Quick ways to go green and save

28 quick ways to go green & save

Cut costs and make money reducing, reusing and recycling

Going green doesn't have to cost the Earth. In this guide we list simple MoneySaving ways to be more environmentally friendly, including getting paid to recycle, switching to reusable sanitary products, cutting your plastic use and getting cash for old mobiles. Here's how to save money while also helping to save the planet.

This is the first in our series of green MoneySaving guides. Here we focus on simple, everyday ways to go green and save, but we're also researching new guides on green banking and mortgages, green utilities and green travel. If you've feedback or tips you think we should add, tell us in the MSE Forum.

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  1. Get freebies & vouchers for recycling old towels, clothes, empty beauty containers & more, for example, free MAC lipstick & £5 off at M&S

    A number of high-street retailers offer freebies or discounts on future purchases if you recycle items such as clothing, home textiles, and empty beauty containers in their stores. What's more, certain retailers such as H&M reward you for recycling ANY old clothes or home textiles (for example, old towels, socks or sheets), whatever the brand or condition.

    We've listed a number of high-street stores below which offer incentives for recycling. Let us know in the forum if you spot any others.

  2. Get cash for recycling your old mobile, for example, £281 for an iPhone 11

    There are sound environmental reasons to recycle your old phone, given there are potentially noxious substances in decaying handsets. It's reckoned cadmium batteries can infect the water system, while lead, brominated flame retardants and beryllium can all harm the environment if disposed of incorrectly. So whatever you do, DON'T throw your old phone out with your rubbish.

    Even better though, you can get paid to recycle your mobile. There are specialist, super-speedy companies which will take an old phone and give you cash in exchange. For example, we found one that pays £281 for a 256GB iPhone 11. And if your handset's really old and not worth anything, they'll at least dispose of it safely.

    How to sell your old mobile

    To check lots of firms at speed and ensure you find the top payer, it's best to use one or more comparison sites. No single comparison site covers ALL the mobile phone recyclers, and the price you're offered can vary depending on the site you're checking on, so ideally search all three of the big ones. See the Sell old mobiles guide for full details and our suggested order to check them in.

    What happens to the phones?

    Once they're tested, if the phones are decent, they're shipped abroad and flogged. For example, Envirofone sells phones in the Middle East, Far East, Africa and South America.

    If it's a particularly high-value phone, there's a chance these companies will sell it on eBay* to get the most money. Therefore if you find your phone is high value, you may want to consider doing that yourself and cutting out the middleman (see the eBay selling tricks guide).

    If your phone is of a lower value, then it'll be broken down and sold off as component parts. And if it's not worth anything, these companies will dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way.

  3. Don't just reuse plastic bags – sell them (at some stores)

    In May 2021, the Government mandated a 10p charge (previously 5p) for single-use carrier bags, so it's a MoneySaving no-brainer to reuse old plastic bags or take your own bags with you to the shops.

    But unlikely as it may sound, Morrisons and Ocado will actually pay you to take used plastic bags off your hands when you shop online.

    • Morrisons – 10p a bag, only accepts its own bags. The total value of the bags is deducted from the cost of your current order, but you can only return Morrisons bags, and bags from your current order can't be returned until the next one.

    • Ocado – 10p a bag for its own bags, but will still recycle bags from any supermarket. Like Morrisons, it deducts the total value from the cost of your current order. It will accept bags from any supermarket (up to a maximum of 99 per order), but you'll only get 10p for each Ocado bag.

    Returned bags are recycled into new ones – plastic waste reduced and money saved in one fell swoop.

  4. Don't junk your junk, flog it – some make £100s selling their clobber on eBay, Facebook & other second-hand sites

    If you're having a mass clear-out, don't automatically head for the tip. Not only is finding your cast-offs a second home the environmentally friendly option, you can also make some serious cash from your attic:

    I'm having a mass clear-out, and in the last 90 days I've sold £1,029 of stuff on eBay, from clothes and computer games to candles and toys.

