Countries around the world are facing a recession, the World Bank has warned. At the same time, the world is in an energy crisis, and has seen costs for the average person soar. On top of that climate change is imminent, and although most countries are moving to become more ‘green’, we aren’t quite there yet.
So what does this mean for the average person? Rising costs and less or stagnant income.
To not completely depress everyone reading this, I honestly believe that it is just a tricky phase that will pass - countries will move away from fossil fuels in the next decades and green energy is generally much more locally produced and therefore sheltered from the effects of world conflicts. The future is exciting and green.
But for now, we need to protect our bank account as much as possible. Luckily, many cost-saving measures use less resources and are therefore incredibly good for the environment!
- Glass and Metal instead of Plastic
Every time paper is recycled the fibres shorten and are sorted out during the shredding process. It is estimated paper can be recycled 4-6 times. Plastic is similar, and can only be recycled around 2-3 times. Recycled plastic normally contains a certain amount of new plastic too. Even though some companies like to advertise that they are sustainable by using recycled plastic, it will still break down to microplastics in 400-1000 years, never completely break-down, and continually wreak havoc on the environment.
Glass and metal on the other hand lose no quality during recycling and can be recycled endlessly - they make the best containers! Yes, they need high amounts of energy to be recycled, but in a future with renewable energy the whole process will be completely sustainable. I can’t wait for a green sustainable future!
By the way, if you are already using plastic products, don't throw them out just because they are plastic! Use them until they need to be replaced, and then replace them with a glass or metal product.
Some ideas here are:
- Use metal water bottles instead of plastic bottles - ideally with tap water which will save you money.
- Buy products in deposit glass jars if they are available.
- Bring your glass jars to unpackaged shops, and do your grocery shopping there - plastic-free!
- Reduce Energy Consumption
Energy costs are going through the roof at the moment. In Germany, while households paid around 31,9 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity in 2021, in 2022 it is already at 34,9 cents per kilowatt hour. For a four-person household without electric water heating this will cost around €250 more per year.
Heating from any energy source is also now much more expensive, +90% or even more than +100% in 2022 compared to 2021. That is a lot!
It is time to try to cut-back on our energy consumption at home - yes for the environment, but at the moment more urgently for our bank account.
- The first easy method is to switch to using LED light bulbs and energy-efficient appliances. While most of us have already made the switch to LED lights, it might be useful to double check all lamps and fixtures.
- When you leave a room, be sure to turn all the lights out. This may be a small action, but it will add up over the year.
In Germany we are all currently worried about the heating costs next winter. While we don’t want anyone to freeze or risk their health, it would be wise to reduce the temperature of our homes and apartments as much as possible.
- Put on an extra jumper or an extra layer of socks before increasing the temperature.
- When out of the house, be sure to turn down all radiators.
- If possible, increase the insulation in your home. You could get a professional insulation analysis done on your property, or just try to insulate where you can. Check that all windows are sealed properly, insulate hot water pipes, insulate your roof, close any gaps under doors, use insulating film on cold windows, use insulating curtains, or add carpets to cold floors.
Hot water is also very expensive. Although long warm showers will feel amazing in the winter, try to reduce your shower time (also in the warmer months), and try to avoid baths - these use a lot more water compared to a shower.
- Bring Your Reusable Coffee Mug
A metal coffee thermos can be brought to your local coffee shop, instead of using their plastic-lined to-go cups. Or better yet, make your coffee at home and bring it with you in your thermos - you will save so much money, and it will actually keep your coffee warm for longer! Keep one in your bag for spontaneous meet-ups with friends, so that you are always prepared.
German consumers use 2.8 billion to-go cups per year for hot beverages, an equivalent of 23 cups per person (2019). The cups and lids often end up in the environment shortly after use because they are discarded carelessly or fall out of overflowing waste bins. However, either discarded correctly or incorrectly, this is plastic which will take 400+ years to degrade into microplastics.
At 23 cups per person per year, on average, if a coffee costs around 3 to 4 € in Germany currently, that would save you 70-90 € per year. If you buy coffee more often than this, one coffee per week costs you 160-210 € per year, and if you buy every weekday minus holidays, you are spending 690-920 € per year, just on coffee!
- Hang up your Wet Clothes
Around 45% of private households have clothes dryers. If you use a dryer around three times a week, that will cost you around 50 € a year for an energy-efficient device, and over 180 € for a less efficient device.
- Go Minimalist
Clean out your home and sell anything that you don’t use regularly. Your house will feel less cluttered and you will be giving your unused items to somebody who will use them. You will enjoy having extra money in your wallet, and not even miss the items that you weren’t using anyways - it's a win-win!
- Avoid Plastic Clothes and Fast Fashion
Invest in better quality items that last longer. Look for brands that promote sustainability and fair working conditions while producing quality plastic-free items. Plastic fabrics such as polyester release microplastics every time you wash them, which are very hard to filter out by city filtration systems. The microplastics stay in the waste-water which is released into rivers and oceans. These microplastics end up damaging ecosystems in a variety of ways, and even make their way up the food chain again, and are consumed by humans! It would be great to stop producing so many microplastics.
In addition, if you get a hole or tear in a piece of clothing, instead of throwing it away, why not repair it with a trusty needle and thread! It doesn’t take that long, and you can continue wearing your favourite pieces of clothing for a lot longer. If you want someone to do it for you, support your local tailor and get them to do a subtle or interesting repair. You can even get the size and shape of clothes changed to fit more to your liking, instead of buying something new, which would cost a lot more.
- Use Multi-Purpose Products
Instead of having one shower gel in plastic packaging, one facial cleanser in plastic packaging, one shampoo and one conditioner, each in plastic packaging, why not just use a bar of natural soap? It can be used for all those functions, and is great for your skin and hair! For hair, especially for curlier hair types, an apple-cider rinse may be necessary after washing.
When using a bar of natural soap, you will be able to save on a lot of plastic packaging while using a biodegradable product that is even better for your skin than synthetic shower gels. While pure bar soap can be very drying for skin, because it does not contain any glycerin or extra oils, natural soap is packed with glycerine and oils which help rebuild your skin barrier after washing. By using one product for many functions, you can save money and be more sustainable.
Natural soap is also especially effective at clearing acne, as it is especially effective at killing off bacteria and yeast, while moisturising and strengthening the skin. You could even save money on your expensive acne treatments. While old acne spots can take a while to heal, when using natural soap new acne should stop to form. Always consult a doctor for your acne treatments.