Earth Day comes around only once a year, but reducing, reusing and recycling all year doesn’t just help the environment — it can be a great way to save money as well.
So this year, try not to spend only a single day on acts that are good for our planet. Instead, look to take action in more sustainable ways that may also help you save on spending in the long term.
Here are seven things you can start working on today to begin reducing your carbon footprint without forfeiting your wallet.
1. Minimize your spending to help reduce waste
Cut back on any unnecessary purchases this month.
Not only will your bank account thank you, you’ll also reduce waste from store packaging, especially if you have a habit of online shopping. In 2018, Fast Company reported that the cardboard that makes up the roughly 165 billion packages shipped annually in the U.S. equates to more than 1 billion trees.
Try to take on a no-spend challenge and make impulse buying more difficult by deleting your saved credit card information from your favorite sites and unsubscribing from retail newsletters.
You can also embrace your inner Marie Kondo and clear out your unused belongings, from clothing and furniture to books and entertainment. Not only can you recycle them to a new home by donating to a thrift store or shelter, you may be able to earn some cash through consignment or resale sites.
2. Go paperless
If your mailbox is constantly filled with paper bank and credit card statements that go directly into the shredder, take a few minutes to request online statements instead.
You may already be incurring a small monthly fee — which some banks charge for paper statements — that can be eliminated by going paperless. Switch to online statements that can be saved to your digital device or are accessible through your online account for a simpler and more cost-effective solution. Just be sure to regularly check your balances and online statements so you don’t fall behind after making the switch.
3. Reduce your energy usage
It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to save money and go green: turn off the lights.
Turn off any lights in your home when you’re not using them, but also beware of household items that the U.S. Department of Energy refers to as “energy vampires” — those appliances that draw power from electrical outlets even when they’re turned off or idle. Energy vampires can include toaster ovens, coffee makers, hair dryers, computers and chargers that are often left plugged in when not being used. The Department of Energy estimates these extra currents could cost you between $100 and $200 each year.
Next time you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, television or other home appliance, also look for energy-efficient models that can help your conservation levels. Energy Star-certified products, developed to meet energy-saving guidelines by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, can both limit emissions and reduce your power bill.
If you really want to cut energy costs over time, look into investing in green home solutions like smart thermostats, energy-efficient lighting and windows or even solar energy.
4. Cut back on single-use plastics and takeout expenses
According to Earth Day Network, Americans buy about 50 billion water bottles and throw away 100 billion plastic bags each year.
Instead of picking up a coffee or soda on your way to work or ordering takeout multiple times each week — racking up plastic containers and utensils — bring your beverages with you in a reusable water bottle or coffee mug and prepare more meals at home.
Consumer expenditure data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American household spends $3,365 annually on food away from home. Reducing the amount of takeout, delivery and other food purchases with large amounts of single-use plastic can help you reduce your budget as well as your carbon footprint.
5. Change your commute
Not everyone lives in a walkable or bike-friendly city, but if you live within a reasonable distance of your workplace, dedicating a bit more time each day to a pedestrian commute is a great way to go green and save.
If walking or biking isn’t a viable option for you, try carpooling or taking public transportation more often to cut down your fuel emissions. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American spends $962 on gasoline annually, so even just a few days of choosing an alternative type of commute each month could save you money over time.
6. Take advantage of Earth Day discounts
If you’re looking for ways to shop more sustainably while also saving money, look for Earth Day discounts from environmentally conscious brands and retailers that you can buy without hurting the environment or your wallet.
Blue Jeans Go Green participants
Recycle your old denim (which the organization upcycles into natural cotton fiber insulation) at participating stores to receive discounts. Current retail partners include American Eagle Outfitters (get $10 off new jeans through May 6), Madewell (get $20 off new jeans through the end of this year) and rag & bone (get 20 percent off your denim purchase on the day of donation through the end of 2019).
Buy a strawless Earth Month tumbler and receive free refills on coffee and tea or $2 crafted press beverages through April.
Join the free loyalty club and get double reward points on purchases totaling $25 or more on April 22.
Use code earthday2019 and get 40 percent off your first box of produce through May 5.
Use code EARTHDAY to save an extra 15 percent on sale items until April 27.
Rewards members can earn $10 off a purchase of $30 or more after recycling eligible tech products in-store. (Find Staples’ list of eligible products here.)
7. Get your friends involved
Like anything that takes commitment, going green is difficult without support. To keep you accountable, get your friends and family to embrace sustainability too.
Instead of meeting for dinner or drinks each week, host a potluck and split the leftovers among the group to reduce food waste and plastic use. If you decide to take on a no-spend challenge to reduce your packaging waste, challenge your loved ones to do the same. If you do go out, set up a carpool or walk to your destination together to cut down on fuel usage.
In celebration of Earth Day, get together to take part in a free local activity or volunteer opportunity in your city, like bagging trash in public areas or tending a community garden. Check local events on Facebook, community boards and online newsletters for opportunities or join a community cleanup coordinated by Earth Day Network.