    - Fiona

    For full help on how to do it, see our 40+ eBay selling secrets guide and 29 Facebook selling tips. If you've unwanted clothes, you may find specialist sites win – see 9 ways to sell clothes.

    Unbelievably, you can even make money selling actual rubbish – old loo roll tubes, jars, corks and more. See our Flog your rubbish for cash guide for the lowdown.

  5. Get PAID to recycle plastic bottles – though for now, it's only being trialled at a few stores

    The Government's long been trailing plans for a plastic bottle deposit return scheme in England. Essentially the idea is to pay people to recycle – the scheme would see a small charge added to the cost of drinks, which would then be refunded when empty bottles are returned.

    The scheme hasn't yet launched though, and the latest is that it "won't happen until late 2024 at the earliest" – see our Plastic bottle deposit scheme MSE News story for full details. There are similar plans in Scotland to charge a 20p deposit on bottles and cans from 16 August 2023 – the idea is you'll get the deposit back when you recycle.

    In the meantime, a number of supermarkets have been trialling 'reverse vending machines', where you insert empty plastic bottles and receive money off your shopping in return. For example, Tesco gave this a go back in 2018, though its trial has now ended. Morrisons has also trialled a similar scheme, though it hasn't got back to us to confirm whether the trial is still running in any stores.

    There are a few places you can try this today – here are the stores we're aware of, but let us know where else is doing it in the Green MoneySaving forum thread:

    • Iceland is running a trial in five stores where you get a 10p voucher for each bottle. The stores are Hillhead (Glasgow), Merry Hill, Belfast Park Centre, Fulham and Leeds Merrion centre.

    • Lidl is running a trial in six stores where you get a 10p voucher for each empty Lidl drinks container (including glass/plastic bottles and cans). It won't accept items purchased from other stores. You'll get a voucher for up to £2.50 off your next shop. The stores are Broxburn, Dundee, Edinburgh Granton, Glasgow Yoker, Hamilton and Kirkcaldy.

    • Sainsbury's is running two different trials in a number of its stores. Ten stores have reverse vending machines, where you get a 5p voucher for each bottle (up to 500 bottles). These stores are Braehead, Denny, Linlithgow, Berryden Road, Mansion House, Garthdee, Darnley, Muirend, Murrayfield and Newcastle Northumberland.

      In six stores, it's running the trial in a slightly different format. Instead of a reverse vending machine, you need to hand the empty bottles to a member of staff, and you'll receive 10 Nectar points per bottle. These stores are Bishopton Dargavel Village, Edinburgh Craighall Road, Edinburgh South Clerk Street, Glasgow George Street, Glasgow Gordon Street and Winchburgh Main Street.

    Even if you can't get paid to recycle, it's always worth disposing of your plastic bottles the correct way. Some local authorities now issue fixed penalty notices to residents for not putting the right rubbish in the right bin, resulting in a £60 fine – and that definitely ISN'T MoneySaving.

  6. Get up to 50p off your hot drink with a reusable cup

    You can save money by taking your own cup to cafés and coffee shops. Stores will accept any brand of cup, so if you have a reusable Starbucks cup, you can still use this to get a discount at Pret a Manger, and so on.

    We've full details in our Coffee shop discounts blog, but here are some examples of the savings:

    • 50p off Paul and Pret a Manger
    • 45p off Leon
    • 30p off Starbucks (the discount's 25p, but you'll also save on its 5p charge for disposable cups)
    • 20p off Greggs

    This is an obvious win in terms of plastic waste saved. And you can get your own reusable cup from as little as £1 (these need to have a lid, be clean and be able to fit into a coffee maker). That means it would only take a few drinks for you to make your money back – every use after that represents money saved.

  7. Don't just recycle plastic – reuse it instead if you can

    The more plastic you can reuse around your home and garden, the less goes to waste. Here are a few ideas:

    • Use smaller plastic bottles as cane toppers on your vegetable garden – as well as making the tops safer, they help keep birds away and can be used to support netting.

