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10 Free Ways to Go Green Today

Looking for easy ways to go green? Check out these 10 tips that are completely FREE!

Guest post from Rebekah of SimplyRebekah.com

Anyone browsing the produce section of a grocery store can tell you that living a green lifestyle can be expensive! You could also add overwhelming, time-consuming, and flat out hard to that list. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Reducing, reusing, and recycling can actually save you money while making a positive impact on the earth and/or your health and it doesn’t have to be hard!

Here are 10 free ways you can go green that are easy enough for you to do today:

1. Visit the Library

Save a tree and borrow your next book instead of buying a new one. While you’re at the library, look into the other programs they have available. With DVDs, story time programs, and Kindles, libraries go way beyond books.

2. Donate Unused Items

You might not shop at thrift stores, but other people do! Instead of throwing out your old clothes or knick-knacks, give someone else the opportunity to reuse them.

3. Unplug Unused Items

Any electronic that is plugged in is using power whether it is turned on or not. Cut back on your electricity use by unplugging that lamp in the guest room, the rarely used second TV, or your empty cellphone charger.

4. Get Some Fresh Air

Sadly, the air in our homes isn’t always as pure as we think it is. Paint, candles, and cleaners are just a few of the things that can be polluting the air in our homes. So open a window or go for a walk and breath deep.

5. Turn Off The Lights

We all know we should turn off the lights when we leave a room, but knowing and doing are two different things. Take a look around the house right now and see if there are any lights you can turn off.

6. Skip The Meat

I would love to be able to afford to eat 100% organic, free range, hormone free, grass fed meat everyday, but I can’t. Perhaps you can’t either. Don’t stress about it. Instead skip the meat all together every once in a while. My family loves black beans & rice and curried lentils.

7. Call for Updated Recycling Information

If you have been living in your neighborhood for several years, then it is possible that the local recycling program has been updated. Perhaps more items are being recycled than you realized.

8. Upcycle An Old T-Shirt

There are hundreds of ideas online for turning an old t-shirt into something fun like a scarf, pillow, skirt, bracelet, or necklace.

9. Open (or Close) The Windows

Depending on the time of day and season, closing or opening your windows and curtains can help keep your home the temperature that you want it. Recently my area experienced an intense heat wave. Despite temperatures in the 90s outside, my AC-free house was a comfortable 72 inside because I closed up all the windows and shades.

10. Educate Yourself

Conquering ignorance is truly the first step towards living a green lifestyle. A good place to start is the dirty dozen, a list of the 12 worst offenders in the produce aisle. Maker sure your organic purchase is worth it by choosing items from the dirty dozen list.

What is your favorite way to go green without spending a lot of money?

Rebekah shares frugal lifestyle tips, going green baby steps, and all of life in between at SimplyRebekah.com.

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64 Comments

  • Going thrifting for things I need instead of buying them new!
    I love it! 🙂

  • Kate says:

    One of the best things anyone can do to keep the Earth livable is to BUY LESS STUFF. Conveniently, it also saves a lot of money.

  • Tammy C says:

    Sometimes in the cold winter you have to have closed curtains to keep the cold air from coming in.

    • Very true, Tammy! LOL!

      The first apartment I lived it after getting married was like that. The windows were so bad, that the curtains would MOVE from the drafts coming in on windy nights. It makes me shudder to think of all the extra heating costs in that apartment because of old windows.

  • Stacey says:

    My idea is not a frugal one because it goes against the common frugal mindset of getting stuff for free, but I don’t ask for many free samples to be mailed to me. I know that in the end someone else will end up getting the free sample (they’ve already produced and packaged them for distribution), so I’m actually not saving the environment, but it makes me feel better to not be the one to open up a tiny sample of, say, shampoo or other HBA items, that are wrapped in tons of packaging.

    Another easy green thing I do is to reuse water. When I soak my garden fresh salad greens in water to get rid of the dirt, I toss the dirty water into the yard.

    Rewearing clothing that is not dirty or stinky or reusing bath towels (they are drying clean bodies!) is both frugal and green.

    • Stacy, I have to admit that I never thought about the green impact of requesting samples. I try to limit my requests to things that I know I’ll use. After reading your tip, I’ll be even more careful about it in the future. Thanks!

    • Susan says:

      Stacy, me too. The packaging that free samples come in is so wasteful.

      I signed up for a free personalized pen several years ago. It was a nice pen, with my name on it, and I liked it a lot. But ever since, every few months I get a another free pen from the same company, different style, not personalized. The packaging: one pen in a plastic tray than can hold 6, inside a plastic bag, inside a bubble-wrap sleeve, inside a large mailing envelope. Ridiculous! You’re reminded me that I should do a little research to figure out how to remove myself from this mailing list.

