In belated honor of Earth Day and as a show of appreciation for our one and only planet, I wanted to do a little something special. Reducing my negative impact on this planet and saving money are both things that I care very deeply about. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to create a list of environmentally friendly products that also save you money. Many of these products I have used some variation of for years. Others come highly recommended from family or friends. I guarantee you’ll find at least 1 thing you didn’t know about before.
There is a direct correlation between impact reduction & saving money (the more you reduce, the more you save). Reducing impact is awesome. Saving money is awesome. But when you combine both – you’ve got something special.
I have added much of this list to my popular money-saving products page, and hope to curate and refresh it over time. I’d also love to see what your suggestions are to add to this list in the comments, and if you have some good numbers and justifications behind a suggestion, there is a good chance I will add it to the list.
To make this list of eco-friendly products, along with saving money, at least one of the following criteria must be met:
- energy saver
- material saver
- water saver
- pollution reduction
- toxin reduction
Let’s get started.
Home Energy Use Reduction
- Emerson Programmable Thermostat (with wifi): this is one of the top selling, highest rated, and least expensive wifi enabled programmable thermostats out there. Versus a non-programmable thermostat, it could save you upwards of $180 per year. They also provide a huge convenience factor in that you don’t have to mess with the thermostat every time you go to bed, wake up, go to work, or get back from work. And you can monitor and change temperature in your home if you are traveling.
- P3 Kill A Watt Energy Monitor: this nifty little device that tells you how much energy each of your electrical devices is using. You plug it into the wall and then your device into the monitor to get the readout. The goal in using the device is to figure out how much that electrical item is costing you if you keep it plugged in (on or off). Standby powered appliances ratchet up your energy use. This device will actually tell you exactly how much money and CO2 you are wasting with each device. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to energy use.
- TP Link Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring: this device can also monitor energy use, but does it through its app, and it also dubs as a smart plug with wifi that you can control from anywhere.
- Niagara Energy Saving Power Strip: a surge protector that allows you to control if your TV peripherals are getting electricity. You simply plug your TV into the master control outlet and if your TV is off, it shuts down standby power to the other outlets so they aren’t draining energy while your TV isn’t even on. If it’s on, it turns on standby power. It could save you $67 per year.
- Delta Low Flow Showerhead: a 2.5 gallon-per-minute (gpm) unit can save a family of four $260 per year in heating costs alone vs. an older 5.5 gpm unit. That’s a 640% ROI in one year! Not to mention the huge amount of water savings. The Delta low flow showerhead can switch between 2.5 gpm and a super economical 1.8 gpm, without you feeling like you’re not getting enough water.
- LED Bulbs: at prices that are now below incandescents and CFL’s, and with one-tenth of the energy use of incandescents and less than 50% of the energy use of CFL’s, we’re at the point where every light bulb purchased should be LED. The cost and energy savings will be immediate.
- Philips A19 LED bulb: a great bulb that I personally use that has similar light qualities and appearance to an incandescent, but one-tenth of the energy use and a cost of just over $1/each.
- Dimmable LED Bulbs: use only 6W of energy each, but just 3 of them light up my entire kitchen. Their prices have come down significantly – and they are long lasting.
- Clothesline: cheaper and less impactful than the dryer.
- Delta Low Flow Showerhead: see notes above.
- Drinking Water: I once calculated that the cost of bottled water can be more than $1,000 per year more than tap water. That’s ridiculous! The following items will save you serious money almost immediately.
- Water Bottle: cutting down on the waste and cost of individually bought bottled beverages should be considered mission critical.
- Water Pitcher: I drink a lot more tap water (vs pricier alternatives) if it comes nearly ice cold from the refrigerator versus from the tap. A simple water pitcher does the trick. If you prefer a filtered pitcher, this is a good option.
- GE Water Filtration System: if your water smells or tastes not so great, and that is preventing you from drinking it, get a system like this.
- Woodbridge Dual Flush, Water-Saving Toilet: this toilet has an option of 1.0 gallon or 1.6 gallon flush – depending on… you know. This toilet could save you tens of thousands of gallons of water over its lifetime.
Food & Other Consumer Goods Waste Reduction
- Bulk Foods: where you buy your food and what food you buy determines the amount of packaging waste that you produce. The average American produces 4.43 lbs. of trash per person per day. Much of that comes from food packaging. So start bringing your own reusable packaging to purchase food in bulk. For stuff you can’t buy in bulk, shopping at Costco or wholesale stores can also help reduce packaging. I.e. a 36 oz. jar of mayo, for example, produces 3X less waste than 3-12 ounce jars.
- Reusable Grocery Bags: plastic bags are a scourge on this planet – many states are starting to ban them altogether. And paper bags are resource intensive. Reusable bags are stronger, bigger, and can last a lifetime. Many grocery stores are now giving discounts per bag used if you bring your own. You’ll quickly make your money back, have a better experience, and reduce your impact.
- Composting: food waste may be the biggest environmental disaster that nobody talks about. Food waste in landfills produces massive amounts of methane gas, which is 34 times stronger a heat-trapping gas than CO2 over a 100-year time scale.
- Compost Bin (indoors): having in indoor bin, in between trips to the outdoor bin encourages more composting.
