Saving the planet is no easy task. While insurmountable piles of trash and plastic pollute our natural landscapes and wildlife, companies keep producing what seems like infinite contaminating products and packaging. In a consumer-driven economy, however, one way for citizens to voice their opinion is to put their money where their values are.
Though it might seem like an impossible task, you can make a difference. When you compare your contribution to the billions of other people on this planet, it may not seem likely, but if you consider how much trash your household alone contributes, you will realize that cutting down on your non-biodegradable trash and environmentally harmful products will, in fact, increase your sustainability and make a positive impact on the planet. Here are some ways to incorporate these goals into your financial planning.
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Plan Out Home Upgrades
We spend a lot of our time at home, so it makes sense that this is the best place to start with some changes. While making improvements to your house is not easy or cheap, making the right improvements can both raise the value of your home and benefit the planet.
Solar panels are an example of a long-term investment that is expensive upfront, but they are generally worth it in the long run, both economically and environmentally. On average, solar panels cost $20,000 upfront, however, many states offer incentives that generally cut the cost in half and you get monetary benefits, like tax cuts, making up for just about all of the expenses. Plus, if you count the money you will save on energy bills, they will likely save you as much or more money than you paid for them.
Another home improvement is investing in a compost system, which will dramatically reduce the amount of trash you throw out. You can put biodegradable material such as fruits, vegetables, paper bags, as well as any product marked for compost or biodegradable. Investing in a compost can be a great first step for green living
Invest in Your Values
The next step for sustainability is to keep it in mind when purchasing items around your house. Except for food and other biodegradable necessities, try to only buy items that you can keep for a longer period of time. Obviously, this includes buying real kitchenware instead of plastic, but should also expand into every room, and even into home makeovers.
Think about the sustainability of all objects in your house, including furniture. When buying new furniture, try buying local or used. You can shop at furniture recycling stores, Craigslist, and even Facebook Market. This way, you give a second life to a piece of furniture that might otherwise have gotten thrown away, you don’t accumulate any unnecessary packaging or shipping. Plus, this can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and you can still end up with high-quality furniture.
If you’d prefer not to buy used furniture, shopping local is always another great option. Not only will this support your local economy, but the quality of the furniture will almost certainly be higher than mass-manufactured products. Shopping locally will still give you the benefits of using less packaging and reducing shipping costs.
Of course, not everything can be bought used nor is available locally. Mattresses, for example, should not be bought used in order to avoid bed bugs and other unsanitary threats. For these cases, you will need to do more research. If you are looking to buy an eco-friendly mattress, you should look for one made in the U.S., and you can look into organic mattresses that don’t have have the harmful chemicals
Make Eco-Friendly Purchases
Sometimes long-term planning is all about the smaller details. Much like investing in solar panels, sometimes you need to spend more money in the short term in order to buy less and save more in the future. To do this, find brands that use less packaging, don’t test on animals, and use natural products free of harmful components.
Beauty products in particular can contain harmful chemicals which you then put directly on your face. However, there are plenty of popular brands that don’t test on animals, as well as newer brands that use organic and chemical-free ingredients.
You can also get more creative when buying things that last longer instead of things you'll have to throw out. For example, instead of Ziploc bags, you can buy Bee’s Wrap. Bee’s wraps are an eco-friendly and sustainable seal for your food that can replace Ziploc bags in your kitchen. They are a cloth made with beeswax that you seal using the warmth of your hands. It is completely reusable, as you can wash it with soap and water after using it, and it can cover anything from fruits and vegetables to snacks and lunch meals.
By making similar purchases that keep sustainability in mind, you can gravitate towards a waste-free household and cut your ecological footprint. Whenever you can, forego wasteful packaging and be smart about your energy consumption. Little by little, these actions will add up and make an impact on the environment, and at the very least, you’ll know you’re doing your part to solve the problem, not contributing to it.