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Frugal and green: Cutting down on waste

Inspired by Stephanie’s post on cutting down on waste,
I begin contemplating areas where we’ve cut down on waste in our home.
As I thought about these things, I realized just how much being frugal
can go hand-in-hand with being environmentally-friendly.

Here are a few of the ways we’ve cut down on waste in our home:

1) Utilizing PaperBackSwap and the library instead of buying books new.
Also, unless it was an exceptional book, I usually pass it on once I’m
finished with it so that someone else might enjoy it and our home can
stay pared down from unnecessary clutter.

2) Buying clothes at second-hand stores at least 50% of the time or more. We also readily accept offers of hand-me-downs from others. What we can’t use, we pass on to someone else.

3) Cooking from scratch as much as possible and thus eliminating much of the packaging from processed and boxed foods.

4) Thinking before I throw something out, "Is there another way I can use this?" If not, then I try to always ask myself if it can be recycled.

5) Reusing foil and plastic bags for as long as possible.
We also use Tupperware or pans/containers with lids instead of
disposable containers whenever we can. (I’ve gone for long stretches
without buying aluminum foil and have found I can almost live without
it. Almost.)

6) Eliminating paper towels and using cloth rags/towels instead.

7) Keeping it simple: Staying home more, not having an excess of clothing or household items, drinking water most of the time, and trying to only buy what we need.

8) Reusing magazines to make greeting cards.

9) Only requesting free samples for items we’ll use.

10) Using baking soda and Basic H for all household cleaning.

those were a few I came up with–what about you? I’d love to hear your
list and be inspired and challenged by how you are reducing waste and
being frugal at the same time!

Originally published March 2008.

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  • Carrie says:

    I have been doing a lot of these things too. I am considering investing in some of those Pyrex storage/cooking containers with lids (often on clearance at Amazon) to further eliminate using foil and plastic wrap. This would also save me time because i wouldn’t have to transfer from Tupperware to microwave.

  • Rachel says:

    In addition to many of the things that you mentioned in your post, we are working very hard to reduce our energy, water and gasoline consumption. We are also careful to keep what we have in good condition so that it will last, mending before tossing. Several linen shirts, which were beyond repair yet spot free, have become dinner napkins. Being green can save a lot of green.

  • Jenna says:

    You can also have a compost pile! Any scrapes from cooking dinner, banana peelings, eggs, grass clippings, etc This is great for making rich soil as well.


  • Alyssa says:

    Great lists!
    I have reusable shopping bags from Whole Foods. They’re really big and nice. I use them at all my grocery stores. My only problem is forgetting to bring them with me! But I love it when I do! The plastic bags I do get I reuse for the small trash cans in bed and bath rooms, though-so that’s good! 🙂

    Seems like we go thru alot of trash and I would love to recycle, but have no idea where to even take it. There’s no recycle bins anywhere near that I’v seen-Any tips?

  • Julie says:

    I’ve started exploring this topic on my blog every Wednesday. This week’s topic for Waste Less Wednesday was pizza sauce and how to use up the leftovers. I pick one item per week (not all are food) and discuss how to reduce our waste.

  • Marion says:

    I am excited about trying Basic H but I was wondering what you clean your floors with. Do you Basic H for everything? I have hard wood and tile and I not sure Basic H will do the trick. Any ideas??

  • Brittany says:

    Instead of disposable diapers, we use cloth diapers (we have two children still in diapers). I even knit wool diaper covers (soakers) rather than buying the plastic covers. Sure, it’s an extra load of laundry, but we hang our clothes to dry on the clothesline rather than using the dryer.

  • Penny Raine says:

    At our library they have magazines you can check out rather than buying, and after they get really past then you can buy them for 10 cents.

    blessings, Penny Raine

  • Darlene says:

    We have recently switched from using a 24 pack of water bottles every two days to using a pitcher with a water filter in it. We leave the pitcher in the fridge and fill up sport bottles when we leave or go to work out. It saves money and waste.