      When I first started couponing, I signed up for free samples left and right. No more — too much stuff I don’t need or won’t use, so I limit it to just things I really would like to try.

      Another thing that made me stop signing up for free samples … a new medicine came out to treat a medical condition that I suffer from. It’s an expensive medicine, and I wanted to try it before spending money on it. I signed up, only to discover that the 50,000 samples were quickly gone. No doubt in my mind that plenty of folks were simply signing up for samples because they are free, regardless of whether they could use it or not. After that, I stopped signing up for samples I don’t know if I would use.

    • Frances says:

      Thank you for this comment! I have always been concerned about posts listing the free samples. Unless it is for a product I really want to try, I don’t request it. I hate the over-packaging and waste of samples and products in general!

      • Brandi says:

        I agree that free samples do come with lots of packaging. However, I still sign up for ones I know I will use or things I know my friends will enjoy. Being newly married with my husband still finishing school and juggling four jobs between the two of us, those samples come with something invaluable to us right now- coupons. No, we don’t buy the newspaper- too expensive, we don’t have cable or smart phones. Any couponing I am able to do comes from swapping with friends, offline printables or samples. At this point in my life, those coupons are the reason my husband and I can afford date nights out
        (however frugal). Yes, they aren’t packaged the best, and I am selective in what I choose, but I feel for some, free samples are something that is wonderful and increases my standard of living.

        • Frances says:

          Have you tried calling companies and requesting coupons? Many of the companies I have called in the past are very willing to send coupons. I don’t buy a newspaper either due to cost but my mother gets two copies of coupons and I e-mail her my list of coupons I need. Do you have a neighbor who will save the coupons for you or will your local library?

  • Jan says:

    As a diabetic, and restricted to a low-carb lifestyle, I find it frustrating when people recommend leaving out meat. No potatoes, no pasta, no rice, and no white flour means something has to be the bulk of our meals. Any suggestions for how to save money, with those rules in place? Thanks.

    • Kate says:

      Can you have whole-wheat pasta? I can get it at my regular grocery store and it tastes very similar to white pasta, but has a lot more fiber. I cook a handful or two of it and add it to a casserole dish with chopped veggies, a little shredded cheese, fresh garlic if I have some on hand, and a can of either Italian- or Mexican-style diced tomatoes. Bake in the oven until hot and bubbly. Easy and tasty.

      If there are several vegetable sides your family likes, you could make a bunch of them one night and skip the meat dish. I usually leave the meat out of tacos and don’t miss it, though I haven’t yet gotten to that point with Chinese dishes. I’m not that crazy about eggs, but lots of people seem to like veggie omelets and quiches. And I love a good corn chowder or cream of tomato soup. I’m not completely vegetarian, but I eat a lot less meat than I used to. It helps if you look at it as an opportunity to eat more of the non-meat ingredients you already like, and maybe to try some new recipes.

      • Jan says:

        Kate: thanks for your response. No grains. No corn. No pasta of any kind. No potatoes, rice, or sugar. I have not figured out a way to have only vegetables, and no meat, and have the amount of protein we must have at each meal.

    • Stephanie says:

      I feel better when I eat low carb myself. cottage cheese and mixed unsalted nuts seem to be my go-to meal for lunch.

      One thing I have also done to stay green is make my own cleaners, wipes, food, etc. And also get rid of appliances that are bad for you or that you don’t use anyway (like the microwave). I have a couple blog posts about this.

      I love the Internet as a learning resource. I learn more and more about living more simply, frugally and green everyday!

    • Jen says:

      Lots of beans! (seriously) Also when you do eat carbs, get it closest to the form it originally started in. Like whole wheat bread with wheat berries, brown rice, rolled oats, wheat germ, whole bran, flax seed, etc. It fills you up much faster than the white bleached stuff so the cost difference won’t seem as bad since you won’t use as much. For beans I buy several different kinds and always use dried, which are cheaper and healthier. I will make big batches and freeze them in can-sized portions so they’ll be ready to go for recipies and such. There are umpteen recipies online for beans of all kinds. I didn’t like beans until I started using dried (especially lima beans, like night and day!). I still think canned ones arent very good. It gets to be kind of fun experimenting with all kinds of beans I’ve never tried before. Hope that helps a little!

