Eco-Friendly 3 Eco-friendly Ways to Reduce Waste and Save Money

by Tom Anderson | April 21, 2022

Curbing climate change and creating a more sustainable community is top priority for people — right down to how and what they spend on.

Recent surveys from environmental technology company GreenPrint show nearly 80% of Americans are concerned about the environmental impact of products they buy. Food Business News reports that a similar percentage says sustainability is essential when deciding what food and beverages to buy from grocery stores and restaurants.

Young people are powering this change in consumer behavior, one the pandemic has only accelerated. "Millennials and Gen-Z are different from older generations in how they view services and the companies they buy from and work for. Each generation younger has stronger and stronger views about wanting to know what's in a product and how it impacts both people and the planet," says Andrew Winston, sustainability expert and co-author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take.

“Put in the larger sense, it's really people wanting to know the story of this thing they bought, where did it come from, who made it, where they paid a living wage and what's the carbon footprint,” Winston says.

People are passionate, but they’re also practical. They want ways to be more sustainable in their everyday lives that are convenient and save them money. Fortunately, community-based and out-of-the-box approaches can help people maximize what they already have while creating cost-effective (even free) ways to get things they need.

Following are a few of the many resources and practices in the growing movement to reduce waste, keep goods out of landfills and build strong networks to share resources.

On a mission to buy nothing

Liesl Clark is proof that effective sustainability movements can grow from simple beginnings. Clark and a friend were upset about all the plastic that washed up on the Pacific Northwest beach in Bainbridge, WA, where their kids played. Rather than turn their back on this problem, it urged them to spend time studying how that waste ended up in their community in the first place.

Their research led to action in 2013 when they started a Buy Nothing Project group online to limit the use of plastic which winds up in every ecosystem (including their local beach) by encouraging people to buy less and share more. “We thought maybe this project would last a month or so with our friends joining us, but in a matter of days we had thousands,” Clark says. Now more than five million strong, the movement’s founders have launched a mobile app to make resource sharing of everything — from appliances to clothes to cleaning supplies — easy. 

Clark says they are focused on destigmatizing the act of asking for goods on the platform. She notes that many people join the movement to give what they have in excess, rather than to look for items they need. “We're trying to show the world that givers and askers balance each other out,” she declares. “And if we all have equal value in a local gift economy, we all feel you are empowered that we are all contributing to the greater good.” 

The Buy Nothing movement is not necessarily against consumption. It’s about building a circular economy, ​​one that promotes sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.

That frees up resources for use where they can have the greatest positive impact. “What we’ve found is that people on our platform are not only saving money with us, but they are freeing up money to support local businesses and spend on education,” Clark says.

Glass jars are reused as hanging vases

Enhancing sustainability through community

Wondering how to get started? Look close to home. Many communities have online local or nonprofit groups that provide advice for sharing everything from resources to skills in more environmentally and budget-friendly ways.

Many of these community groups require only time. That’s especially true of  the practice of time banking, in which a person gives one hour of service and receives a one-hour credit for other community services. (Essentially, time banking is to services what the Buy Nothing movement is to stuff.)

For example, you might offer to paint a room for someone in exchange for them teaching you a foreign language. has a directory of time banks across the United States and states that their “aim is to support the use of TimeBanking to build resilient, caring communities.” 

Many other online communities already provide systems of bartering, sharing and time banking. For instance, your local online resource page or parent’s group often has freebies, rideshare options or volunteer opportunities to explore.

Small choices can lead to a big impact

Sustainability isn’t about radically changing your lifestyle. It’s about making smart, informed choices about your consumption.

Food is an excellent example of the butterfly effect of small changes. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that food waste is likely responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. So, by reducing our personal food waste, we can contribute to addressing a major problem. Shopping from local purveyors, buying produce in-season and signing up for community supported agriculture (CSA) shares are just a few steps to take to not only reduce food waste but also save on grocery bills.

A larger movement to limit food waste is upcycling. Upcycled food is made with ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption. Say, make chips out of sweet potatoes that are found to look unappealing to consumers, so markets won’t sell them. The Upcycled Food Association estimates that 30% of food produced goes to waste each year, and the association has a handy guide to certified products using upcycled ingredients.

Sustainability isn’t about radically changing your lifestyle. It’s about making smart, informed choices about your consumption.
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Local change influences larger action

As small choices add up, large companies are taking notice. Corporations are also responding to the demand of consumers and investors for companies to adhere to a double bottom line.  

Meaning, they expect the companies they support to not only perform well financially but also do good through practices that have a positive social impact. In regards to the environment, there is also the triple bottom line — meaning corporations should balance profit, along with the social and environmental impact of their practices. 

Overall, any solution to climate change will involve changing how people consume goods and services. Winston notes it will be a challenge saying, “This is a really hard time in history.” 

However, he also believes many people are willing to alter their lifestyles, and eager to do so. “There are billions of people living decent lives,” Winston notes. “They have enough, but they are also searching for well-being and happiness. And there seems to be a growing recognition that the way to achieve well-being and happiness is not through stuff.”

A man drops food scraps into a composting container
Tom Anderson

is a New York-based writer and has written for, Forbes, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Money, Monocle and Wired.