  • Amiyrah says:

    we have become vinegar junkies here in our house. We use it to clean everything now, including our systems(uh, insides? get it?). We have had quite an energy since we started doing ingesting Apple cider vinegar daily, and thus, coffee and other stimulants aren’t consumed in our house anymore.
    Using it for household cleaning really makes me happy because I don’t have to use harsh chemicals anymore with a little one and furry baby running around. Add a drop or two of essential oil to the vinegar and you don’t even have to worry about the smell(which evaporates anyway).

  • Holle says:

    We used to have a real issue with wasting fresh foods, specifically fruits and veggies. Now, instead of buying several different kinds of fruits in one trip, I choose one or two that are on sale and get just enough to last the week (or whatever the time period is). I also am more mindful of what’s in the refrigerator and what needs to be used first, etc. so things don’t go bad.

    My kids have already gotten used to me offering choices for snacks and meals fewer times throughout the week. Most of the time I just decide what we have the most of that needs to be used.

  • Beth H says:

    We do many of the above as well as making our own cloth napkins and running an organic produce co-op from our lanai. It’s kind of like a buying club where a bunch of us pre-pay for produce each week and then I order cases of organics that get delivered right to my front door. I get my produce for free since I coordinate and no gas is burned on my part to go to the grocery store…and it’s all organic!!

  • Sarah says:

    1. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle.
    We try our best to recycle everything we can. We now live in a place that picks up our recyclables for free.

    2. Re-use paper
    We use our printer quite a bit in our house for various projects. I try my best to re-use the back sides of paper for scrap pieces to write lists or for my daughter to practice her drawings. If we can’t reuse it we recycle it.

    3. Use Cloth Napkins
    When we got married I registered for cloth napkins because I thought they were so fun and we love to entertain, well the first four years we’d been married they were probably used less than 10 times. In our quest to reduce our waste we’ve started using cloth napkins all the time. We no longer by paper napkins unless it is for a party or we have a large group coming over. This reduces our waste and saves us money!

    4. Re-use stained clothes
    I have a 4 year old and an 8 month old and inevitably shirts get stains that I miss before I throw them in the laundry or I just can’t get them out. Obviously I can’t give them away so instead of throwing them out we use them as rags so at least they get a little more use. Another idea to re-use stained clothing is to cut it up into smaller pieces and let your child practice their sewing or cross stitching on it.

    5. Eat leftovers
    Throwing out food has recently made me feel sick as it is wasted money and I feel like for us it is not being a good steward of what we have. So, I first try to buy only what we will eat and we try to eat leftovers for lunches. If we have a lot leftover or I want to make more I try to ask a friend if they’d like some; usually they are eager to accept. 🙂

  • Kasey says:

    My biggest thing I’ve started doing is saving old pieces of printer paper that I’ve printed coupons on (and then didn’t use, or sometimes an extra sheet prints out with just the time and date on it, etc.). I stick them next to the printer and use the back of them to print my shopping lists for different stores.

    I save the scraps from sheets I’ve cut coupons out of and cut them up into conveniently sized sheets of note paper. With all the coupons I print, it’s a good way to not break my budget (and fill my trash can) with paper!

  • Melissa says:

    To Jenna – I can sympathize, I have reusable bags from every store I go to, and still forget them half the time.

    As for where to recycle… contact your city’s waste management office. My townhom community doesn’t have recycling containers, but we can take stuff directly to the recycling plant… so I have a couple giant rubbermaid containers that recyclables get tossed into and then every other Saturday or so (or weekly if i’ve been cleaning out things) we just drop the stuff off.

  • a.k says:

    amiyrah, i was always wondering about the apple cider it safe to ingest? does it leave a funky smell aftr you clean the house with it? what do yu clean with vinegar? wood and floorings?

