We’re all looking for ways to help the environment, and most of us would be grateful for a few extra dollars in the budget every month. But what if there was a way to achieve both of those goals?
Convenience doesn’t come cheap. That’s why a small bottle of chilled soda costs significantly more than a two-liter from the grocery store. But there’s more than one kind of cost; convenient, disposable products take a toll on our wallets and the environment.
How much can you actually save by switching to disposable products? You might be shocked at some of these numbers!
Disposable diapers make one of the messiest parts of raising kids a little bit more tolerable. It’s a huge industry, with name brands competing to give new parents free samples. However, disposable diapers have only existed since the 1950s. Before then, folks had to do things the old-fashioned way.
Those old-fashioned ways are coming back in style as parents realize just how much they can save—as long as they’re willing to do a little dirty work. Julia Scott made the switch and blogged about it for Mint. When she ran the numbers, she discovered that disposables were much more expensive.
“Disposables came in at $800 for the year, while reusables cost $584 – a savings of 27 percent,” she writes. Scott even factored in the additional costs of laundering all those diapers. She claims that year over year, cloth diapers will continue to save parents money.
There’s an increasing movement to ban plastic water bottles. San Francisco banned plastic bottles in 2016, while the Department of the Interior is phasing out single-use plastics in National Parks over the next decade. Superstar Jason Momoa even shaved his head in a publicity stunt to draw attention to the harmful effects of plastic water bottles.
A study by Penn State University found that Americans spend a ton of money on disposable plastic water bottles. In fact, the average person “could save approximately $1,236 every year if they ditched single-use throwaway plastic bottles for reusable water bottles.” Switching to a reusable bottle made from metal or BPA-free plastic should be a no-brainer. You can easily filter your own tap water at home to refill your bottles. If you like hot or cold drinks, then a double-wall insulated container will be your new best friend!
Bringing your own shopping bags to the grocery store might not seem like saving you money at first. But the cost of paper and plastic bags at the checkout is built into the operating cost of the store. In other words, you’re paying for them even though it’s not itemized on your receipt. Retailers like Lidl and Aldi that require you to bring and pack your own bags can pass those savings onto the customer.
Many stores are now rewarding customers who bring their own bags. Incentive programs offer discounts for every bag you bring. Even though it’s typically just five or ten cents, that money will add up over time. Check out this list of stores that offer reusable bag incentives!
The price of paper products is out of control. Even if you buy the cheapest paper towels in bulk, you’ll still be throwing away money. Many cloth kitchen towels cost less than a roll of paper towels, and they can be used many times. Oh, and don’t be shy about using worn-out t-shirts as future cleaning rags. Before the rise of fast fashion, people would get as much use as possible from every scrap of cloth they owned.
Trendy Swedish dishcloths are halfway between a sponge and a towel and a total game-changer. They also come in some really cute patterns! Although they don’t last forever, “One Swedish dishcloth can actually replace 17 rolls of paper towels,” as Courtney Thompson raves for CNN. They’re made of cellulose and cotton, so they’re super absorbent, but they’re also so thin that they dry quickly. Once your Swedish dishcloth has cleaned up its last mess, you can even compost it since the cloth is made entirely of plant fibers!
While you’re outfitting your kitchen in reusable goodies, consider switching to glass spray bottles for an all-purpose cleaner and a refillable soap dispenser. You can buy (or make) your cleaners in bulk and then refill the containers, cutting way down on the amount of plastic you consume—and the amount of money you spend.
One more thing: sponges. Dish sponges aren’t great from a safety standpoint, as they can harbor harmful bacteria. Even if you’ve mastered the hack of cutting your sponges in half, you’re probably still spending a fair bit of money every year for these little Petri dishes. You can use a Swedish dishcloth for most handwashing, but if you need to scrub off serious messes, look for silicone scrubbers, tawashi scrubbers made from palm fibers, or compostable luffa scrubbers.
Napkins, Plates, and Cutlery
I’ve already sung the praises of reusable kitchen towels, but let me extend that enthusiasm to cloth napkins. I always associated cloth napkins with upscale restaurants, but it turns out that stocking my cutlery drawer with a few sets of napkins costs next to nothing. You can find stacks of vintage napkins for sale at thrift stores and estate sales, or you could get crafty and sew your own. It feels like a little touch of luxury to use a cloth napkin—even when you’re just eating pizza on the couch.
Read More: 10 Times When Being Thrifty Costs You Money
Nobody wants to deal with dirty dishes when it comes to picnics and cookouts. Traditionally, most of us would load up on paper plates along with plastic cups and utensils for the party. That’s clearly not the most eco-friendly option. Melamine plates are a great midpoint between breakable ceramics and disposable paper plates. If you’re truly desperate to avoid doing the dishes, however, then look into compostable cutlery.
Oh, and don’t forget to swap out your plastic straws for something more sustainable, like metal or silicone. You can read more about the hazards of single-use plastics to the environment from the World Wildlife Federation.
Coffee Pods and Filters
So you’ve made the switch from a daily coffee shop run to brewing your favorite caffeinated beverage at home. That’s great! But if you’re relying on single-use coffee pods, you aren’t maximizing your savings. A package of four reusable pods will run $8.99 on Amazon at the time of this writing. The average price of a single-use coffee pod is $.60, but it costs less than half of that if you buy bagged beans and stick to reusable products.
That means you can drink twice as much coffee a day, right?
Another option is to buy reusable coffee filters for your pour-over or drip coffee maker. CoffeeSock offers sustainably made coffee filters for both pour-over and cold brew. That’s right—you can make a jug of cold brew coffee at home for a fraction of what it costs pre-bottled in plastic at the grocery store.
Have you ever stopped to think about how much money you’ve spent during your lifetime on disposable plastic bags and containers for your food? It’s increasingly common to find reusable options for storing your food. Personally, I like clear glass meal prep containers, but other people swear by metal bento boxes.
You can even replace your zip-top plastic bags with silicone reusables! As Nicole Dow for The Penny Hoarder explains, “You’ll only spend about a dollar more for the reusable set, but you’ll continue to get use out of them while their throwaway counterparts would just become trash. One reusable bag can be used more than 300 times.”
Finally, let’s talk about dryer sheets. At the beginning of this year, Proctor & Gamble announced an 8% price hike on its products, which include Downy fabric softener and Bounce dryer sheets. While you could cut your dryer sheets in half and/or reuse them for multiple loads, there’s a much more cost-effective alternative waiting for you.
Dryer balls can be reused over and over again. The variety made out of wool is especially eco-friendly since they are biodegradable. As the team at Cleancult explains, “The theory behind how wool dryer balls work is that they help prevent laundry from clumping in the dryer. The balls also retain the heat they receive on the dryer and boost the drying process. This way, laundry dries more efficiently and faster, thus reducing drying times in your load of laundry.”
If you make this simple switch, not only will you save by no longer buying single-use dryer sheets, but you’ll also use less energy when drying your clothes. What’s not to love about that?