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Save the Planet, Save Money

Doing your bit to care for the earth can also do your bank balance a big favour. All it takes is making a few simple changes at home.

In the kitchen

This well-used hub of the home is full of planet-saving possibilities. For starters, why not swap plastic wrap for reusable silicone sheets – they also double as baking paper. Consider switching to glass storage containers with bamboo lids instead of plastic, and scrubbing brushes and scourers made of natural materials – coconut fibre, bamboo and sustainably grown wood, for example. All these items have been made with the environment in mind, and last far longer than the disposable or plastic alternatives.

A little earth awareness when cooking can do wonders when it comes to reducing your energy bills. Put lids on pots when you’re heating food or liquids to reduce energy usage, and choose a hotplate closest in size to the pot you’re using to prevent heat from escaping. Boil only the water you need to use if you’re having a cuppa, and consider simmering rather than boiling dishes on the stove to cut energy usage in half. Planning ahead pays off too – cooking several dishes in the oven at once will make the most of the energy you use.

Recycling is great, but what’s even better is not buying the plastic container, packet or box in the first place. Retain glass jars for later use and get into the habit of going to your closest bulk foods store. You can refill everything there from nuts and flour to maple syrup and honey without having to buy yet another container.

In the bathroom

Natural cleaning products are cheap and effective, and far kinder to the environment than chemical-laden sprays, especially if they are refillable from bulk containers. There are numerous ready-made cleaners on the market, or make your own out of vinegar, water, baking soda and your favourite essential oils. Whatever you do, next time you need a new toothbrush, buy one made from wood or bamboo. Plastic toothbrushes sitting in landfill will still be there hundreds of years from now.

In the living room

We all know we should turn off the lights we don’t really need, but leaving electronics on standby is also an energy guzzler. Stand-by power accounts for about 60% of a product’s energy use, and Australians spend more than $860 million every year by using products that continue to draw power even when they’re not in use, generating at least 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Switch off TVs, game consoles, computers and other electronics at the wall, and you’ll save at least $100 a year off your energy bill (Origin Energy).

In the bedroom

Achieving the perfect bedtime temperature is important, but relying on air-conditioning to do it doesn’t make much sense. Maximising airflow in a room and closing curtains and blinds against the heat or cold can make a big difference. If you have a ceiling fan, keep both sides of the fan blades clear of dust to reduce the drag effect, and adjust your bedding to the season.

In the garage

Combining several trips into one, car pooling, walking rather than driving whenever you can – it all saves petrol. Be sure to take roof racks off your car when you’re not using them, avoid carrying around heavy items in the boot, and keep your tyres pumped up to the recommended pressure. The savings can be dramatic over the lifetime of your car.

In the garden

Low-maintenance, waterwise plants native to your local area are kind to the earth, the bees and your wallet. Sweep rather than hose down paved areas, grow your own herbs, and opt for natural fertilisers and pesticides (think worm farms and compost bins). The food you divert into compost bins and worm farms dramatically reduce what you send to landfill, and the resulting greenhouse gases. If you must water the garden, do so in the early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation, and be sure to fix any leaking taps.

Small changes can add up to make a big difference, and if we all change our ways just a little bit, the planet has a much brighter future.

Joanna Tovia is the author of Eco-Wise & Wealthy, a book about the link between saving the planet and saving money.

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