  • Jan says:

    -we stopped our newspaper subscription
    -we opted out of junk mail- there is a website somewhere…
    -I don’t send for free samples due to the packaging
    -I only buy my daughter used clothes
    -I reuse foil and plastic bags
    -I want to try to eliminate plastic food containers
    -I put all leftover vegetables in a bag in the freezer to make soup- same with bits of leftover beef
    -we freeze old bread and go to the park and feed the ducks!
    -any over ripe bananas get frozen for smoothies and excess berries get flash frozen to enjoy in winter
    -I use computer paper twice- just turn it over
    -I make greeting cards on my computer- no envelope required- or send e-greetings
    -the one thing I don’t elimate is paper towels and paper napkins- I especially think paper towels are more hygienic than a dirty dish rag

  • Tammy says:

    We try to get only one bag of trash in the regular container and overfill the recyling container.Every Wednesday is trash pick up.Still buy paper napkins because of the drought but use many plastic containers for food.The paper that I have printed on is turned backwards,put on a clip board sitting on the counter to use for scrap paper.My father taught me how to reuse paper back in the 60’s!He used to bring home old papers then for us to play school with.Also have about 8 cloths bags now.The lady at Kohls almost wouldn’t let me use my bag until I said I refuse to put the clothes in plastic.

  • Leisa says:

    Check out, it is a community-based program where if you have something you are no longer using but it is too good go to the landfill, you can post it online and give it to someone in need. And if there is an item you need, you can post a wanted ad and if someone has something available they will email you. I’ve seen everything from baby formula coupons to cars on my local freecycle!

  • Annie says:

    We’re also part of an organic co-op– saves lots of money and helps the farmers who are being sensitive to the soil!
    I like to make my own bread, and make my own applesauce from the organic apples in the co-op, as well as juice the fruits and veggies for fresh juice instead of store-bought.
    I wash the cloth diapers I use on my daughter every three days instead of every other day.
    Buy and sell on ebay and craigslist (clothes, makeup, furniture, kitchen accessories, dishes, decorations, you name it)! This gets rid of stuff we don’t need in the house, cuts down on driving, keeps from creating new waste, and keeps from having taxes added to everything, as well as saves others and ourselves money on goods.
    Make gifts for baby/wedding showers (I crochet, knit and quilt).
    We have a fruit/vegetable garden and have enjoyed fresh summer squash, okra, and peppers for dinner once a week for the last couple of months. We’re also working on tomatoes, watermelon, corn, peaches, apples and winter squash to mention just a few.
    We spent some money on a water refining system, so have fresh, clean water to bathe, wash, and drink. This keeps us from having to rewash stuff and spend extra time and soap to re-clean. Also when we go on trips we fill a 2.5-gallon water jug so we have fresh drinking water with us and don’t have to buy drinks on the way.

  • Leslie says:

    We have bought our “green” cleaners from a company for about 5 years now, that sells safer products in highly concentrated forms as to reduce waste. We have the convenience of wonderful safe cleaners delivered to our door! Saves on gas as well!! Also, if you refer people to this company, they give you a percentage of what the people that you refer spend every month. After a few referrals, our monthly household consumables (vitamins, laundry items, cleaners, soap, shampoo etc.) are paid for. So we essentially get free, natural products delivered to our door. =)
    We have always used cloth diapers and wipes. We LOVE our cloth diapers (Fuzzi Bunz), we were diaper snobs until I found these diapers. Sooo comfy! I have a few cloth grocery bags…but I always forget them!! We use stainless steel water bottles and pack drinks from home as to not have to use plastic ( for waste reasons and plastic isn’t healthy…).

  • Jaycie says:

    Our biggest “waste” has been using paper towels. It’s so easy to just grab one when your toddler spills. (which is often) I now use cloth rags and switch them out regularly so they don’t get smelly and such. Since our towel load has always been small, it doesn’t seem to add any extra laundry expense. So far. 🙂 I have actually gone to the extreme of having a couple sets of different colored rags so I can be sure the ones I use on my son are ones that haven’t been used to clean up kitchen or floor spills. Even figuring in water and soap expenses, it’s still a lot cheaper and less wastes!

  • Green Mama says:

    It’s great that so many people are clueing in to this idea that going green can be saving green. (It’s what my whole blog is about!)

    We are into gardening and canning. There is no better way to ensure your produce is organic than to grow your own. And since we have a huge supply of canning jars that can be reused every year, our food budget and our waste are cut considerably.