    • Keep the mesh bags that some fruit and veg come in and reuse them when buying loose fruit and veg.
    • Save up yogurt pots and other small plastic pots to start growing fruit and veg in before moving them to your garden – MSE Rhiannon's growing lettuce this way.

    • Tubs containing the likes of margarine and ice cream can be reused as dividers in drawers and cupboards.

    • Jars with plastic lids can be used to put refills of herbs and spices in, or to hold nails, screws, bolts and more.

    See our 40+ MoneySaving household hacks for more ways to avoid waste and save. You can find loads of other ideas on the Reuse, Recycle and Save Money forum thread – and you can add your own, too.

  8. Refill your water bottle for FREE

    According to plastic recycling charity Recoup Recycling, the UK uses 36 million plastic bottles EVERY DAY – so it's fair to say they're a significant source of plastic waste. So why not see if you can refill for free rather than buy another bottle?

    • The free Refill app lists businesses which participate in the Refill scheme – and while the app itself has mixed reviews, it can be handy. It lists over 30,000 locations – cafés, restaurants, shops, hotels and more – which will let you fill up your own bottle or flask even if you're not a customer, across 100ish parts of the UK where the scheme operates.

      You can also use the app overseas now, with Refill 'stations' cropping up in Europe, the US and even as far afield as Australia, India and Singapore.

      The app has hygiene advice for refill stations, to ensure everyone stays safe during the pandemic.
    • You can now refill your water bottle for free in places such as Costa and Premier Inn in England without needing to be a customer. This is part of a Water UK campaign that aims to enable people to refill for free in 10,000s of places in England – see the Refill your water bottle for free MSE News story for full details.

    • Many airports have water fountains after security where you can fill up a water bottle. This means you avoid the rip-off prices charged for bottled water in departure lounges and on planes, as well as reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce. We've full info on where to find 'em in Overseas Travel Tips.

    Reusable water bottles start from about £2. With a standard 500ml branded water bottle usually costing about 50p, that means you should have paid for your reusable bottle within four uses.

  9. Stop wasting food and drink – stale bread, old bananas and broccoli stems CAN still be eaten

    Are you always throwing out food that’s gone off? According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) charity, better food labelling guidance could save shoppers £1 billion a year, by prolonging the lifespan of food and stopping edible items being thrown out. So if you're prone to emptying your fridge into the bin, DON'T – there are simple ways to make sure you don't waste food, money OR environmental resources.

    We've a full list of tips and tricks in our 12 ways to STOP wasting food and drink blog, but here are a few to get you started:

    • Make sure you know the difference between 'use-by' and 'best-before' dates. This can stop you chucking out a lot of food unnecessarily. Eating anything past its 'use-by' date is risky, but 'best-befores' don't usually have anything to do with safety and are simply the manufacturer's view of when the food's no longer at optimum quality. See full info in Use-by vs best-before dates.

    • Check you're keeping the RIGHT food in the fridge. Storing food in the best place will ensure it stays fresh for longer and cuts waste. It's a source of much debate, but according to the WRAP, eggs, apples and tomatoes SHOULD go in the fridge, while potatoes, bananas and bread shouldn't. See full food storage help.

    • Turn stale bread into French toast, croutons, bread pudding and more. There are a whole host of recipes you can try to reuse stale bread.

    • Try new recipes for leftovers to empty out your fridge. Use a leftover food recipe finder.

    • Don't throw broccoli stems away – they can taste just as good. Many just throw it away, but if you trim off the tough outer layer and cook the stem with the rest of the broccoli 'florets', the stem can taste just as good (if not better).

    • Turn old bananas into milkshakes, banana bread, banana pops and more. See ideas for using up old bananas.

    Important – only eat leftovers when it's safe to do so. We're talking here about stopping avoidable food waste, but with older leftovers, safety is of course paramount. So don't ignore 'use-by' dates, and even with 'best-befores', use common sense.

