5 eco-friendly lifestyle changes you can make without spending a penny

One of the most off-putting things about trying to become more eco-friendly is how much extra it can cost. Products slapped with ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ labels are seen as premium items and can therefore add premium price tags, and independent shops understandably charge a little more to make their living.

Firstly, this isn’t true of all items and stores, and it’s definitely worth shopping around to look for some cheap, or at least reasonable, swaps you can make. Check out the Ecoetry resource list for help and inspiration.

Secondly, there are subtle changes you can make to your day-to-day without so much as even looking at your bank card. In fact, these tips will save you money along the way, so you’ll even be able to look at your bank card without sobbing.

1. Change your water habits

You may not realise this thanks to our wonderful rainy climate, but water is a precious resource. Droughts are becoming more frequent. Water suppliers are using more and more electricity to treat and pump the water we waste in our homes.

Here are a few ways to save that sweet eau:


I’m as much one for daydreaming my way to wrinkly fingers as the next guy, and genuinely believe that a hot shower is the cure for many ailments. However, one minute less in the shower each day can save you approximately £8 a year, so try and keep a handle on your mind wanderings. You could even try taking less showers in a week if you’re brave enough. Just don’t go too far the other way and stop washing altogether… no-one will appreciate that.

Boiling the Kettle

Filling your kettle only to the amount required can save you around £6 a year. Maybe you can make a game out of it – if you get the amount of water spot on for the family brew, you nominate the person for the next round.

Other areas

You should only run the tap to rinse your toothbrush rather than leaving it running throughout your dental experience. Also, try not to flush the toilet after every tiny piece of toilet roll. You don’t have to stick to the ‘if it’s yellow’ rule, but ease up on that flushing trigger finger.

Investing in a £2 washing up bowl rather than washing up directly under the running tap makes a huge difference, too. Ten times less water, in fact.

2. Switch off

Sure, you’ve heard it all before, but switching off appliances at the wall genuinely does make a difference. If everyone in the world switched off their lights and appliances when they’re not in use, we would save approximately one hundredth of all carbon emissions.

Carbonfootprint.com have a great resource for seeing how much standby modes are costing both you and the planet.

Households can save up to £50 a year by switching off lights and appliances when they’re not in use. Plus, you get to watch your partner/housemates/nan go mad when they can’t figure out why the toaster’s not toasting. As a bonus for reading this far, have a wonderful(?) cartoon I made of a hedgehog getting angry at a switched-off toaster:

A hedgehog, mad at his ruined breakfast (don't ask).
…I don’t know either.

3. Buy fewer clothes

This one may be difficult for the fashion-focused, but it’s true. Less clothes mean less produced and less to landfill. Approximately £140 million worth of clothing ends up in landfill every year, with as much as £30 million-worth sitting at the back of wardrobes, waiting to be used but ultimately in clothing purgatory.

If you do find yourself having a clearout, make sure to take as much as possible to charity shops and recycling boxes. Some shops like H&M even offer vouchers for taking part in their recycling scheme, accepting clothes in any state, brand, or quality.

4. Unsubscribe from newsletters

Do you no longer look at the four-digit inbox tally because it stresses you out? Next time you get an email that you’ve subconsciously trained yourself to ignore, spend five seconds scrolling to the bottom of it to unsubscribe. Not only will this reduce that horrendous number of emails and remove the temptation of buying more comfy jumpers whenever there’s a sale on at New Look (ALL the time), but it also actually saves carbon.

Internet carbon emissions predominantly come from running the servers full of web pages, databases, applications and downloadable files, which requires a lot of electricity. The average cost to send, receive and open an email equates to 10g of carbon dioxide, which considering the average worker receives 121 emails a day, is the equivalent of driving 744 miles in an average car.

This press release by OVO Energy sums up the consequences of our inboxes well.

5. Educate yourself

One of the best possible ways you can help to make a difference is by arming yourself with knowledge. There are plenty of scientific facts and statistics readily available on the internet about the current state of the world. You’ll be amazed at just how much you don’t know.

Look into the main factors of climate change, research the things you can do to reduce your contribution to it, and start getting a plan of action together to implement the changes. Watch documentaries (and feel the calm of Attenborough’s voice washing over you), look up your local council’s sustainability pledge, and the true cost to the planet of the everyday things you buy.

Then you’ll feel ready to make educated choices on your future spending, and you can spread the good word of everything you’ve learnt with your local communities to get them on board too. Sustainable lifestyles will only get easier to achieve with more people trying to achieve them.

Bonus ideas for the budding seamstress/seamster(?)

If you’ve had a sort-through and have a pile old clothing or bedding to get rid of, have a go at repurposing them into reusable items, such as:

  • cloth bags for zero waste shopping
  • dishcloths
  • flannels
  • pet blankets
  • makeup remover pads

Here’s a peg bag I made from the top half of a dress I no longer wanted, with convenient handles built in!:

A peg bag made from the top half of a dress

When first deciding to make sustainable changes, it’s tempting to buy all of the environmentally-friendly products there and then, but remember that this is only worthwhile if you’ve gotten as much use out of the previous items as you can. In the meantime, try the above changes to save up for that new bamboo toothbrush and aluminium lunchbox.

Are there any other free changes you’ve made to your lifestyle that aren’t in this list? Share them in the comments below!

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