  • Holly in OK says:

    Here’s one I’ve discovered this summer:

    Reread (or read) all the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They’re amazing to read, with all the details and descriptions of how they did things in the olden days, and they’re a real eye opener on being content with what you have. Now I’m not getting rid of all but one dress for the week and one for Sundays by any means, but one of the things that intrigued me most was when they’d move houses. It was always completely put away and decorated within the morning of the first day they moved in. Aack! Can you imagine that now??? But they’ve really helped me to appreciate the things and the conveniences that we have now, and it’s made me want to pare down what I have in fear of that hypothetical day that Laura comes over to see me house and is floored by all the waste and useless crud I’ve collected over the years. 🙂

  • Katherine says:

    Bicycles! My husband has bicycle commuted to work since we moved here 4 years ago, so we can get by with only one car. The fuel econemy can’t be beat! Plus we save on all the taxes, insurance and maintenance expenses of a second vehicle. I ride mine to get to church and around town when I don’t have the kids in tow. The exercise is good for us, the fuel saved is good for the planet, and the money saved is great for our budget! We also downsized our car last summer – when our minivan died, we bought a Toyota Camry wagon that gets at least 10mpg better. It doesn’t have quite as much room for stuff on our frequent cross-country trips, but we’ve managed okay, and with a ‘jump seat’ in the back, it still seats 7 at a pinch.

  • Kristi says:

    My kids are long out of clothe diapers, but they are the most absorbent things made and I keep all the old ones under the sink, tucked under couch cushions and in other frequent spill areas. They absorb spills fast, hold lots of fluids, and have been washed over 100 times each without falling apart. They are wonderful! We also compost and make it a game to see how little trash goes into the dumpster a week. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

  • Danielle says:

    Some great suggestions. I have adopted some of these and plan to adopt even more.

  • We capture the water from our air conditioning condensation spout and use it to water our garden and potted plants. The bucket we use fills up twice a day. I water 1/2 the garden in the AM and the other 1/2 in the PM. With this method I’ve only had to water with the hose about 5 times this entire summer. Saves money, saves water.

  • In line with using magazines to make cards…I reuse most of the Christmas cards I receive every year. The year they are given to me…I display them around a door frame. But when it’s time to put the Christmas items away for the next year, I cut the pictures out and use them the following year as gift tags or to decorate a gift…I might put the pictures on envelopes or wrapped packages that are mailed, or jarred gifts, etc. In some cases, the pictures were so beautiful or the saying on the card so uplifting, I will frame it and add it to my Christmas decorations. It’s just a little way to make things more festive. 🙂

  • In line with using magazines to make cards…I reuse most of the Christmas cards I receive every year. The year they are given to me…I display them around a door frame. But when it’s time to put the Christmas items away for the next year, I cut the pictures out and use them the following year as gift tags or to decorate a gift…I might put the pictures on envelopes or wrapped packages that are mailed, or jarred gifts, etc. In some cases, the pictures were so beautiful or the saying on the card so uplifting, I will frame it and add it to my Christmas decorations. It’s just a little way to make things more festive. 🙂

  • Abbi says:

    I liked your list. We pretty much do those things as well. Some other things that we do are use cloth napkins, cloth diapers (when we are home), we use a compost bin and also take other food scraps to my parents chickens. My kids love to do crafts and they mainly use recycled items like cans, toilet paper tubes, scrap paper, etc. I recycle colored scrap paper (such as envelopes that cards come in or junk mail) and I use those in my making of cards. I also enjoy remaking clothing or using clothes and other fabric scraps to make quilts.
    I also have bags made and ready to use at the grocery store and I do use them…once is a while when I finally remember to bring them in the store with me!

  • Jessica says:

    We refill those foaming soap dispensers. It makes soap last a LOT longer and we don’t throw the bottles away (though we’d probably recycle them anyway, but reusing is better!). Just put a little bit of dishwashing liquid in the bottom, add water and gently mix. Works like a charm!

  • Mandy says:

    One way I have learned to be frugal and to go green is to experiment with halves. Don’t always assume you need the portion recommend on the directions. When my shampoo gets down to half the bottle, I dilute it with half water. I always use less laundry detergent and less dish washing detergent than called for. I also half my dryer sheets and my clothes come out just as soft. Always be willing to try less or half strength of anything. If you don’t like it you can always go back to full strength.

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