon footprint. Try buying locally grown pot plants and herbs and presenting in a pretty pot, or floral themed gifts.
Don’t pay for delivery twice over
We love online shopping – of course we do, we’re an online shop ourselves! But there’s an environmental impact of all the deliveries. With mountains of packaging waste and the pollution from the vehicle making the delivery. If you’re buying a gift online and you won’t be giving it in person, help minimise this and consider sending it straight to the recipient. It will save on two lots of postage.
Don’t dismiss buying second-hand for gifts
If you’re worried about appearing ‘cheap’, look for items that are vintage, it's amazing what you can find!
Give the perfect gift
Reduce the risk of your gift going unwanted (and you wasting your money) by giving the perfect gift. It doesn't have to be expensive. The trick here to spend time researching, asking questions and thinking what problems they have that your gift can solve. Charity is also a fan of clubbing together with other people to buy one super thoughtful gift rather than something they just don't want.
OUT & ABOUT
Create a green grab bag
Put together a small kit of items to take with you to help you be greener when you go out, and leave it ready with your keys so you don't forget it. The exact contents depends on your lifestyle, but Kate recommends a full water bottle, foldable shopping bag, reusable coffee cup (this collapsible coffee cup is super is super convenient) and a small container or bag with snacks. Mix it up as you like, reusing older bottles and pots, you'll soon build up a great kit like this one!
Reuse and refill
Download the Refill App and keep your water bottle topped up all day for free with this great app that will show you where refill stations and public water fountains are near you. They could be in petrol stations, shops and cafes as well as parks and high streets. Your nearest one might be closer than you think! You might save a small fortune in places like the cinema or airport where bottled water can cost £3. And save so much single use plastics too. Take a reusable coffee cup – it doesn’t have to be fashion statement piece, as long as you remember to take it! You will save money on takeaways at quite a few well-known places: Costa, Pret, Starbuck, Greggs, M&S. Up to 50 off! The Refill App will also show you your nearest. Check out your local independents too.
Take your own lunch to work
Savings of over £1000 a year have been quoted. Every lunch bought at the supermarket/ takeaway will result in single use, usually plastic waste. Snacks too – a container filed with bulk bought nuts and chocolate will save a considerable amount than buying a snack pack or bar from a vendor. These are almost always in plastic packaging. Take it with you so you are not tempted! If you are out for a long day or passing by a takeaway on your way home, then you can use the empty container to pick up takeaways or a top up at a packaging free store. Try the Refill App for places near you that will use your own containers.
Remember your shopping bags
Those 10p bags add up and are pointless plastic that end up filling your cupboard space. Think about them If you are going clothes shopping or homewares too. All stores will charge you for a carrier bag and some of them are enormous things with the logo all over them - you are being charged to advertise for them!
Take reusable wipes on family days out
Make up a plastic/ leak proof (Tupperware) box with reusable wipes soaked in a gentle, natural hand cleaner – like these made with tee tree and lemon oils- made from Castile soap and essential oils and keep with you when out with the family. After building your den, you’ll want to wash your hands before you picnic. Save money on disposable plastic wipes that cause problems with their disposal.
RETHINK YOUR SHOPPING HABITS
Many of us grew up in households where nothing was wasted- waste not, want not! Which doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but we all know what it means! Leftovers were regularly served up, hand me downs, mending, thrifting, swapping, and borrowing were normal practice, and ‘making do’ was a common attitude. I do think we can and are doing this today, but with the arrival of online shopping and next day delivery, the temptation could be to buy new to save time and effort. Here’s a few ideas, including using online sites to save money on household goods and chores and also keep products out of the waste stream and circular rather than linear production.
Think: Do you really need it?
Impulse buys cost money. With shopping channels such as Amazon Prime providing free next day (or even same day) delivery, it's incredibly easy to think "I need it" and complete the purchase within seconds. But it also encourages people to spend without really thinking about it – in the US, Prime members spend 2.5x more than non Prime members – a staggering $1,400 a year and it also has a huge environmental impact.