      • Jan says:

        Sorry, beans are too high in carbs–I can only have 1/4 cup, which is too small for a main dish. No oatmeal, no rice, no wheat, in fact, no grains. Basically, what we can eat is any kind of meat, poultry, or fish; green vegetables, including green beans, but excluding green peas; cauliflower, squash, spaghetti squash; and raw greens for salads. Salad dressings are limited to those with fewer than 3 carbs per tbl., which is usuallly vinaigrette or ranch; all the water, tea, coffee, or sugar free drinks we want; Splenda as a sweetener. If it is starchy or sweet, we can’t eat it. I find I am eating more vegetables than ever before, but this is not a cheap way to eat–at least, I have not figured out how to make it cheap. We make most things from scratch, or eat it raw.

        • Susan says:

          Jan, in the bean salad I mentioned in my previous comment, I only use approx. 1/2 cup of beans per serving. Combined with lots of vegetables and it is very filling.

        • Jan, it sounds like you are doing the best you can with the diet restrictions you have. If I were you, I would ignore people telling you to skip the meat and continue to eat the way you want/have to eat. There are many, MANY other ways you can live a green and frugal lifestyle. Pick and choice what works for you and forget the rest.

          • Jan says:

            Rebekah, thank you for your compassionate and supportive reply. We don’t buy water in disposable bottles; we don’t use disposable dish cloths, etc. All our gray water goes into the lawn and garden; we put out compost materials, even though the rabbits, and other critters, usually eat them before they compost; when I buy a whole chicken or turkey, we get multiple meals from it, and save the broth for soups, and fry the skin for a “chip” like treat. thanks again for your response.

        • Andrea says:

          I agree with what Rebekah said below.

          One thing you may be able to have is soup with a few beans. A half can of beans split between several servings of soup might work for you. Sometimes beans are nice to have for variety.

          I make minestrone without the pasta, using homemade chicken broth and a can of undrained diced tomatoes as the base. I use kidney beans in that recipe. I also make turkey soup with white kidney beans and sweet potato. You could use squash instead, as that is lower in carbs. Another option might be sausage bean soup.

          • Jan says:

            Andrea, one of our favorites is ratatouille, which is full of low carb vegetables–all I have to do is add enough meat or chicken or fish. We eat a lot of soup in the cold weather to help keep us warm. thanks.

    • Susan says:

      Jan, I sympathize. I’m not diabetic, but I have a lot of risk factors, and within the past few years have changed my diet considerably and lost a lot of weight in order to improve my health and (hopefully) ward off this disease.

      Green cabbage is a great substitute for pasta. Cut into strips and use in place of fettucini, or cook up larger pieces and layer into a lasagne.

      Cauliflower and white beans are good substitutes for mashed potatoes. I’ll often make mashed potatoes with half potatos and half cooked cauliflower, or 1/3 each of potato, cauliflower, and white beans. Just cook the cauliflower and beans until they are very soft and mash them up, adding milk, salt and pepper, whatever you would normally add to mashed potatoes. The stems are more fibrous and won’t mash up completely. We don’t mind that, but if you like your mashed potatoes really smooth, just use the cauliflower heads.

      As the author pointed out, beans are a good substitute for meat. They are healthy and very cheap. There are lots of good bean recipes out there. We like to combine cooked beans (I use a combination of white, black, kidney, and garbanzo) and combine with chopped tomato, corn, barley or wheat berry, chopped green onion, red and green peppers, and whatever other veggies I may have on hand, like celery or carrots. Chop every pretty small so it’s all about the same size as the beans. Mix with a little Italian dressing, and you’re all set! It’s good, and even better as planned-overs. (at my house leftovers are known as “planned-overs”)

      Sweet potatoes are much lower on the glycemic index than white potatotes, so you can eat them without guilt.

      For affordable meat, check out Zaycon dot com . They are a nationwide distributor of fresh organic meats (and other foods). I’ve stocked up on their fresh chicken breasts for $1.67/lb, and ground beef for under $2/lb (can’t recall the price exactly — it was a while ago). If you have the freezer space (or can split a bulk order with a relative or friend), it’s a great way to get

      Just a few ideas that I hope you find useful. Good luck!

      • Jan says:

        Susan, we do use cauliflower as a potato substitute, and I am always looking for new recipes using it. We bought our first bulk meat order a couple of weeks ago, and pretty much filled the deep freezer. since we can’t have corn (it’s a grain), or beans, or the other things I already mentioned, I have few ideas for “fillers”–I used to use rice or pasta, potatoes or other starchy foods such as oatmeal to stretch the meat further, but those are no longer options. As well as diabetes, I have several other health issues, so I am not “fad” dieting–this way of eating is prescribed by three of my specialist doctors. They don’t seem to have many ideas about how to make this way of eating thriftier.

        • Andrea says:

          A bunch of my friends eat Paleo. It is hard to keep it affordable. One thing they do is make noodles from zucchini using a Spirooli gadget.

