Friday, February 13, 2009

10 Tips to Reduce Costs & Reduce Waste in 2009

This year, my New Year’s resolutions have less to do with eating healthier or working out more. My 2009 list is focused on the more pressing issues that many families are also facing: saving money and reducing our impact on the environment. Here are 10 small things that we’ve already begun to do to make a difference in our budget and our carbon footprint.

1. Switch from paper to cloth napkins:
Switching from paper to cloth napkins can save a family $1.68 on average a week (according to the National Geographic Green Guide). Instead of purchasing rolls of paper towels and bags of napkins every few weeks, buy a dozen re-usable cotton napkins for everyday use. You’ll save money over time and you’ll greatly reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

2. Eliminate disposables:
Rather than serve meals on disposable products, use the plates, cups and utensils you already have. You may justify your use of disposables by the time you save in washing, but if your priorities are to cut costs and reduce waste, this is a good place to start. If your concern is breakage with kids or outdoor entertaining, invest in a set of hard plastic plates and cups and you’ll make up the cost very soon.

3. Carry a coffee cup with you:
First, start by cutting down on buying coffee when out of the house; this is a quick way to save an average of $2.50 a day. But, if you feel the need to indulge, have a travel mug or even ceramic mug from home with you. Some cafes will discount your coffee if you bring your own mug, and you’ll reduce the number of paper cups going into the trash bin.

4. Give up plastic water bottles:
The very day I read that an estimated 40 million bottles a day go into the trash, emitting toxics into the groundwater and taking a whopping 1,000 years to biodegrade, I gave up disposable water bottles for good. At the time, about 3 years ago, it was purely an environmental decision. Now, I am happy to acknowledge the hundreds of dollars I’ve saved over those years.

5. Buy in bulk.
The cost savings of buying larger quantities of items can be calculated immediately (just stand in any isle of the supermarket and compare). And by buying in bulk, you’re also helping to save the environment by cutting down on packaging. No more individual cheese sticks, small raisin boxes, juice boxes and single serve apple sauce. It’s just as easy to serve the kids at mealtime, or fill small reusable containers for the lunchbox, and you’ll immediately cut costs and waste.

6. Pack a waste-free lunch.
On average, a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. Packing a waste-free lunch means using reusable containers, utensils and water bottles, a cloth napkin, and no packaged foods. You’ll save money by using food you purchased in bulk (along with the cloth napkin instead of paper), and you’ll cut down on all those pounds of waste.

7. Shop at consignment stores.
From buying birthday gifts (many consignment shops have never-used toys still in their original packaging) to kid’s clothing and furniture, consignment prices will always be less than what you’d pay for the same brand in a retail store. And, by purchasing something that has been around a while, you’ll decrease the carbon emissions of creating something new. Also consider for second-hand shopping online.

8. Stop using wrapping paper.
A lot of the wrapping paper is not recyclable, and if you think back to the last Christmas or birthday and the bags full of wrapping paper, you’ll know where I’m going with this. I save and reuse every gift bag I receive and I haven’t wrapped a present in a long time. I’ve also got cute cloth holiday bags in varying sizes that my mom made and I use them every year for Christmas presents. It’s our own family tradition that my kids love. I even sometimes wrap with newspaper (comics for the kids, the sports section for dads, and style section for moms) – it’s fun, less expensive and eco-friendly.

9. Bring your own bag to the store.
This one has gotten very popular in the past year. Now there are many trendy fabric shopping bags you can buy to replace the paper or plastic the stores supply. I say don’t spend any money buying cute shopping bags and just grab your gym bag, or the plastic bags you’ve hopefully saved from years of grocery shopping, and you’ve instantly reduced the number of new plastic bags piling up in our landfills and saved money. If you don’t have the gym bag or reused plastic bag option, you can find one for $1.00 or less and buy a bunch to keep in your car.

10. Cut down, or cut out, newspaper delivery.
My mom announced quite proudly just a few days ago, that by switching from daily delivery of the newspaper to just Wednesday through Sunday delivery, she cut her fees in half. What she didn’t realize was that she also made an eco-friendly decision to reduce paper waste. This seems almost too easy. Just skip Monday and Tuesday delivery, get your news online, and you’ve reduced your bill by 50%! Better yet, cancel the delivery all together and bookmark a few favorite news websites to read each day.

Written by Paige Rodgers, co-founder, Fabkins – kids’ cloth napkins (

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