Being able to buy something online is amazing but spontaneous purchases add up and you might not actually need it. Instead, keep a list and have one day a month where you place all online orders. It will make you think if you really do want it after all. You may find lots of the things you thought you needed you no longer do, and it means there’s just one delivery rather than several. Remove temptation from your fingertips and remove the shopping apps from your phone, and even consider whether Amazon Prime really is necessary when it costs £79 a year and you know it makes you spend more.
Buy second hand
There is a thriving second hand economy, but more people tend to have clear outs than buy from the second hand shops. Shopping from your local charity shop is a great way to save money and keep clothes locally out of the waste stream.
There are second-hand and vintage websites for clothing and other goods like furniture, electronics, household goods. Every time you buy used, preloved or vintage you are preventing waste. Here are a few of our favourites: Preloved, Big Sister Swap, Thrift Plus.
Local Facebook groups are great for cheap or even free items for the home or garden. Buy more second hand- unusual items like sofas, tables and chairs or musical instruments. These are usually very expensive new and have a lot of embodied energy (used a lot of energy to make) so saving money and saving them from disposal is an excellent idea.
Get involved in the swap economy
Swap Shacks like this one in Holt drop off unwanted items like books and pick out new ones free of charge! Find Christmas decorations, crockery, tools and toys - pretty much everything you could think of!
Borrow, don’t buy
The Library of Things is a place to find items you may only need to use once or for a short period of time. Share Frome Say “The average drill is used for only 13 minutes in its entire lifetime.”
What if, instead of buying that drill, you could borrow one instead? First and foremost, borrowing instead of buying can make a big difference to your carbon footprint. In 2020, we were able to save our users 199 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 254 tonnes of raw material use and 22 tonnes of manufacturing waste! By borrowing, we avoid unnecessary production, as well as waste ending up in landfill!
Google your nearest! Camping equipment, garden equipment, popcorn maker for a party? Don’t buy- borrow!
Library for books (literally the best eco idea ever invented – borrow not buy) Libraries are open in most Towns and villages, even mobile libraries regularly visit rural locations. They may have DVD’s and games to hire for a small charge too. This is a great way to start young children off with the idea that borrowing (and reading!) is fun and satisfying without being left with unwanted/ read books to dispose of.
Buy quality and keep for as long as possible, don’t look for fashion
"Buy less, choose well, make it last.”- Vivienne Westwood
Think about the concept of 'Frugality' when you are buying clothes, everyday useful items like water bottles, furniture, homewares, electrical goods, household appliances, sports equipment, school bags etc.
Look for items that are repairable, have parts that can be replaced and will last for the lifetime that you need them. Cheap rucksacks can split after one term, whereas a good quality bag can last a year or even for the whole time at school. A cheap toaster or kettle can break quickly, then will just end up in landfill. Certain brands advertise 10 year guaranties or replaceable parts. Use your investigative skills to find the ones that will last. If you cannot afford the upfront investment, consider buying second hand.
This is true for clothes too; fast fashion is environmentally disastrous (one of the top 5 polluters in the world) and exploits garment workers, usually in developing countries. The clothes are often so cheaply made that they will lose shape or fall apart after one or a few uses, often people buy them just because they are so ‘cheap’ and end up not wearing them at all! It is a waste of money to buy something that won’t last and get re-worn many times, however cheap it is. Find brands that have a reputation for making good quality clothes, and look after them well.
Buy in bulk
It can be much cheaper and no or much less packaging to dispose of, have a handy selection of bags, containers, jars to take. Look for multipacks and bundles (but not bogoff)! Buying from the market often means buying an amount you might not need – but it will be packaging free and often very cheap, think all of those ‘bowl of onion/apples/cherry tomatoes’ for a pound. Team up with a neighbour or buddy. I used to go shopping with one of my neighbours – this was in Turkey where a cabbage was so big it was impossible to use in one week! - and we would split up with a list – go back to one house and divvy up all the produce. No packaging- lots of fruit and veg in the quantities we wanted. Look at CrowdFarming for bulk fruits buying online.