          I’m sure you have already heard this tip, but I buy whole chickens as often as I can find them. We stretch it as far as possible and then make broth with the bones.

          • Jan says:

            I don’t know what a spriooli is, but will look for one. So far I have just used a peeler to “peel” squash into long strips as a noodle substitues.

        • Andrea says:

          I also wanted to add that I cut as much as possible from other areas so that I don’t have to sacrifice the quality of our food.

          We stay home as much as possible, line dry more than half our clothes, keep the thermostat at 64 or below in the winter and buy produce from a neighbor. All of those things are “green” and they just happen to be frugal!

      • Maegen says:

        A quick clarification that Zaycon (at least the chicken breasts you mentioned) is additive and hormone free, but it is Not organic.

        We love it and get it, but it’s not the choice for folks who want organic meats.

        Love the veggie ideas! I will totally try layering cabbage instead of noodles.

  • Tracy says:

    Going to the library instead of buying new books is a great idea. Another really good idea to go green is to find a local used bookstore where you can take any books you own and get credit towards “new to you” books without any extra cost. I just went to my local used bookstore and traded in two boxes of books I had that I no longer wanted and was able to “buy” 19 books plus got some cash back as well.

  • Susan says:

    The author lost me on #10. Do you recommend items on the “dirty dozen” list of not?

    I read that article. Okay, maybe I’m not in the right frame of mind, but it annoyed me. Fresh fruits and vegetables are supposedly among the healthiest foods you can eat, and now we’re being told they are toxic? Sheesh!

    • Aubrey says:

      I think she means that if you’re going to pay the extra price to buy organic, make sure it’s worth it and buy organic produce from the “dirty dozen” list.
      For example, in our house we pay extra to buy organic lettuce, celery and berries because they’re all on the dirty dozen list. But we don’t buy organic bananas, watermelon, or eggplant which are not on the list.
      Think of it this way, if you peel the fruit/vegetable there’s really no need to buy organic (there are a few exceptions to this rule) because the chemicals get tossed with the peel.
      Hope that helps clear it up!

    • Aubrey did a great job of clarifying this for me. If you are going to buy organic then don’t waste your money on things that generally are low in toxins – instead buy organic for items that are on the dirty dozen list.

      The toxins that are found in these fruits and vegetables comes from fertilizers and other sprays that are used in growing the food. It is pretty frustrating, right?

      Don’t stress out about it too much, Susan. If you search long enough, you’ll be able to find people saying that EVERYTHING under the sun is bad for you. Figure out what is most important for your family and forget the rest. That’s my motto!

      Also, if buying organic produce isn’t something that you can afford, try using a product like Veggie Wash to clean your produce. I use it on all my stuff (and they didn’t pay me to say that!). I’m not sure how much cleaner it gets my stuff, but it makes me FEEL better.

    • Kate says:

      A lot of people are concerned that pesticide and fertilizer residues on non-organic produce are bad for their health, and the “dirty dozen” are supposed to be the crops that use the highest volume of pesticide and fertilizer during cultivation. As far as I am aware there is no scientific evidence that the residues typically found on produce have negative effects on your health; however that’s at least partly because it’s very difficult to set up a well-designed study when the amounts involved aren’t fixed and there are so many other factors. There is good evidence that the workers on third-world farms (who often aren’t given proper safety equipment) and who are exposed to large volumes of many of the pesticides and fertilizers do suffer some serious health problems. There’s also good evidence that the runoff from farms that use them is bad news for both marine and freshwater ecosystems. Those last two reasons are why I often buy organic produce, though I’m not going to drive to a different store if the closest one doesn’t have organic grapes that day or if the price difference is too huge (though in my experience it’s usually not that bad. I’ve even found organic applesauce that’s cheaper than Mott’s, though not as cheap as the store brand.) Unless and until we get better evidence, I can’t see eating non-organic produce being worse for anyone than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.

      PS — The USDA Certified Organic label on FOOD is very strictly regulated and can be trusted; however the term “organic” is not regulated at all on toiletries and cosmetics. The term “natural” is never regulated on anything.

    • Susan says:

      Aubrey, Rebekah, and Kate, thank you for your responses here. You helped with my perspective on this.

  • Claire says:

    I agree that you can to some degree open & close windows & curtains to help maintain the temperature in your home, but I absolutely do not buy that you can do it to the point of keeping your home 20 degrees cooler than it is outside. I live in the mid-Atlantic where summertime highs in the 90s are normal. There is NO way I could go without air conditioning and keep my home anywhere near 72 degrees, especially if I close the windows. Closing the windows would make it even warmer inside since the heat would build up.

