Aye – all this saving the planet is very good, but is it more expensive?

Probably one of the most commonly asked questions. Family, friends and followers are always asking me – I want to live more environmentally, but is it more expensive? Hopefully throughout this blog you will understand why yes, it is cheaper.

When people ask this question, they often want a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, however this is a complex issue, and it is hard to give it so black and white. It’s not like you’re asking which sofa is cheaper X or Y, or which holiday is cheaper X or Y, you’re asking about a lifestyle. A lifestyle which has lots of different components and therefore has lots of different costs attached. I will talk through my experience, and what has been the case for me.

A selection of money.
Working your hard earned money into the environmental equation, image courtesy of Less Waste Laura

Ditching the disposables

When you’re thinking about living more environmentally, the first thing you think is about ditching the disposables. This means refusing the free plastic utensils which you get with food and in markets, and making sure you’re equipped with your reusables. Dealing with the first point, being armed with reusable items such as cutlery and a lunch box is crucial to avoid that nasty plastic. These decisions you can make as expensive or cheap as you want. You don’t need fancy bamboo cutlery, expensive metal lunch boxes or water bottles, you can literally use anything you already have – and this is actually better! Being armed with a reused takeaway box and regular kitchen cutlery is ideal! Then moving on to avoiding plastic in terms of drinks bottles and lots of food packaging. Obviously you need to make a small investment into a water bottle and maybe you want some sort of food pot to keep things warm, but the more you use it, the more you save! One thing I have found is since moving to less waste I have saved so much money from taking my lunches with me, rather than relying on really expensive meal deals!

My reusables sitting next to my laptop. A classic packed lunch and coffee cup.
Avoiding those disposable plastics and saving money from discounts of coffee and refilling a water bottle, image courtesy of Less Waste Laura

Keeping squeaky clean

It can be overwhelming looking through zero waste and plastic free shops at toiletries and beauty products because lets be honest sometimes the prices are a joke…BUT (stay with me) these are SUCH good value for money, especially for what you get. Firstly, a lot of these brand and shops will also be selling organic and vegan produce which does tend to bump the price up. Secondly, these things last forever. Literally. Forever. Christmas 2017 I got a shampoo and conditioner bars, and guess what…they’re still going. Albeit they’re almost finished, but thats been over a year. So yes they may be around the £6+ range each, but these have lasted one year. So thats £1 a month for your shampoo and conditioner – plastic bottles definitely don’t cost that! I have found this is the same for regular soap bars, kitchen dish soap blocks, and laundry soap nuts amongst other things.

In terms of make-up, really this one is determined by what your shopping habits were like before. I would say the plastic free make-up ranges and hair/beauty products are top of the ‘high-street’ range but cheaper than the ‘designer’ brands. I am still using up old make-up and I am slowly making the transition which is good because it is not a big up front cost. Make-up at the end of the day is a luxury, so to get high-quality and environmental make-up is a dream.

My plastic free bathroom essentials - tins with shampoo and conditioner bars and a sea sponge!
These plastic free bathroom essentials last forever!, image courtesy of Less Waste Laura

What’s for dinner?

So food is where the conversation gets a little confusing. Mainly because it is SO varied. Firstly, most of the zero waste / plastic free / bulk shops usually sell organic produce. So if you are comparing non-organic in plastic to organic in bulk…the plastic free will always be more expensive. However, if you compare like-for-like (organic-for-organic) you’ll find many options are cheaper without the packaging. This is purely due to the fact that you’re not paying for the packaging. One thing I have noticed is how cheap bulk spices are; instead of £1/2 per jar, you’re looking at about 20p! Many, many other products are cheaper, but in general I feel I am paying less for food that I used to.

Another aspect of food is thinking about home deliveries of fruit and veg boxes, or milk and fruit juices. The fruit and veg box I receive is SUPER good value for money…the local farm also posted on their website a comparison on price and they came out on top…but a long way! There are some things like the price of a pint of milk in a glass bottle which does tend to be slightly higher, however milk is relatively cheap anyway and I don’t mind paying a little more to have it in a glass bottle and be delivered. Plus, as I have said previously, for me overall I am saving money.

We have just finished the ‘food series’ and throughout this I talked about limiting food waste with tips and tricks on how to do this. I spoke about changing shopping habits to buying what you need, when you need. This also saves you money. Simply, less food wasted = less money wasted.

A zero waste refill bulk store!
Finding the cheaper options in the packaging free shops!, images courtesy of Less Waste Laura

Clothes

Really this one is either really cheap or really expensive. Really cheap = second hand, thrift, mending what you have, and borrowing from friends. Really expensive = most ethical/sustainable brands. Sorry not sorry. As a student I don’t have the money to buy from ethical brands, so I just buy everything second hand and borrow. I know once these brands grow a little and get more business, hopefully prices will come down a tad. I haven’t shopped new in FOREVER and I haven’t had a problem finding clothes I need; be that for a wedding, the gym, hiking or out and about!

My charity shop and borrowed outfit for a wedding!
No occasion is too fancy for charity shopping and borrowing from friends and family, image courtesy of Less Waste Laura

The rest of it

In terms of an environmental lifestyle there are lots of little money saving tips and perks. Saving money by taking your own coffee cup/disposables to a cafe. Saving money not needing plastic shopping bags. Walking more. Cutting down on meat which can be pricey. Finding eco-friendly days out which include just being outside in nature. Living zero waste is a little bit like minimalism, because you begin to see the value of ‘stuff’ and the positives which come with decluttering and having less impact. By simply buying less and being a more conscious consumer, you will see that you’re saving money too!

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