    The Food Standards Agency told us: "Food with a 'best-before' date – which concerns food quality and not food safety – should be safe to eat after the stated date, although it may not be at its best quality. Use sensory cues to determine whether the food is suitable to eat, be that looking for visible mould on bread, tasting to see if biscuits or crisps are stale, or smelling some dairy products (with 'best-before' dates) to see if they have soured."

  10. Rescue leftover grub from Pret, Costa, bakeries & more (plus offer up unwanted food lurking at home)

    Instead of binning surplus food, you can sign up to Olio and offer it to your local community – think Freecycle for food. It's a great way of avoiding food waste, as well as getting some decent food for free.

    While many items on Olio come from people emptying out their store cupboards, major supermarkets and retailers such as Pret a Manger – as well as independent cafes, bakeries and shops – have now jumped on board to offer up leftovers at the end of the day.

    Volunteers collect any spare food from these stores and list it on the app (you collect food from the volunteers rather than the stores themselves). For example, we've seen posh loaves of bread and pastries, plus Pret yogurt pots and sandwiches, all going completely free.

    Once you've found something that tickles your fancy, request it and message to arrange a pick-up. You can sometimes find items listed which aren't food and drink too, though in most cases these are other items commonly sold in supermarkets, such as deodorant.

    How to get the free app

    Simply download it from Apple's iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. You can also access it via the Olio web app.

    Sign up with your email address, or connect the app to your Facebook, and browse free goodies from neighbours and restaurants near you.

    • How to use the Olio app

      Olio says over 1.2 million users are now signed up to its app across the UK. So there are lots of people offering food and picking it up – though as you'd expect, you'll find more listed in big cities.

      National chains include Costa, Pret a MangerSainsbury's, Selfridges and Tesco. In London, there's also Eurostar, First Group and Planet Organic and we've seen lots offered by smaller, independent cafés, bakeries and restaurants across the country.

      You can use the app's filters to find food from major chains. Simply select 'source' then choose 'food hero'. You may find more available if you check towards the end of the day.

      It's a sharing community, so don't forget you can offer free food as well as claim it. Got some sausages going spare? To give an item away, simply snap a photo, add a brief description and provide pick-up details.

    • Food from your neighbours... isn't it all manky?

      Not at all. When we looked, we found some top-quality goodies listed by individuals as well as chains. For example, MSE Jenny nabbed four free raisin buns, which had originally been bought from a posh bakery in North London (see pic, right).

      People can add any food they like, as long as they'd be willing to eat it themselves. You can add food that's beyond its best-before date, but not use-by date. (See our Food expiry dates guide for more on the difference.)

    MoneySaver Jean was impressed by her first experience using the app:

    I downloaded the Olio app last week after reading the MSE email. Yesterday evening the Tesco food was added. There was loads on offer - veg, salads, chilled meals, bread and cakes. And when I collected the items I was asked by the volunteer if I wanted any extras as there were still items left! What a fab idea. 

  11. Go 'paperless' with bills and bank statements – in some cases it may get you a better deal too

    Many banks and utility companies (including water, electricity and gas suppliers) now let you receive bills and other communications online, rather than by post.

    Switching to online-only communications has an obvious benefit for the environment, in that you're using less paper, but in some cases it can save you money too. Some firms charge extra for paper bills – for example, BT says most broadband customers will pay £3 for each paper bill, unless you're on a specific plan or need alternative formats such as Braille.

    What's more, in some cases you'll have access to better deals if you're willing to forego paper bills. You can usually find a 'go paperless' option in your online account settings when you visit your provider's website. If it's not obvious, simply contact the company and ask.

  12. Recycle the 'unrecyclable' for free, from contact lenses to crisp packets

    Most of us have mastered the art of sorting and recycling our household waste. But what about those annoying items that can't be collected and recycled by your council? From crisp packets to contact lenses, there are (literally) tonnes of items we still throw in the rubbish bin.

