12 Easy Sustainable Swaps That Can Save You Serious Cash

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We’ve all been there, right? We want to save the planet, but we also want to save our hard earned cash. We want to help but… is that expensive eco-shirt really going to make a difference?

Most things would just add clutter to your life unless you remove something else at the same time. We are so good at piling on our life, but rarely as good at reducing or decluttering.

So with that in mind, here are 12 easy swaps that are both sustainable and save you some serious money in the long run.

Yup, I am still on a mission to bring you easy, actionable things you can do to help #movethedate!

1. Oil For Moisturiser

Honestly, I have lost track of how many years it has been since I made this swap. I never spent massive amounts of money on personal care products, but I did have some.

But over the years, they were all used up and replaced by vegetable oil, one by one. I dab on a little jojoba or coconut oil on my face after a shower (often I mix in a few drops of juniper berry oil, because I like smelling like a forest), have a citrus scented lip balm in my backpack, and an all-round soft and moisturizing shea butter and olive/thistle butter for dry hands in winter and everything else.

It is simple, easy to bring with me, last for a long time and doesn’t add lots of waste. Especially when I reuse my containers.

2. Lunch Box Instead Of Plastic Bags

We all know that bringing your own lunch is one of the really important habits to grow towards a frugal, money saving lifestyle. But let’s do the environment a favour and skip the brown bag traditionally associated with it.

A sturdy lunch box is an investment that can last several decades. I know for sure that the lunch boxes I grew up with in primary school still reside in my mother’s kitchen, so even though plastic or paper bags might not be the biggest expense on your grocery list, it all adds up.

I love my glass boxes, as they are easy to clean and look appetizing, but any box in general will work as long as it is leak proof.

If you buy one box and keep using it for years, you can make sure you’ve saved yourself some money and helped the planet from choking on plastic a little bit as well.

On that note, make it a habit to keep an empty container with you. You never know when there will be office lunch leftovers or a baked goods craving. Reusable containers make it so much easier to act on those urges.

3. Reusable Shopping And Produce Bags

Speaking of choking on plastic, please bring reusable shopping bags everywhere you go!

More and more countries are charging for their plastic bags, and some countries are even outright banning plastic bags. There are tons of reusable shopping bags on the market right now in all sorts of styles and sizes. From cute/statement prints you’ll want to show off constantly, to lightweight ones that fold up into a neat ball and is super-easy to carry around wherever you go.

Produce bags are the same, and can easily be swapped or crafted yourself. We use simple crocheted nets that even a total newbie crocheter like myself could do as a first project.

If you are crafty and have some old clothes or fabric lying around, shopping bags are also one of those things that are ridiculously easy to make by yourself, saving you even more money.

For most people, what I hear the most often is that they bought reusable bags, but always forget to bring them, or start using them for other things. I’m a simple person, and only have one bag and backpack for various outings. Each of them have at least one reusable bag in it at all times. Once we’re home and have unloaded the bags, they go straight back to where they belong. No remembering required.

4. Wooden Comb That Can Be Washed Endlessly

Is it just me, or do regular plastic brushes with that strange sponge-like middle just grow downright icky over time? They just seem to revel in collecting hair and sebum in such a way that it is impossible to get it all out again.

Now I just have a few wooden combs, and I love them. They are really easy to clean, small and lightweight to pack, and keeps my hair happy and static free. Win-win all around!

5. Solid Shampoo Bar

I made a batch of clove, cinnamon and orange scented winter soap last year and just fell in love with the rich, spicy scent. To my great delight, it turned out to be an excellent shampoo bar as well.

Shampoo bars use less plastic, is easier to transport, and will last you much longer than a regular bottle of shampoo when used right. Just be aware that any bar of soap will not necessarily be a good shampoo bar, as some of them will make your hair heavy and oily.

There are plenty of excellent recipes online (I substitute palm oil for any other hard fat, like shea butter), but if you’re not comfortable making your own, they are getting easy to source online and offline, depending on where you live.

6. Cloth Towels And Napkins

This might require a bit of an investment in time or money in the beginning, but it does pay off.

I’m one of those weird millennials who nearly always carry a cloth handkerchief. I still have a few packs of a 10-pack of paper towels I bought over ten years ago, I just never use them when I have my handkerchief!

A project I intend to get into once winter is approaching is to sew some more cloth napkins as well. Currently we have four store bought ones, which is fine for just the two of us, but not enough when we have guests. I have some fabric lying around for this project, so this will be an easy winter craft that will save money and trees in the long run.

7. Loose Leaf Tea And Coffee

This might seem like a small drop in the big scheme of things, but hear me out on this one.

Not just does pre-bagged tea taste… bland and is often made from dust and sub-par tea, but it is also full of plastic and cannot be composted without taking it apart first.

Loose leaf tea, on the other hand, requires less packaging, can be combined in any number of ways, and is easy to compost if you have such devices available to you. Loose leaf tea is also generally higher quality, and can be rebrewed for another cup.

Same goes for coffee. Skip those ridiculous pod coffees which create mountains of waste and go back to the good old bean. Bonus if you buy/sew some reusable cloth coffee filters and find your coffee in bulk/loose weight shop at the same time.

