7 ways to be more sustainable and save money

Making greener choices isn’t just beneficial for the environment, it can also save money. In conjunction with Which? we’ve collated a list of simple consumer product swaps you can make.

  1. Swap takeaway cups for a flask or reusable coffee cup

Disposable takeaway drinks cups usually cannot be recycled so they mostly end up in landfill, 16 billion paper cups are thrown away every year in the UK. Opting for a reusable cup or vacuum flask, which retains heat through double-walled insulation, helps both the planet and your wallet. 

Some high street coffee chains offer discounts and incentives to customers who bring their own reusable cups. For example, Pret a Manger offers 50p off drinks for reusable cup users and Starbucks offers a 25p discount. Costa and Caffe Nero offer perks to members of their loyalty scheme, such as extra stamps towards a free drink. If you’re buying 3 drinks per week, that’s a potential saving of £78 per year. 

  1. Swap cling film for beeswax wraps

Plastic wrap – or cling film – can take decades to decompose. An alternative to cling film is beeswax wrap. Which? previously tested eco-wrap options including compostable cling film and recycled foil and beeswax came out on top. They are malleable, keep food fresher for longer and can be reused for up to a year – or longer if you re-wax them. At the end of their lifespan, you can chop them up and put them in your home compost to decompose naturally.

Although they can be pricey up front, they should save you money and reduce kitchen waste in the long term provided you use them correctly.

  1. Swap disposable freezer bags with reusable freezer bags

Disposable freezer bags are generally cheap and sold at most major supermarkets, however, they’re unlikely to last more than one or two uses and contribute to landfill when thrown away. 

Reusable freezer bags cost a little more upfront and are sold in smaller packs, but they are built to last and in terms of cost per use you’ll be sure to recoup the cost through their long lifespan. They can also help reduce food waste.

  1. Exchange plastic bottles for reusable water bottles

It’s estimated that 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought in the UK each year and plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose naturally. 

Opting for a reusable water bottle can save money in the long term – as it reduces the need to buy disposable bottles of water – as well as cutting back on plastic waste. More and more cafes and businesses allow you to fill a bottle with tap water for free. Schemes such as Refill have introduced refilling stations up and down the country. 

Which? tested a large range of reusable metal, plastic and glass water bottles for adults and children, and found options for as little as £3.

  1. Use reusable makeup pads

Instead of buying single-use makeup removal products such as face wipes and cotton wool pads, consider buying reusable cleansing pads instead. Not only will this reduce waste, it will also save money. 

  1. Use eco-friendly menstrual products 

In the UK, disposable sanitary pads and tampons have dominated the shelves for a long time. But as concerns about disposable products, single-use plastic, and their impact on the environment grows, more and more reusable and sustainable options have become available.

Studies have found that reusable menstrual products such as menstrual cups, period pants and reusable tampon applicators and pads tend to have a lower environmental impact than single-use products overall – and switching to a reusable option could also save money over time.

  1. Swap shower drain unblocker for a chemical-free option

Some manufacturers claim their drain-unblocking products use natural ingredients that are less damaging to the environment, but Which? found that that’s not always the case.

Instead of opting for an eco-drain unblocker, try removing the chemicals altogether and opting for a physical unblocker such as a Flexisnake. It’s a chemical-free, manual method of removing contents from a blocked drain. They are reusable, which means you’ll be saving money too. It costs around £7, but it can last years as opposed to a one-use bottle of drain unblocker.

Says Ele Clark, Which? Money Expert, said: 

“Many of us are looking for ways to lead more sustainable lives. However, with the cost of living crisis adding pressure to household budgets, eco-friendly choices are going to appeal more if they also save us money. 

“Fortunately, whether it’s using your own coffee cup on your morning commute or switching what you use to wrap food, there are countless ways you can make your lifestyle more sustainable while also saving money.”

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Chris Price