    A company called Terracycle partners with big brands to offer a free way to recycle lots of different items that can't be chucked in your household recycling bin. For example, it's joined forces with Colgate to recycle toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes or electric toothbrush heads, and with Ella's Kitchen to recycle baby food pouches.

    You can drop items off at a location near you or in some cases simply post them off for free. And while strictly speaking this is more about PlanetSaving than MoneySaving, you might even be able to earn some cash for charity at the same time... See How to recycle the 'unrecyclable' for full details.

  13. Got a young child? Switch to reusable nappies & save (plus how to get them FREE from your council)

    Reusable nappies can be much cheaper than disposables and some councils even give them away for free. Don't think old-fashioned cloth – their look and operation are surprisingly modern (they can even be quite trendy – see the image to the right).

    Many consider them better for the environment, but this all depends on how you wash them, as you'll naturally end up using more water and energy than with disposables.

    The Environment Agency says you can make reusables as good for the environment as possible by:

    • Line-drying outside whenever possible (and tumble-drying as little as possible)
    • Choosing more energy efficient appliances (A+ rated machines are preferred)
    • Not washing above 60°C
    • Washing fuller loads
    • Reusing nappies with other children

    Get FREE reusable nappies... from your council

    Some councils offer free starter packs or vouchers/cashback to help you save on the cost of buying reusable nappies. They do this to encourage you to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

    For example, Bradford Council offers a free starter pack, while Essex Council offers £30 cashback on the purchase of reusable nappies. Check with your council to see if it offers a similar incentive scheme.

    For more baby-related MoneySaving, check out our Baby checklist.

    Quick questions

    • How many do I need?

      This depends on how often you're prepared to do washes. But as a very rough guide, you'll need about 25-30 nappies and at least three wraps.

    • Is it cheaper?

      The savings can be big. Studies estimate parents could save anything between £100 to over £1,000 using reusable nappies and there can be even more savings when the nappies are used on second and third kids. So for a larger family, the savings can really mount up.

    • Which type should I get?

      It's tough to get out of the mindset of a sheet and a pin, yet modern reusable nappies look and work very much like disposables. The only difference is bits of them are washed rather than chucked. There are several types available, so it's worth trying a few.

    • Can I cut down on energy costs for washing them?

      To save energy (and cash), you can wash less-soiled nappies at 60 degrees rather than 90. Wash covers/wraps at 40 degrees if possible, so they last longer. Use quick-drying liners so you can dry them without using a tumble dryer.

  14. Switch to reusable sanitary products – you could save £100s

    Some avoid using disposable pads and tampons altogether, and find reusable alternatives more comfortable and absorbent. These products are often designed to be as discreet and/or stylish as possible.

    The principle behind them is similar to reusable baby nappies – they can be seriously MoneySaving, and there are environmental benefits too. Forumites say if you've kids and have already got used to using (and washing) reusable nappies, this isn't much of a stretch.

    While its impossible to say for sure how much you can save, according to some estimates a woman who doesn't have kids will normally use over 10,000 sanitary products in her lifetime – so it's fair to say if you're happy with the switch to reusable products, it could save you £100s. See more on this in our Cheap sanitary products guide.

    There are a few different options...

    • Made from medical-grade silicone, menstrual cups are inserted like a tampon, but collect fluid rather than absorbing it. There are different sizes to choose from, based on your age and whether you've given birth.

      One of the best known is Mooncup*, which says it can hold around 30ml of fluid (tampons hold 6-18ml depending on size). Mooncup says if you follow its instructions for cleaning and storage, the cup can last for "years and years".

      MoneySavers also recommend Diva Cup and Luna Cup. Don't just buy direct though – check prices elsewhere to ensure you get the best price. Menstrual cups can be found at a number of retailers, including Amazon*Boots*Feel Unique, Holland & Barrett* and Superdrug

      If you're new to menstrual cups, it's worth checking out Mooncup's guide to How to use your Mooncup, which includes handy pictures and a video.

