Some people think that living green is a luxury. This isn’t always the case. Years ago people use to live very sustainably in order to be frugal, it was a necessity. By finding ways to reuse and upcycle what you have to prevent having to buy other things. Most sustainable swaps will actually help you save money in the long run! Don’t be afraid of a little upfront cost to reap cost benefits for years!

Here is a list of 21 frugal, zero waste and sustainable swaps.

The following are more ideas to be sustainable and frugal at the same time!

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Eat less meat and dairy

Sustainable: It is said that animal products create 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all transportation emissions combined. By cutting down on your meat and dairy you can decrease your carbon footprint immensely. This does not mean you must go vegetarian or vegan (although this does make a larger impact), you can still choose better meats or certain meals to not eat meat. Beef is the worst, so many go beef-less! There are many alternatives to meat, my favorites are hummus, beans, and tofu. Check out the documentary Cowspiracy on Netflix or this website of all of the facts from the film.

Frugal: A plant based diet can be very cheap because you are not paying for the meat and all the processing. Eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These have a lot of fiber so you have to eat less to stay full. Rice, beans, oatmeal, and seeds will last for a long time so if you buy in bulk for cheaper, it can’t hurt! It is also much easier to grow your own food than it is to raise the animals. Check this website out for some good ideas.

Make your own products

Sustainable: By making your own products you can use scraps of things around the house for a second use. This lengthens the life of many objects not sending them in the trash. You also aren’t buying packaging to throw out once you are done, you can refill bottles! Making your own products allows you to pick the ingredients and the scent too! You can make your own shampoo, conditioner, cleaning products, lotions, vegetable broth, etc.- blog posts to come on all of these!

Frugal: Like I said above, you might be able to use leftovers or scraps to make products that you would otherwise have to buy, this costs you no extra money! If you do have to buy these products, you aren’t paying for the processing, chemicals, brand name or packaging. Instead of spending lots of money on shampoo or conditioner, just make your own (blog post to come on how to do this!).

Bring your own cups and bags

Sustainable: This reduces plastic usage and single use cups by so much! This was one of the first switches I made to create less waste. You can toss a reusable water bottle or coffee mug in your car or bag and you never need to use a single use one again! For plastic bags, you can bring a few tote bags into the grocery store and load those up instead of using all of those plastic bags to never be used again. Here is my favorite reusable water bottle, coffee mug, and tote bags.

Frugal: Many places give you a discount for bringing your own coffee mug or bags!

  • Places with bag discounts include Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, Trader Joes, Kingsoopers, Woodmans, and so many more.
  • Places with mug discounts Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Breadwinners, Kwik Trip and other gas stations, and many local cafes.

Although this may seem minimal, if you bring your own bags to shop at Target you can save around $75 a year (1500 plastic bag average) and about $30 if you bring your own mug (5 coffees a week). That’s an easy $100 savings a year by just making this small change.  

Cook at home more

Sustainable: You have complete control over where your food comes from and the waste that you are creating if you make food at home. This does not mean you have to only eat at home, just make some conscious decisions about when to eat out and when to make your own meal!

Frugal: Making food at home is much cheaper because you are not paying for the service of a restaurant. The average American spends over $3,000 each year eating out. By eating out less you will save more money!

Grow your own produce

Sustainable: You know exactly where your tasty produce and herbs are coming from and how they were handled! Also, if you have produce in your garden you are more apt to eat plants instead of meat, which reduces your impact so much. Bonus: eating things that you have watched grow, taste so much better

Frugal: Plants are the gifts that keep on giving! Lots of produce plants come back year after year and you only have to pay for a few seeds! So much cheaper than buying produce.

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Recycling is free in most places

Sustainable: Recycling allows products to have multiple lives. By simply separating your plastics and paper from other garbage, you can cut down on a lot of trash going to the landfills.

Frugal: It’s free! You can also get money for recycling aluminum cans or other metal.

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Ride your bike or use public transit

Sustainable: By riding your bike or using public transit you are cutting down on CO2 emissions from burning fuel. Transportation is a lead contributor to CO2 emissions worldwide, by cutting down on your personal use, you can reduce your carbon footprint by a tremendous amount.

Frugal: On average, Americans use 656 gallons of gas each year with an average gallon costing $2.05. This is $1,344.80 each year. By biking instead of driving you can cut down on this cost (and burn some good calories while you’re at it; win-win).

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Make sure all purchases are necessary and check second hand first

Sustainable: By purchasing less, there is less in circulation and if you buy second hand that object is getting a second life that would have ended up elsewhere. Every new cotton t-shirt you have takes 650 gallons of water to make. Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul’s, or any other thrift store are great places to look for clothing too! You can find some gems at these places. I think every flannel I own is second hand- it’s a bonus, they come broken in and cozy!

Frugal: Buying less is obviously going to save you money but buying second hand can save you so much as well. I have found a new Eddie Bauer flannel for $3 at a local Goodwill. People change their minds and can’t return it, so they donate it! You can get new or used clothing for so cheap! It can save you loads of money each year by buying second hand or only buying what you need.

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Reuse and upcycle

Sustainable: There are so many things around your house that you may throw out that can have second lives or be morphed into something new! By doing this you are creating less trash and reusing what you already have. Here are some awesome ideas to reuse and upcycle everyday items!

Frugal: By reusing things you already have, you have to buy less, thus saving you money!


Switch your grass lawn into a native landscape

Sustainable: The native species to your area from birds to animals to insects have evolved with native plants. They are used to their nutrients and these plants are better for their health. When pollinator species pollinate non-native plants, they do not receive the same nutrients as they do with natives, it is like us eating an ice cream sundae as opposed to a banana. By making part of your yard a prairie or native landscape, you can help native species, increase plant yields and avoid invasives ruling your lawn. Here is a resource for doing this.

Frugal: This may not be cheaper than planting grass but you can make part of this landscape a garden in which you can yield produce or herbs from and that would be cheaper than buying it from a store.

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Sustainable: By composting your food scraps, papers, and other materials you are saving lots of materials from going into the landfills!

Frugal: These scraps break down into awesome soil and natural fertilizer for your garden! By using your compost yield, you never have to buy fertilizer for your garden. You will also see natural produce yield increases as well! All of this saving you money on fertilizer, soil, and produce.

These compost tumbler make composting so much easier because they have a handle. They require very little attention or flipping because you can turn the handle instead of mixing your pile by hand. Highly recommend.

Conserve water- ideas how

Sustainable: Only 1% of Earth’s water is suitable for human consumption. Once this is gone, it makes water much harder to come by. By conserving water at home, you are lowering your footprint on this issue. An easy way is buying faucet water diffusers to use less water each time you turn your shower or faucet on. Here are a few:

Frugal: By conserving water, your water bill goes down! Win win!

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Air dry your clothing

Sustainable: The energy that it takes to dry all of your clothing in a dryer is the equivalent of the energy it takes to power your fridge, washing machine and dishwasher combined. By hang drying your clothes you are decreasing your energy use immensely. You can do this inside on a drying rack, like this one, or make a clothes line outside. This is also much better for the longevity of your clothing as well. Dryers burn your clothing’s material, therefore your clothing will last longer if you hang dry them.

Frugal: By making this change, you will save lots of money on your energy bill each month. It is said that each load costs about $0.36, the average American does 345 loads of laundry a year. By hanging your clothing you can save about $125 a year.

By making these small, green changes, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. A budget definitely does not need to stop you from living a green life. Many people use eco-friendly living as a form of frugal living. I hope these ideas help save you money and give you some green motivation. Have a lovely rest of your day and comment below if you have any more ideas!


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