I completely admit that I am not a green expert. Our family does what we can, but we’ve got plenty more to learn. I’m slightly more qualified to call myself a Frugal Mama than a Green Mama, but the cool thing is, those tendencies tend to go hand-in-hand.
Who wouldn’t want to make everyday life less expensive?
Here are a few ways we make everyday home life a bit more frugal, inevitably coloring our home a slightly greener hue.
We keep a very small pack of paper napkins for the occasional situation when we have tons of people over at once, but other than that, we always use cloth napkins. They’re mismatched (except that they’re all red in some form), they’re sometimes wrinkled, and none of them are fancy – perfect for a home with very small kids.
We also reuse them if the napkins didn’t get too dirty during the last meal – to make sure the same person uses his or hers, we designate a napkin ring for each person. I know many families use a variety of mismatched napkin rings for this purpose, but we’ve made a simple craft out of ours. Our art cabinet has a plethora of toilet paper tubes, so we cut one into thirds and decorated a ring for each person.
Instead of paper towels, we have an abundance of cloth rags. These are simply old t-shirts, stained towels, and well-worn fabric cut into squares – and because we have enough, we don’t run out. It doesn’t create more laundry, because the rags are so small, they’re easily tossed into a load we’d do anyway.
Nothing revolutionary here. We make a point to use both sides of paper when we’re printing stuff that’s simply for our reference at home, or we donate the blank side of the paper to our daughter’s coloring ventures.
We noticed that pre-rinsing our dishes before loading them in the dishwasher did absolutely nothing. So we stopped, and our dishes were still clean. It saves water, and it’s easier and faster this way.
Turn Off The Water
It’s a habit for us now, and thankfully, our daughter doesn’t know any other lifestyle. When we brush our teeth, we turn off the water. When we’re soaping up our hands, we turn off the water. When we didn’t have hot water for a good chunk of time this summer, we took “military-style” showers – used the water to get wet, turned it off while soaping up, then turned it back on to rinse off.
Turn Off the Lights
We make a point to turn off lights when we’re not in the room – and sometimes when we are in the room, if there’s enough natural light. Many times we don’t flip a light switch until after lunch.
Plenty of Real Dishes
We love to entertain, and we often have large groups of friends over for dinner. We almost never use paper plates or cups. Because we have enough, it’s just as easy to use the real stuff over and over again. Plus, it feels a smidge classier.
Our children share clothes with most of our friends’ children - we pass down, swap, exchange, and trade clothes between us. Just write your initials on the tag, and you’ll be surprised how little you’ll need to spend on kids’ clothes.
But when we do buy kid’s clothes, we almost never buy new. Kids grow so fast, it’s rare they wear out clothing before they outgrow it. There are plenty of sweet secondhand stores all over the place.
Cook From Scratch
We have very little trash because we usually cook from scratch instead of boxed prepackaged food – on average, we fill one small plastic grocery bag with trash daily. For us, it’s also cheaper to buy local produce.
Photo by Riekie
It gets hot where we live, but most people here don’t have air conditioners. When they do, they only use them when it’s really hot, and not all day. It’s been quite an adjustment coming from the southern US, where we air-conditioned our home 24 hours a day from April to October, but we’re slowly getting used to it. In the meantime, we know it saves energy and money on the electric bill.
Reuse Plastic Bags
As I mentioned earlier, plastic grocery bags are our garbage bags. We also do what we can to use reusable shopping bags. If I’m visiting a local produce vendor in our neighborhood, the bottom basket of our stroller works perfectly – no bag needed at all.
Other ways we’ve gone more frugal by going greener are making our own cleaners, composting, not having a car and using public transportation, paying all bills online, making our own baby food, eating more meatless meals, telecommuting, and of course, recycling.
Here are some good resources:
- The Story of Stuff – an interesting 20-minute documentary (though I don’t completely agree with her definition of the government’s job)
- 50 Ways to Help the Planet
- 100 Ideas For Your Green Family
- Calculate Your Carbon Footprint – in the US
- Calculate Your Carbon Footprint – in Europe
- My Delicious bookmarks tagged “green” – I’ll add more as I find them
How about you – how do you make greener choices simply by being more frugal? What are your favorite green and frugal blogs? Share your resources and ideas! I’m still quite – well, green, at this.