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10 Budget-Friendly Sustainable Living Tips to Use in 2023

It's true—sustainability can be affordable for all! Here are 10 simple tips for budget-friendly sustainable living.

Written by
Brightly Staff

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of money to live with the planet in mind. In reality, you can better the world on the cheap, and we’re sharing how to put your values first while also saving money in the latest episode of Good Together.

Once you adopt the mindset of “working with what you’ve got” and being mindful of the new things you bring into your life, living sustainably and saving money go hand in hand. And we're here to prove it.

Is Sustainability Just for the Wealthy?

Oftentimes, sustainability is presented on social media through rose-colored glasses. This contributes to this widespread preconceived notion that everything we do for sustainability has to be grand and Instagramable.

You might be surprised to learn people in developing countries actually have a lower carbon footprint than those in the United States. Traditional lifestyles are inherently sustainable and cost significantly less than the standard American lifestyle. So, what are they doing that we should replicate? Simple: They're buying less, making items themselves, and practicing minimalism.

There are so many ways we can replicate these eco-friendly habits, and here are some tips for budget-friendly sustainable living to get you started.

10 Budget-Friendly Sustainable Living Tips

1. Buy Clothing Secondhand

Buying secondhand in person or via online thrift stores isn't just more affordable than buying new. It also requires fewer resources and keeps perfectly-good clothes out of landfills. A typical clothing item is only worn seven times before it gets tossed out, so you're sure to find plenty of high-quality, like-new items to add to your wardrobe.

2. Use What You Have Before Buying New

Sure, you might want to buy the latest and greatest zero-waste products. But before you do, the most eco-friendly—and budget-friendly—move is using what you already have first.

For example, you may have a bunch of cleaning products under your sink that come in plastic bottles. Or, tons of rolls of paper towels in your closet. Wait until you've used every last drop and roll before opting for sustainable alternatives.

3. Try Samples Before Splurging on Full-Size Beauty Products

Just because a beauty product is eco-friendly doesn't mean it's well-suited for your skin. Don’t get caught up in the cute packaging and awesome mission statement. In order to avoid buying a full-size product that will then be wasted, ask for a sample to make sure it’s right for you.

Keep in mind: The packaging for sample products may be non-recyclable because of how small it is. Because of that, we recommend that you can go to your favorite clean beauty store in person to test out potential products.

4. Play 'Dad'

It's really as simple as listening to that "dad" voice in your head: Turn off the lights when you leave a room, unplug electronic items when you don’t use them, utilize a power strip, and take shorter showers.

You can also wash your clothes in cooler temperatures and try to wash them less. (This will actually prolong the life of your clothing, too!) You can even go old school and hang your clothes up to dry. They're all things that make a difference at absolutely no cost.

5. DIY Around the House

Instead of looking for new furniture or decor, get crafty. There are so many ways to upcycle what you have to create a cozy home you love. Need some inspiration? Check out these DIY home decor ideas and DIY furniture ideas.

She also recommends trying to wash clothes in cooler temperatures and try to wash them less. This will actually prolong the life of your clothing too. You can even go old school and hang your clothes up to dry.

6. Outsmart Your Grocery Store

It's been proven that opting for plant-based foods over meat and dairy can better the planet. But, you don't need to buy expensive products (hello, oat milk!) or fresh produce.

You can also save some cash and still eat sustainably by buying frozen fruits and vegetables. The flash freezing these products undergo preserves their freshness and nutrients so your body is receiving the same goodness it would have gotten had you spent the extra bit of cash on fresh produce. 

7. Grow Your Own Food from Scraps

Did you know you can upcycle food scraps, using them to grow a brand-new batch of produce? The process works with lettuce, celery, green onions, and more. Generally, all you need is a cup of water!

8. Don't Write Off Chain Stores

You can find eco-friendly products of any kind at your local chain stores, like Walmart and Target. On their own, these chains aren't necessarily sustainable, but they're accessible to more people. But they've started carrying some affordable and sustainable products—even Fair Trade and organic options at a lower price!

9. Stop Buying, Start Upcycling

You don’t need to buy paper towels anymore! You can make paper towels out of old t-shirt rags. But paper towels are just the beginning. There are so many other ways to upcycle what you already have into things you'll use all the time.

10. Use Half the Product You Usually Do

This is a pretty easy tip, but it can really make your products last longer and save you money in the long run! Your newfound minimalist practice will preserve your time and stop you from going on extra shopping trips.