      Mooncups are great! Had mine for over a year, it's really comfortable and 100% reliable (more than I can say for tampons!).

      - aphrodite

    • These look similar to disposable pads but can be washed and reused. They're made from a variety of materials (such as organic cotton, microfibre, bamboo) and usually have poppers to keep them in place on your underwear.

      They're becoming more widely available, with options now available at some supermarkets and high street stores:

      They're also sold on Amazon*, where you can buy packs of 10 for around £20 (so roughly £2 a pad). And there's a number of specialist websites – Forumites recommend Cheeky WipesEarthwise GirlsHonour Your Flow and Wee Notions.

      If you're handy with a needle and thread, some MoneySavers even make their own – you can find patterns online, for example at Sewing Bee Fabrics.

      Would wholeheartedly recommend reusable pads to everyone who menstruates. So much easier, don't need to run out to the local shop if you start unexpectedly, and so much better for the environment.

      - hannh

      Cloth pads are so much more comfortable than disposables! No more nappy rash-type irritation.

      - sillyvixen

    • Also known as 'period pants', these look just like regular underwear, but have hidden protection to prevent leaks. Although some are marketed as only offering "extra protection" on top of regular sanitary products, others say they can be used on their own.

      It used to be trickier to find this reusable option in the UK, but you can now buy them from a number of supermarkets and high street stores.
       

    How should I decide which one to use?

    There are plenty of reusable options out there, so the trick is to find out which ones work best for you. Some MoneySavers say using a combination of the above can be best.

    I have used a Mooncup and reusable pads for years. Much more eco-friendly, cheaper and, for those who have very heavy periods, much more reliable together than disposables.

    - brook2jack

  15. Stop junk mail landing in your letterbox by signing up to TWO free opt-out services

    Unwanted post often goes straight in the bin... but even if you're making sure it gets recycled, it's much better for the environment if you can stop it arriving on your doormat altogether (and it's much less annoying too).

    There are two different types of junk post – letters with your name and address on, and those without but are still distributed by Royal Mail. Both can be stopped, though you may need to join the Mail Preference Service register AND send a form to the Royal Mail to do it.

    If the letters have your name on it, you've also the right to tell the organisation to stop sending them to you. And while door-to-door leaflet drops are harder to combat, there are free signs you can put up which may help.

    For full help, including how to sign up to opt out, see our How to stop junk mail guide.

    Stopping junk mail CAN be MoneySaving – but isn't always

    You may be surprised to read this, but it's important to say. Stopping junk mail is undoubtedly good for the environment. And it may save you money too – for example, if you find it sometimes tempts you into buying something you otherwise wouldn't.

    But in some cases, when it comes to MoneySaving, junk mail can work in your favour. For example, certain retailer offers and financial products (such as offers for existing credit card-holders) may only be available if you receive them as targeted direct mailings.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't take action to stop junk mail, but it's important to weigh up the pros and cons. Only consider letting the junk mail continue if you're money-savvy, can sort the wheat from the chaff and are comfortable with the environmental impact.

  16. Try swapping clothes with friends instead of buying them new

    It's not the first thing most people think of when trying to go green, but manufacturing new clothes has a significant impact on the environment, with green campaigners highlighting the impact of the so-called 'fast fashion' industry, which encourages people to buy clothes cheap and dispose of 'em not long after.

    So if you have clothes you no longer wear (but are still in decent nick), consider swapping them with a friend.

    Alternatively you could hold a 'swishing' party. Essentially this is a clothes-swapping event, where everyone brings along clothes they no longer want, and can then take away other people's clothes for free, rather than buying new. You could try this in your office, your local community, or just with a group of friends.

    The GetSwishing site has handy tips on how to organise an event. For example, it suggests using tokens to ensure a fair swap.

    Here's how one Forumite managed to nab some new threads:

    Some friends and I had a 'black bin bag' party. I got a brand new pair of jeans with the tags still on, amongst other things. Anything left over went to the charity shop.

