The following is a guest post from Suzan Bekiroglu.
While there are many definitions of what it means to be “green,” there is an almost universal misconception that making better choices for the environment creates a more expensive lifestyle. There are many frugal ways to lead an environmentally sound life, but it does require research and effort to achieve.
Expensive Organic Food
With 3 in 5 Americans rated as obese, and levels of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes on the rise, how we eat is more directly in the forefront of the national consciousness than ever before. Anyone who is interested in selecting food that is chemical and preservative free with minimal fats and oils — food that is often labeled “organic” in the store — has dealt with the sticker shock over the expense.
Choosing those pricey products is not, however, the only way to remove bad choices from the modern American diet. In the best of all scenarios, consumers will be in a position to grow their own fruits and vegetables. If that’s not possible, however, shopping at the local farmer’s market where small producers offer healthier wares at a much lower cost is the next best thing. Also consider buying bulk organic produce.
Simply cutting out on the amount of food purchased in a restaurant or brought home in a box gets a person to a greener dietary position than is commonly understood. The less Styrofoam and plastic in the landfills the better, and take-out is expensive. Decide to eat at home at least three nights out of five and watch the food budget — and likely your waistline — shrink.
Recycle and Do-It-Yourself
Try to cut down on disposables or recycle them to take the place of other products. For instance, use all that scrap paper lying around the house for memo pads. In all likelihood, the pricey cosmetic and beauty products filling the bathroom cabinet that contain an array of chemicals (and were likely tested on animals) could be replaced with items from the kitchen.
So-called organic shampoos and lotions can be as much as $10 to $20 a bottle and it’s rare to find a coupon that applies to those products. Start reading ingredients. See something mysterious called glycolic acid? That’s basically fruit. Lactic acid? That’s milk. Salicylic acid? That’s aspirin.
The Internet is a rich source of recipes for homemade cosmetics and beauty products that are cheap, effective, and completely green. How simple can that be? As simple as brewing a pot of green tea, putting some in a spritz bottle, and using it as a skin toner. Or try making Peppermint Facial Scrub or Moisturizing Hand Scrub.
Don’t Assume Prices Remain Static
Do the big changes that would save money and save the planet, like solar power, seem like a complete impossibility? A home solar array can cost tens of thousands of dollars, leading most consumers to throw up their hands as soon as they learn their investment won’t pay for itself for 10 years or more.
Don’t despair. Research. The alternative power industry is evolving. Many solar electrical providers now offer equipment leases to customers, an arrangement that includes a service contract. With a properly installed solar array and a net metering system that feeds excess electricity back into the grid, some homeowners pay less than $35 a month for electricity.
The real problem is not so much that a green lifestyle is expensive, as that people think it has to be expensive, limiting their understanding to the notion of replacing one over-priced product with another. By doing some homework and expanding the definition of what it means to go green, low cost options are available.
Ms. Bekiroglu is a freelance writer and editorial consultant for secureloanconsolidation.com. She seeks to educate others with tips on managing all kinds of debt, money saving, and general personal finance.