    • Katie says:

      to Claire – I’m sure that (like ALL cost-saving tips) there are regional differences; our house here has extremely good insulation (we’re in New England), and our house is usually much cooler inside than outside, on the 85/90-degree days. My basement is even cooler than that (though not due to opening windows and curtains).

    • Andrea says:

      It depends on the design of the house and how much shade you have. If you close all windows and drapes first thing in the morning and keep the door closed as much as possible, you’ll trap cool air inside.

      Another option is to open only the window in the highest point of your house (not the attic). Put a fan blowing out in this window. Then, open one window on the north side of the lowest floor. Keep all interior doors open so you don’t block circulation. The fan will suck the cool air up!

    • Natasha says:

      It also depends on how cool it gets at night. We had to run the A/C all summer because it hardly every got cooler than 80 at night. The house would start out at 80 in the morning and would be over 90 by evening if we didn’t use A/C. I found it much more comfortable to keep the house cool during the day and turn the A/C off once the sun went down. I usually didn’t have to turn the A/C on until after noon.

  • lizajane says:

    I found a delicious recipe in a diabetic cookbook for spaghetti sauce to make from scratch & serve over spaghetti squash. It is super! Better than pasta, I think!!!

  • Koree says:

    Some things I am doing using rags and cloth napkins over paper products. I also am gradually eliminating things like artificially scented candles, perfume to save money and become healthier.

  • Julia says:

    Wonderful ideas, all of them!

    As for meat, I still like to buy the grass-fed meat if possible, but I mix it with something else to stretch it further. For example, I make beef and lentil sloppy joes, or broccoli beef stir fry, or beef and bean burritos.

    My family really misses meat if I try to eliminate it altogether.

  • Melanie says:

    Let’s not forget about paperless statements for our bills! I have all the bills I can sent to me via email to cut down on the paper used to send them via snail mail… after all, it’s just going to wind up in the trash anyway, and no one wants that 🙂

    Beyond that, I definitely second re-wearing clothes until they’re truly dirty… I do SO much less laundry that way, and that saves me money as well as helping the environment. Best of all, I can’t even tell the difference when I wear them multiple days 🙂

  • Great ideas! You can also re-use grocery bags as trash can liners. That way they get used 2 times and I save money not buying them.

    Paper that only has printing or writing on one side can get saved for making lists or kids to color on.

    My husband has been re-using cardboard lately to make a pinboard and pencil holder.

    And you can walk/bike to places that are fairly close instead of driving.

    • Cathe says:

      We don’t have a place to hang laundry outside, so several years ago, we bought a European-style drying rack from IKEA. It can hold a LOT of laundry. We hang up all hang-ables. In the summer, things dry quickly. In the winter, it takes longer, but it puts humidity into the air. There are only three of us now, so it works fine. When there were more of the children still at home, we lived in a place with a clothesline.

      We prefer to use paper bags for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we have lived in areas where the timber industry was the only employer! But we reuse them and the plastic grocery bags over and over. When they get too bad, they become doggy doo bags. When we switched entirely to canvas bags for shopping, I had to BUY plastic bags for that as well as for the small garbage cans throughout the house and for carrying wet clothes and wrapping icky diapers and picnic/work lunches and so many other things! Now I only use the canvas ones when I already have an abundant stock of the plastic ones.

      • Joanne says:

        Love reading this blog. I would never have described myself as frugal and my husband would argue that I am not but there is nothing on these lists of living more Eco friendly and frugally that I don’t do as a normal part of my life. I have a clothes line and indoor drying rack, reusable shopping bags, clothes my blinds on very hot or cold days, we have a lot of books so I have started using the library more in the past year but don’t give away the ones I have bc my husband likes to reread books. My two children just started going to schools that are within walking distance to our home so my new resolution is to walk as often as possible. So far in the past couple of weeks I dropped off once and picked up twice by car. I am not trying to pat myself on the back but sometimes I think people just don’t use common sense. Most people i know have their clothes dryer and a/c running at the same time! That just boggles my mind.

    • Andrea says:

      I’ve been using reusable cloth bags for years. My husband, however, often forgets, so we get one or two plastic bags each week from his purchases to use for the trash cans. If we used all plastic, we could never use them all up for trash.

    • I don’t think I’ve EVER bought bags for my small trash cans. Isn’t that why God made plastic grocery bags? 🙂

  • Angela says:

    I’m disappointed to see a Dirty Dozen list from 2012! Here’s an updated list:
    https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php. EWG and others update the Dirty Dozen list every year. Also, look for the Clean 15 list which is also updated yearly: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php.

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