    - drinkuppretty

  17. Use Freecycle to nab free sofas, coffee makers & more (plus find your old stuff a new home)

    Giveaway sites such as Freecycle and Freegle can be a great way to recycle unwanted items, as well as save some cash, with listings covering everything from Etch A Sketches to espresso makers, and designer sofas to dungarees.

    These sites are more than just sources of freebies – they're recycling communities, so can be a great way to give away something you no longer want or need and help others save a bit of cash too, as this Forumite's story shows:

    We are a single parent family, and have had lots of goodies from Freecycle, including a chest freezer, a sofa bed, various plants, two chooks [chickens or hens] and a Warhammer. And we've donated a table, telly, bits of bikes, football boots and a couple other random things. It's great at teaching that whole ethos of stuff being 'worth' something to someone.

    - Pippilongstocking

    Don't worry if you've nothing special. You'll be amazed at what's willingly taken, including old magazine collections, spare carpets or EMPTY paint pots. Advertising discarded items on giveaway sites is also an excellent way to recycle objects unsuitable for donating to charity shops (many no longer take electrical goods or collect large items).

    Our Freecycle and Freegle guide shows you how to furnish your home, bag the best items and avoid spam, as well as the most common freebies.

  18. Ditch single-use plastic straws – or at least find the cheapest reusable alternative

    As a single-use item, plastic drinking straws are a significant contributor to plastic waste – millions are thrown away every day and each one takes hundreds of years to break down.

    Single-use plastic straws are now banned in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (and Wales is set to follow suit later this year). This means restaurants and bars won't offer you a straw with your drink – though if you need one due to a disability or medical condition, they should still provide one if you ask. You also can't buy them in most stores, though pharmacies are allowed to sell them.

    Of course, the environmentally friendly AND MoneySaving option here is to simply stop using straws – and given disposable plastic straws often cost less than 1p each, any sustainable alternative is unlikely to be cheaper.

    But if you really do still want to use straws at home, or your kids do, at least go for the cheapest biodegradable or reusable alternative instead. For example, we found a pack of 20 reusable straws costs £4.25 (21p each) at Tesco*.

  19. Flog your old techno-junk – old TV remotes, instruction manuals, mobile phone boxes

    With the pace technology moves at these days, most of us have old boxes, cables, remote controls and so on stuffed in drawers or packed away in lofts, despite it being unlikely they'll ever be of use again. Yet you can avoid chucking them into landfill and instead find them a new home while at the same time earning some extra cash, by selling these 'tech leftovers' online via sites such as eBayFacebook or Gumtree.

    Who's buying? Well, some people simply need replacement accessories for older gadgets. Others buy boxes and manuals for devices they want to sell so they can raise the asking price.

    You may be surprised by how much you can make, too – we've seen empty iPhone boxes sell for up to £20 and remote controls go for as much as £50. See Flog tech leftovers for full info.

  20. SOME fruit and veg is cheaper without plastic… but you'll need to check

    Supermarkets have started getting quite serious about combatting plastic waste – Asda, for example, scrapped free plastic bags for loose fruit and veg in 2021, while Morrisons switched to offering paper bags for fruit and veg back in 2018. But a number still offer customers a sometimes confusing choice between loose and pre-packaged items.

    In a nutshell, the cheapest and most environmentally friendly option varies by supermarket and item. In some cases, items packed in plastic are cheaper, but in other cases you can save money and cut plastic use by going for the 'loose' option.

    We first did research on this in 2018, by visiting supermarkets near MSE Towers to compare prices. We updated it in March 2021 to check the principle still applies, and it does – though due to the pandemic, we checked via supermarkets' websites, and of course you may find prices and packaging options vary in store.

