Emma Murphy, co-editor of Portsmouth Green Party’s Shades of Green blog, shares the challenges and opportunities of combining environmentally-friendly living with a tight budget.
You may not know this about me, but I am really, really cheap. Cheaper than I, as a middle-class person with a fair amount of savings and a fairly steady income, have any right to be.
So cheap that on the last holiday I took with a friend, we would have had to pay £4 to sit together on the flight, and I rejected this completely. She didn’t even push the matter because she knew I’d bitch about it being a waste of money.
I suppose, if you’ll allow me this brief moment in a therapist’s chair, it stems back to my childhood, when my family didn’t have a lot of money and debt was the elephant in every room of our house.
Sometimes this cheapness conflicts with my environmental beliefs.
For example, I have to buy some tampons because, while an advocate of reusable period care, I will be on holiday and going swimming during one of my periods this year. (I have still not mastered the menstrual cup.)
The organic cotton tampons I need to buy cost £4 for a pack of 20. By comparison, the supermarket own-brand, terrible-for-the-environment, plastic-filled tampons cost about 99p for 16. I’m outraged by this, despite having to buy 1 or 2 packs a year. (Can you imagine if I was using tampons all the time or if I had any kind of medical issue with my period that made it heavier or more frequent?)
What I’m saying is that I do understand why people choose the cheaper option over the more environmental one in most cases, particularly in such a dire economic time when the government prefers to make sure the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. (I wrote this on my phone when it was still working, and it autocorrected my sentence to read ‘the poor stay put’ and to be honest, I think that might be how the government feels too.)
However, this article is not intended to be a depressing read on how caring for the earth can ruin your bank balance. Instead, I want to focus on how it can actually save you money. In a way, the money you save can pay for more expensive tampons and other eco things. But even if you only choose to do the green things that will save you money, it’s still a way to cut your impact on the planet.
Switch to reusables
While plastic is the biggest problem, single-use anything isn’t great because of the energy used to create it. Plus, a one-off purchase that might be a little more expensive is still cheaper than multiple disposables.
To start with, why not try a reusable water bottle, shopping bag small enough to fit in your handbag/backpack, a lunchbox, and a handkerchief?
Use what you have
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I don't know who needs to hear this, but: Minimising your waste does not have to make a good photo on Instagram is order to be good for the planet. Many times eco bloggers will promote their efforts to minimise waste with attractive bamboo cutlery, mason jars, and metal straws, which make being green look super fashionable. While we love IG likes as much as the next person and we appreciate that some people need to be convinced with a cute lunchbox, saving the planet is not a trend, it's vital to our survival. This isn't to bitch about the people who buy eco things and want them to be pretty. (We certainly have enough of that on our page.) Rather, we want to tell you that's its okay (and more eco) to use the plastic lunch box that you have from school, rather than buy a brand new tin one now. And you shouldn't feel any shame about posting it on IG to share your waste saving story. That's why we posted this photo of a lunch box that PGP member Emma used to get pastries from a shop for a picnic today, rather than picking up their plastic bags. Share your #uglyzerowaste images with us by tagging us in your photo or story or commenting down below. #zerowaste #reduce #reducereuserecycle #refill #reuse #green #eco #plasticwaste #cuttingwaste #Portsmouth #southsea
Overconsumption is a big problem because it involves extra materials and energy to create a product, energy to ship and store it, and finally energy to get it from the store to your house.
Where I can, I use what I have rather than buying anything. For example, for handkerchiefs I use the old napkins that belonged to a table cloth that had been thrown away. (Someone knocked cherryade over it when they were small and the stain never came out.)
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PGP member Emma has recently been on holiday and she saw this ingenious upcycling idea for cassette tapes. Is anyone in the local Portsmouth area doing this? Let us know. #Portsmouth #southsea #havant #copnor #reuse #recycle #upcycle #LocalBusiness #LocalCrafters #CassetteTapes
I love buying second hand. Most of my clothes (and books) are from charity shops and at least three pairs of shoes came from my parents.
By choosing pre-loved items, you are taking something already in the waste stream and giving it a second life.
You can also get rid of items on there, that you might otherwise have to take to the tip or pay for the council to collect. (Think about broken furniture, which some could repair or use for firewood.)
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One of our members got their litter picker fixed at the Repair Cafe Portsmouth at Buckland United Reform Church, so they decided to do some clear up the surrounding area. Want to check them out? Www.repaircafeportsmouth.org.uk #repair #repaircafe #eco #green #makedoandmend #mend #reducereuserecycle #portsmouth
My main repairs are small sewing things for clothes, holes in leggings, underwire springing free from bras, and rips in the seams of jumpsuits. I can (sort of) do these myself. Or with supervision from a more seasoned sewer.
For anything more complicated, like my currently glitching phone, I defer to the Repair Cafe, which is donation-based. (Excuse me, while I cry over my phone.)
I never learnt to drive, primarily because I didn’t have the money or the time. (Now, I have the money, it’s mostly an eco thing.)
What with all the costs associated with driving, from lessons to car purchase to tax to insurance, it’s so much cheaper for me to take the bus, coach, or train (or even to walk on a dry day.)
As an added eco benefit, you can use e-tickets for the bus and coach to save paper (I don’t know if you can with the train). The First Bus app also saves you money on day passes (often less than a return), singles, and passes (week, month, year).
Okay, that’s about it from me. Do you have any other ways to save pennies and the planet? Let me know in the comments below.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Green Party’s Shades of Green blog.