How to save money while staying ethical
Everyone knows the last few years have been tough. There has been crisis after crisis which, in turn, is causing a huge cost of living crisis.
It's easy to prioritise near enough everything else over the environment in times like these; however, climate change and plastic pollution are likely to see us face the biggest costs, destruction and humanitarian problems yet.
So we're here with some tips and a message that you can save money while still keeping your environmental impact low.
The cost of the climate crisis
"Every year’s delay beyond 2010 would add another $500 billion to the extra investment of $10,500 billion needed from 2010-2030 to curb carbon emissions"
- International Energy Agency via Reuters
This cost is to curb carbon emissions, not the cost of the impacts - e.g. human displacement, extreme weather damage.
In 2021, out of 15 climate disasters, ten cost $1.5 billion or more. Among them is Hurricane Ida which struck the US in August costing $65 billion and killing 95 people. July floods in Europe cost $43 billion and killed 240 while floods in China’s Henan province caused $17.5 billion of destruction, killed 320 and displaced over a million.
In comparison, the COVID-19 crisis cost the UK approx. £370 billion - National Audit Office.
Saving money while staying ethical
From looking at these numbers, we hope you'll agree that even though costs are increasing and putting strain on everyone at the moment, the long term effects and costs that climate change will cause are much, much higher.
With that in mind, how do we save money while still keeping our environmental impact low?
A balancing act
After years of zero waste living while being on low incomes, we've learnt that staying ethical on a budget is sometimes a balancing act.
Reusing, repurposing and repairing come more into play as the budget tightens. After all, there's nothing more eco-friendly than using what you've already got!
Whereas some items you need to buy will cost more being ethical than less ethical alternatives. For example, we've always opted for plastic-free food from refill/bulk food shops and try to stay organic and Fairtrade. These values are important to us but understandably, these items can sometimes cost more.
We try to balance this up with knowing other products we buy are reusable and last much longer than single-use. For example, Gabs has saved a huge amount of money of the past few years from buying a bamboo safety razor, reusable make up wipes and reusable sanitary products. Combine the savings here and they often more than offset the high cost on ethically produced food.
When ever we have moments thinking "blimey, that's expensive" we remind ourselves of the ethics and reasons we started. Try considering the supply chain and the workers lower down in the chain; try to remember the impacts on the environment such as the carbon footprint and the impact of any plastic packaging.
It's all about balance. Remember, something is better than nothing! Together we can make a big difference if everyone made a small change.
Reduce, reuse, repair, refill.
Food and drink
Now as we've just mentioned, ethically sourced food can be more expensive than alternatives - especially those from budget supermarkets.
However, we still believe there are opportunities to save money with food shopping.
Bulk/refill shops offer a great opportunity to stop food waste and therefore, stop money waste. Only buy what you need with their weigh and pay model. Most refill shops are very competitively priced so you may find your shopping for food staples such as grains/beans actually work out cheaper by only buying what you need.
Years ago, I worked as a personal trainer. I've always had an interest in health and fitness so am a strong believer in eating a balanced, healthy diet. Since living a plastic-free lifestyle, cutting out plastic wrapped snacks has improved my health and reduced our food costs. Moving away from processed or sugary foods and towards natural foods has meant my diet has transitioned to a more low GI diet helping me stay fuller for longer and therefore, eat less food/spend less money.
Thinking back to when I was a kid, I consumed everything for the whole of my childhood. I completely get that having children, snacks are 100% necessary to get them through the day. Try looking for those with less packaging or bulk-bake your own! Being a massive cookie fan, I can personally recommend this recipe. Everything can be bought plastic-free (I leave out the vanilla extract) from a refill shop and it's MUCH cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of cookies from somewhere else. Home made snacks are the way forward with saving money and they can be as simple (and healthy) as homemade hummus and carrot sticks. Cheap and tasty.
Another key aspect of health, which I find is often overlooked, is drinking more water. When I first met Gabs, she drank a lot of soft drinks (as many people do). After a while of being around me (exclusively a water drinker), she transitioned away from soft drinks and managed to save up to £20 a week in doing so (expensive work vending machines!). Small changes like this can add up and make a big difference. They also help stop lining the pockets of major plastic polluters such as Coca Cola! Your body is made up of around 60% water - when you're dehydrated this drops and your body can't function normally. Drink more water, save more money!
Refilling is the future - why else would the big supermarkets all be trialling it?
There are obvious ethical reasons why you would refill (no single use plastic) and bonus ones for refilling with a business like us (biodegradable products, no harsh chemicals, UK-made products, supporting small!).
But this article is about saving money, so how can refilling do that?
Well, the majority of refill shops do actually want to help everyday people out by keeping costs as low as possible. That's why, the majority of our refill products are equal (if not cheaper) than the big brands.
Being a small business and buying products from ethical, small manufacturers, we simply cannot compete with the budget supermarket own-brands. So this is one of those balancing act moments where people need to weigh up what is most important - spending similar amounts of money to branded products but with no single-use, no harsh chemicals and fully biodegradable; or spend less with chemical products with unethical supply chains.
Moving on before we get too passionate...
This one is pretty simple for us. Fast fashion = bad. Ultra fast fashion (yeah, that's a thing) = ultra bad.
So what are the alternatives? Slow fashion! Outfit repeating is great, buying second hand is cool (vintage). Apps like Depop and Vinted have made second hand shopping so easy and there are Instagram influencers solely dedicated so slow fashion. Check out Instagram accounts such as @Saint.Thrifty and @sailor.thriftx
Use companies like 'good on you' for ethical choices, use second hand shops and charity shops. Fast fashion costs a bomb, this one just makes sense.
The IPCC calculated the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year and it is estimated to use around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. On top of this, according to Wrap, 350,000 tonnes ( around £140 million worth) of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.
62% of our clothing contains synthetic material which give off microfibres/microplastics when washed and worn. There are lots more facts like this on oceancleanwash.org
Overall, clothing is a big, bad and largely unspoken issue with climate change and plastic pollution. It's one of the easiest ways to make a difference. Encourage friends and family to reuse and repair what they have, to shop second hand before buying new and to consider supply chains and materials before buying.
If buying new is the only option, avoid polyster and other man-made materials. Check out our clothing range which is made from 100% organic cotton and works on a zero-waste system (return your clothing at the end of life for them to be respun into new clothes!).
Second hand sites: Depop, Vinted, Ebay
Saving energy costs
And lastly, energy costs. Effecting literally every person and every business globally. Energy costs have been soaring and continue to rise. In the UK, energy price caps (which only effect consumers, not businesses) are raising in April and again (!!) in October. So reducing the amount of energy you consume is the no.1 way to save costs, and is the most ethical way too. Not only does reducing your overall energy consumption reduce bills, it reduces fuel use and carbon emissions.
If you don't already have one, smart heating thermostats are an easy way to make a big difference. Never heat an empty home or room and do it all from your smartphone. Popular choices are Hive or Nest.
Uswitch.com claim you can save £80 a year by turning down your thermostat by just 1 degrees. We say why not turn it down by 2 or 3 and wear an extra layer!
If you can afford to, switching to green energy solutions such as solar, wind and/or heat pumps can be a great way to reduce bills (and save money in the long term) and carbon.
There are lots of ways to save energy and each little action adds up, especially with today's prices. Here are our favourites:
- Switch off standby (saves up to £55 per year)
- DIY draught-proof your home (saves up to £40 per year)
- Avoid the tumble dryer (saves up to £55 a year)
- Get a smart meter (86% of people with smart meters say they have changed how they do things around the house and now save energy)
So there we have it. Some of our top tips for saving money while, crucially, staying eco-friendly.