8. Plant Protein

If you aren’t already, try to swap some of your animal based protein for plant based ones. It takes roughly 10 kg of plants to grow 1 kg of meat. On top of that comes all the water necessary to rear livestock as well as the pollution they cause.

We are not saying anyone has to omit animal based foods entirely from their diet, but if everyone made a conscious decision to reduce their consumption, it would have a serious and significant impact.

Plus, tons of plant-based dishes are downright mouth-wateringly delicious.

9. Plant Fibres

While we are on the topic of plants, have you considered looking for plant fibres when you shop for clothes in second-hand shops?

I’ll let you in on a secret, sustainable, organic, slow fashion plant fibre clothes is actually something I have been known to shop, on occasion, new!

The reason is simple: I want to support this industry. I don’t do it often, and I don’t buy a lot, my closet is pretty reasonably stocked. But I do throw money at them every once in a while. I bought some black work trousers from People Tree while living in the UK. I am sure there are other good places close to where you live.

10. The Safety Razor

This is one I am eagerly waiting to swap out myself.

Again while living in the UK, we bought a large multipack of razor heads, and I am still slowly working my way to the bottom of that box.

Once I have finally used up all those, I will purchase one of those safety razors I hear so much about. They are stainless steel, easy to clean, and you can buy boxes of razor blades for a fraction of the cost of razors in general but pink tax female razors in particular.

The important thing about these is to take them apart and rinse with water after to and allow them to dry. This will significantly extend the razor’s lifetime.

11. Menstruation Cup

Yes, this tip is only for 50% of the population, but it is such an important point to bring up.

I have been using a menstruation cup for almost ten years now, and it has been a revolution. Mine is a model A Mooncup (for pre-thirties and pre-pregnancy women), but there are several brands on the market.

My first staggering surprise was that in my particular case, it actually alleviated some of my menstrual cramps. The second thing is, of course, that so long as I have my Mooncup, I never run out of products. You simply empty it, rinse it and reuse it. At the end of my period, I use an old toothbrush and some soap and give it a good scrub.

I really cannot recommend these enough to people. They don’t smell, they don’t leak (when inserted correctly), and with it you can run, jump, exercise, swim and do anything you would normally do without fear.

If you spend even just $5 on pads and tampons a month (a modest estimate, to be sure), I would estimate that I have saved over $600, and it is still good for many more years.

12. Reusable Water Bottle

This should be a no-brainer. Bring a reusable water bottle everywhere. For any frugal monster, it should be appalling how much money is thrown away on bottled water.

Some people don’t have access to clean water, which is obviously a valid reason to buy. Most of us though, are perfectly capable of carrying a small bottle of water with us. I like clear glass, but many find that too heavy and opt for stainless steel instead. Refilling single-use bottles from the shop is not recommended, as they can leach plasticizers over time.

Just remember to clean it regularly, just like you would any other cup, jar or cutlery, or they can turn into serious bacteria paradise.

Bonus: Don’t Swap, Just Stop12 Easy Sustainable swaps that can save you serious money! #movethedate

Do you even need to swap that item? Could you simply stop using it once it’s empty or worn out? Do you really need it?

This exercise takes some time to get used to. I have gotten practice “for free” due to several long-distance moves over the years. When you move by plane and with their maximum allowed luggage, you simply cannot afford to carry dead weight.

Old, unused darlings would go to the charity shop without much thought.

It irks me a little these days to think of all the value I gave away and could possibly have sold online. But such is life.

Do you have more tips for simple, practical swaps that saves your wallet and the environment at the same time?

10 Comments on “12 Easy Sustainable Swaps That Can Save You Serious Cash

  1. I use our cloth grocery bags for EVERYTHING. That’s what my lunch is in every day, and they are so easy to clean when there’s an inevitable food spill. They’re also great for hauling cloth diapers, overnight clothes, toys… basically, well, everything 🙂 And I haven’t gone the menstrual cup route but I LOVE my cloth pads. It kills me to think about how many years I tossed disposables in the trash.

    • Yes! Cloth bags are great! And usually they are far sturdier than plastic bags, and large enough that I can hike them up on my shoulder instead of carrying them in my hands all the way. My only hiccup with a menstrual cup was when a friend’s dog got into my bag and ate it! The dog was fine, but yeah, had to get a new one after that!

  2. My Nalgenes have been my constant companions since I was in high school. It kills me to see people drinking out of disposable plastic water bottles when it’s SO EASY to carry around a reuseable water bottle instead!

    Living with a roommate unfortunately means we still go through paper towels. But I’ve gotten so much better about only using them when I’m cleaning up grease or oil. For everything else, that’s what dish towels are for.

    • I know your pain, plastic bottles are everywhere but a stainless steel bottle really doesn’t weigh much at all!

      Dish towels are great. I’m going to be making more over the winter, I hope!

  3. Love these! I switched to a menstrual cup about a year ago and it’s fantastic. I’m working on switching to cloth napkins/towels, and I’m interested in the washable/reusable snack pack/sandwich bags (packing lunches for the whole family when we are roadtripping or traveling needs a little more than a lunchbox… kids 😉 and I have been hearing good things about shampoo bars so I plan to swap that out as well!

    • That’s fantastic! It’s always more challenging to reduce waste with family and children, so I am thrilled to hear about your progress! 🙂

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