- Compost Bin (outdoors): if you have a garden and want healthy soil, you need an outdoor compost bin for your food scraps. This will save you money on soil additives and with many municipalities charging for disposal pickup by the bag, a bin will save you from those fees.
- Coffee & Tea: almost needs its own category, doesn’t it? The average worker spends over $1K annually on store-bought coffee. And there is so much waste in coffee and tea production and drinking these days, and a conscious effort here can make a huge impact.
- Cold Brew Pitcher: I only drink cold brew these days. I like the taste of cold coffee better, the cold brew process is less acidic (easier on the gut), and it saves money. Pitchers like this have a mesh filter, so you can cut down on the cost of filters. This can also be used for fruit/water infusion, loose leaf tea, and other concoctions. Be sure to throw your grinds in the compost bin!
- French Press: as a reader suggested, better coffee, no filter costs or waste. This one has a 5-star rating.
- Reusable K-Cups: people love their Keurigs. Once you realize you can create even better results with fresh ground coffee and your own reusable filters, without all the waste, and at a fraction of the cost, you’ll love them even more.
- Coffee Grinder: Grinding your own coffee is the way to go.
- Loose Leaf Tea Infuser/Strainer: tea, if made from individually packaged tea bags, is also a huge waste. Buying loose leaf tea in bulk and making your own is a much cheaper/less wasteful/more satisfying process.
- Vegetarian Diet: what is the #1 contributor to atmospheric CO2 and man-made global warming? Food production. It takes 16 pounds of grain/soy and 5,214 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of edible beef (the same amount of water one American uses on showers in a year, on average). It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef, while only 2 calories of fuel to produce a calorie from soybeans. By switching a few meals a week (and eventually most meals) to a plant-based diet, you will significantly reduce your personal impact on the environment. Even better, the cost of a vegetarian diet is typically $2-3K cheaper than a meat-based diet per year.
- Toilet bidet: I know this sounds like an unnecessary luxury. Once you get one of these, you will view it as a necessity. A bidet significantly cuts down on toilet paper, which is very resource intensive and pricey these days. And your bum will thank you.
- Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products: with a little water, lemon, baking soda, white distilled vinegar, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and witch hazel, you can make home-made cleaner combos that will clean just about anything, are 100% safe, cheaper, and probably more effective than the store-bought toxic garbage. Here’s an article on how to make non-toxic cleaners.
Lawn & Garden:
The amount of pollution that gas-powered lawn mowers and other yard tools puts out is off the charts. It’s been said that one hour of gas-powered lawn mower use can produce as much pollution as a 100 mile car trip. I’ve covered why you should make the switch to a push reel before. I also endorse a switch to an electric.
- Fiskars push-reel mower: I own this. So much more satisfying than a gas mower.
- Greenworks cordless electric mower: also a great choice.
For other lawn tools – Greenworks has a great lineup.
Also – DON’T WATER YOUR LAWN. The cost of watering your lawn is outrageous, and it’s a huge waste. Tear out your grass, if you need to and plant some things.
To help with the biking part, I wrote a post on bike maintenance 101. Every serious biker should own the following gear to be able to repair and maintain their bike:
- Bike pump: rubber is porous and air molecules will escape at high pressure over time. You need to refill them periodically, even if there are no visible leaks. Make sure you get a pump that can work with both presta and schrader valves.
- 1-2 extra tubes: matched to your tire size (which is listed on the side of your tire).
- Chain lubricant: make sure you use an actual lubricant and not a de-greaser solvent like WD-40.
- Bike wheel rim tape: inside your bike wheel, you will find little screws for the spokes. You must cover these in tape or with a plastic strip to prevent tube puncturing. Measure the inside rim width to match up to the tape width.
- Wedge pack: fits comfortably under your saddle, and can hold all of the following.
- Multi-tool: that includes that includes screwdrivers, wrenches, etc., and allows you to make any adjustments on the fly.
- A tire lever tool: to help you get the tire off the of the wheel and back on, in the event of a flat. A bike mechanic turned me on to Quik Stik – and I will not go back to any other lever.
- Tube patch kit: these are cheap, but you can make your own. They consist of a piece of sandpaper, rubber cement, and patches – and when used properly, can seal tube leaks and holes.
- CO2 inflator: to re-fill your tube with cartridge air when you get a flat on the road.
- C02 cartridges: keep 2 in your pack.
- A tiny spool of duct tape: because it’s duct tape – why wouldn’t you?
If you’re a bike commuter, you’ll benefit from:
- A good helmet: this one can’t be beat for its $20 price.
- flashing bike lights (I recommend this combo pack for the front and rear)
- reflective leg bands: one-size-fits-all. Cheap. They can keep your pants out of your chain (and prevent annoying grease stains). And they improve your visibility through color and reflection.
- a pannier, basket, or a rear bike rack and rear rear pannier, to haul your clothing/laptop/accessories.
- bike fenders: because nothing is worse than biking to work in the rain. Make sure they fit your tire size.
All other bike stuff: check out Nashbar.com. They have excellent deals on complete bikes, clothing, wheelsets, etc.
Buy used whenever you can to save money and greatly reduce your impact. Get familiar with local 2nd hand stores, flea markets, Craigslist, EBay, and Facebook marketplace. Look for refurbished goods with warranties.
Disclaimer: some of these products have affiliate links. No recommendations were influenced by such.