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Sustainable Savings: Save Your Money and the Planet

I’m not sure about you, but the climate march that took place in Montreal on September 27th, 2019 is a memory I will never forget. An estimated 500,000 people took part in Quebec’s largest environmental protest. Whether you joined to watch Greta Thunberg speak to the crowd or followed the coverage across the country, everyone was united by a common cause — to join the movement against climate change. 

It may have been the creative and colourful signs that I saw throughout the day or the catchy chants that were being yelled, but it dawned upon me that as a student, it is pretty tough to balance our expenses while prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our planet. After doing some research and getting different opinions from my friends, I’ve compiled some affordable tips that can help you save some money while saving the Earth!

1) Unplug Appliances & Switch Light Bulbs

One annoying (but crucial) part of ‘adulting’ is paying the various bills associated with living in a house or apartment, such as rent and utilities. However, there are some slight changes that you can make to reduce some of these costs, and they usually take less than 30 seconds—the hardest part is just remembering to actually do them. For example, simply unplugging appliances when not using them can reduce your “phantom” energy consumption, which is the power consumed by devices when they are considered “off” or not in use. 

Assuming you don’t have a wide range of electronic equipment, with a large television in most rooms, a wireless laser printer and a home theater system, a student living in a relatively simple home with few electronics can save 80-90 watts of phantom electricity, which translates to around $7 per month. You can use that money for transportation, your next lunch, or to add to your savings. Also, switching to energy-efficient light bulbs instead of regular bulbs will not only triple their lifespan, but will also use about 25%-80% less energy (i.e. more money savings!).

2) Reduce Shower Time

Okay, I know this next one may be tough for those of you who enjoy taking a super long hot shower in the middle of January, but reducing your shower time by merely 2 minutes can save 4 to 10 gallons of water. Not only is this environmentally friendly, but it will also shave a significant amount off of your next water bill at the end of the month. I actually find that taking a short, cold (more like lukewarm) shower in the morning improves my productivity, as opposed to a long, hot one. 

3) Use Reusable Bags

On another note, try using reusable bags for grocery shopping instead of single-use plastic bags. Honestly, you can find some really nice totes or cotton bags on Amazon in packs of 6 for less than $10 which can be used not only for grocery shopping, but for carrying things around on campus or during your next shopping spree. This can save you that extra 10 cents for every plastic bag that you would take from the grocery store. Over the course of a semester, avoiding these 10-cent bags will pay for the reusable ones and then some!

4) Decrease Meat Consumption

This next tip will be the hardest for me to follow because I do love a good burger or steak, but try to decrease your meat consumption. I’m not saying to go cold turkey (no pun intended) and become a vegan overnight, but start with meatless Mondays. Just one veggie-focused diet a week can do a lot for your health, the planet, and your savings. It’s important to remember that the production and distribution of meat requires pesticides, fertilizer, and lots of fuel, which all release greenhouse gases and chemicals throughout the operation. Not only is this harmful for the environment, but it also racks up the cost of each piece of meat. Compared to other forms of protein like beans and tofu, you’ll find that vegetarian options are often much cheaper, so both Mother Nature and your wallet will be thanking you!

I hope you find some of these tips helpful, and remember that every little change adds up and makes a difference for the environment! I started by trying a few at first and found that after making the initial commitment, it’s actually pretty easy to follow through with it. Challenge your friends to do the same, so that we can all enjoy some extra spending money and feel good about helping our beautiful planet!