TRAVEL & HOLIDAYS
Take a travel grab bag
Remember the green grab bag from earlier? Don't forgot to take it with you on holiday! All airports now have drinking fountains to fill up your water bottle once you are past security. Again – no one ever needs to spend £3 on a plastic bottle of water! Then you can keep refilling on the journey and use the bottle to keep water cool on your trip. If you are visiting somewhere safe to drink tap water, then just refill as you would at home. If not, buy the largest bottle of water you can manage and keep topping up your water bottle. You could end up saving dozens of smaller plastic bottles from the bin.
Pack your snacks for the day of travel, in a reusable container that will be useful when you are on your holiday for taking snacks out for the day! All food in airport shops is expensive and in small disposable snack pack sized single use. Don’t give them your money and save a lot of waste. Then you can use the containers on holiday for taking out treats and snacks from local bakeries – delicious pastries mmmm.
Don't be tempted by toiletry miniatures
If you are going on holiday - don’t be tempted by toiletry miniatures - special sizes for travelling. The cost per 100ml for these convenient sizes is at least double and sometime three times the cost for a normal sized bottle. It’s a rip off and you have more plastic to dispose of- in a country where they might not even have a decent recycling system!. If you prefer to take liquid toiletries, use a refillable container to decant your own full size version to save money and waste. If you have solid soap, shampoo, and conditioner, just take the bars- these work out a lot cheaper than travel sized toiletries. The equivalent shower gel against a shower block is £3 per 100 ml. As most people use 10- 20 ml shower gel per shower, that could be as few as 5 showers. A £4.50 shower block will last the average family up to a month and is solid so no worries about packing in your cabin bag!Don’t forget shopping bags!
Especially if you are self-catering, you will probably visit the local shops more often than you do at home and everywhere charges for bags now! Plus you will be preventing causing a plastic pollution problem in a country that may not have the infrastructure to recycle. You could end up with dozens of single use bags in your holiday apartment that could have been avoided.
Packing for trips is a good opportunity to save yourself some money, take your tea bags in a container if you have a kettle in your room or apartment. Hotels tend to use single bags in packaging, and you may run out meaning an extra few ££ each day for a cuppa. If you can fit a reusable cup in your carry on luggage too (the Hunu collapsible coffee cup is great for this), you can also avoid any single use cups.
Going on a plane trip? Wear a scarf
It can double as a pillow instead of buying the inflatable plastic one available at the airport or on board. And as a blanket on the flight to save opening a plastic wrapped one. Take your earphones (audio jack if you have them) as they may be showing a film or have radio on board, and you usually pay for plastic wrapped cheap headphones that end up broken or unwanted.
You may get free home insulation. The Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity wall insulation typically costs up to £610 to install (including building work), and can save between £75 and £255 a year on your energy bills, depending on your home. Loft insulation costs up to £395 and can save between £125 and £315 a year. Find out if you qualify here
GET PAID TO BE GREEN
Most of the tips here are about saving money, but there are a few things you can do that are good for the environment and can actually earn you money too.
Return plastic shopping bags
Some supermarkets, like Ocado, will pay 10p per bag when you return their own bags for recycling. Over a year that could knock over £100 off your shopping bill.
Sell your unwanted items
Vinted, eBay, car boot, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree - the options are endless. These sites are free to sign up to and usually fairly easy to list items on if you have a phone camera. Remember if you have bought good quality to begin with, you will get more money if you want to re-sell - and selling them to someone who wants them will prevent them going straight to landfill.
Money for recycling plastic bottle
You are able to take advantage of one of the many supermarket recycling initiatives available. Sainsbury's will give you a 5p coupon for every bottle you insert in their reverse vending machines. Iceland and Tesco offer a 10p coupon for every bottle to spend in-store.
Get paid for recycling old clothes
Cash4Clothes, or We buy any Clothes. Some brands will give you money off vouchers in store from brands- John Lewis, H&M, M&S and New Look- just remember not to buy into fast fashion! The most sustainable (and cheapest item of clothing are the ones you already own – so get re-wearing)!
Create new woodlands, wetlands and grassland
There’s opportunities for you to earn money if you have enough space from environmental, nature-based projects such as this one from The Bristol Avon Catchment Market.
If you have a question for Kate or an eco issue you would like her to address in depth in a Green Guide, you can send it in here.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2022 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.