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Help save the planet -- and your wallet

Just in time for Earth Day, here are some money-saving moves that are also eco-friendly.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 19, 2012 5:35PM
Image: Money in Piggy Bank (© Flame/Corbis)Do you pour laundry soap right up to the line on the cap? Fill both detergent cups in the dishwasher? Cover your toothbrush with toothpaste, then let the water run while you brush your teeth? Wash your hair every day?

You don't have to do those things. Really.

At the risk of sounding like a Ziploc bag washer, let me point out that small changes can add up to big savings. Since they also have an environmental impact, why not tweak a few habits in honor of Earth Day? (It's April 22 this year.)

Laundry is a great example, on several levels. (Post continues below video.)

Some tips:

  • Use one-half to as little as one-fourth of the recommended amount of detergent, unless clothes are heavily soiled. Impact: less detergent ending up in environment; fewer bottles to recycle (or throw away); 50% to 75% cash savings. Or try homemade laundry detergent, for up 66% in savings.
  • Wash in cold water. Impact: less energy needed to heat water; estimated savings of 64 cents per load.
  • Wash less often -- e.g., several uses of bath towels or judicious re-wearing of clothes. Impact: all of the advantages noted above; less wear and tear on your clothes and linens; lower water and wastewater bills.
  • Hang laundry. I air-dry on wooden racks or put items on hangers in the bathroom. Impact: fewer quarters at laundromat, or lower utility bills.

Cheaper and greener

Some other frugal/environmental combos:

Use a pea-size dab of toothpaste instead of slopping it over every bristle. You'll throw away fewer tubes and boxes, and save up to 75% a year.

Don't let the water run while you brush. Turn off the shower while you wash your hair. Try a "Navy shower."


Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators. The savings are hard to estimate because water costs vary widely but your utility bills will drop.

Take fewer pills. Do you pop an ibuprofen at the first sign of pain? See "8 ways to get rid of a headache" for some simple (and free!) alternatives. The result: fewer boxes and empty bottles in the trash or recycling, and more dollars in your wallet.

Don't fill both detergent cups in the dishwasher. In fact, don't fill even one of them all the way. According to a New York Times article, many people use way too much soap.

Whenever possible, use repurposed cloth instead of paper towels to clean the house, wipe up spills or drain salad greens.

Oh, and go ahead and wash those Ziploc bags. Some of mine are on their fourth tour of duty for freezing wild blackberries. I don't reuse ones that have held raw meat -- we all have our sticking points -- but I'm happy to wash and re-use any others until they develop holes. I can't say how much money I've saved, but I can say that it's been at least six years since I had to buy bags.

Readers: What small savings pay off for you? Do you do these things because eco-friendly or economically savvy?

More from MSN Money:

Apr 20, 2012 7:42PM
I am a fan of the "thrifty is nifty" club. My tea and coffee. Do ya really need it that strong? I use one tea bag to make 64 ounces....a half gallon...of iced tea and it works great. So for right around 1 cent I get about 6 glasses of iced tea. As for coffee, I find that 2.5 scoops works just fine to produce about 9 cups of coffee. This means a 13 ounce can of coffee generally lasts about a month. Aaaaand I scored a great deal on coffee at $1.66 per can with coupon. Sooo coffee for the month cost me $1.66 or about 5.5 cents per day or a little more than .6 of a cent per cup. That's right....I have entirely too much time on my hands....
Apr 22, 2012 1:50AM
Don't buy microwave popcorn. Take a lunch paperbag and line the bottom of the bag with popcorn kernels. Then crease the bag several times. Take a small plate(the one for the coffee cups) for weight to hold the bag down. set the microwave for 2.5 or less minutes(depends on microwave). Viola you have microwave popcorn. You can reuse the bag up to 3 times. Nuke some butter and ad salt. You have a tasty snack.
Apr 21, 2012 3:46PM
I like my tea a bit stronger so I use four teabags for the same amount of water. But you do inspire me, Jestjack. Coffee cup
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.