    On the Waitrose website it was easy – bananas, courgettes, mushrooms and Royal Gala apples were all cheaper loose than packaged, so the environmentally friendly choice was also the MoneySaving one. Elsewhere, it was a mixed picture – loose courgettes were cheaper than packaged at Asda (£2/kg vs £2.73/kg) and Sainsbury's (£2/kg vs £2.50/kg). But loose peppers were pricier at Asda (45p vs 42p each) and Morrisons (45p vs 30p each).

    The rule, then, is to check before you fill your trolley, whether virtual or real. In some cases, loose fruit and veg may be cheaper and it's a win-win – elsewhere, you may have to choose between cheap and plastic-free. 

    However, some argue that plastic packaging is actually the more environmentally friendly option because it can increase shelf-life for some fruit and vegetables and therefore reduce food waste (another environmental problem). There are hopes that a solution to both these problems might be found in the future – for example, Asda has trialled a new plant-based coating, which could increase the shelf-life of food and reduce plastic usage in its stores.

  21. Buy refills of coffee, soap, herbs and spices

    Simple but effective. Buying refills of products such as air fresheners, coffee granules, handwash and herbs and spices saves money as well as cutting down on plastic waste in terms of lids, bottles and so on, as our table below shows.

    Some refills will still result in plastic waste, of course, so it's worth comparing how recyclable the packaging is compared with that of the original product before purchase.

    Originals vs refills price comparison

    Product Original cost Refill cost % saving
    Ambi Pur 3volution Plug-In air freshener £6 (20ml) £4 (20ml) 33%
    Duck Fresh Discs toilet freshener £3 (six discs) £5 (12 discs) 16%
    Carex Moisture handwash £1.25 (250ml) £1.90 (500ml) 24%
    Kenco Smooth instant coffee £5.50 (200g) £4 (150g) 3%
    Prices found online at Tesco on 3 January 2023
  22. Replace cling film with reusable wraps or Tupperware

    Beeswax and soy wax wraps – reusable, biodegradable alternatives to cling film – are now widely available. Made from cotton, wax and resin, these wraps can be moulded around containers and food itself to keep it fresh, then washed, dried and reused. They last for up to a year and, once they're spent, some can be composted.

    Alternatively, you could try using Tupperware instead. Plastic, resealable takeaway containers are ideal for storing leftover food, and are largely dishwasher safe, so they're okay to reuse.

    If you go for reusable wraps, they cost from around £4 each or £10 per pack of three, so they're not cheap. Yet depending on how much cling film you get through, they could help you save. With cling film typically costing £2-£4 a roll, depending on brand, a small pack could quickly pay for itself when you consider you'll get a year's use from each wrap (and some beeswax wraps can be used for longer if you get a refresher block).

  23. Go large in the supermarket to save on packaging and price

    Economies of scale rarely lie – generally, the more you buy of something, the less it will cost you per unit.

    So if you can afford to buy and have the space to store larger packs of staples like washing powder, toilet roll, washing-up liquid, kitchen roll, batteries, plasters and canned foods, doing so will almost always save you money. Always check the unit price on the supermarket price label though, and compare with other sizes.

    Buying bigger packs also means you'll usually wind up throwing less plastic packaging in the bin.

    To show how this works, here are a couple of examples from Morrisons:

    • Persil non-bio washing powder – save £2.31/kg. We found 1.5kg for £7 (£4.68/kg) but 4.2kg for £10 (£2.37/kg).

    • Morrisons kitchen roll – save 26p per roll. We found a two-pack for £1.35 (67.5p each) but a six-pack for £2.50 (41.7p each).
  24. Switch shower gel and handwash for bars of soap

    Another easy win. Bars of soap generally last longer, so work out cheaper, AND they generally use far less plastic packaging.

    For example, a single Dove Beauty Cream Bar works out about 60p, depending on the size of the pack you go for. Bottles of soap and bodywash can be twice the price, for example, Radox Feel Revived shower gel and Carex Complete Moisture handwash usually cost around £1 each.

    Soap gets good reviews from MoneySavers, too:

    Bars are far better. Work out cheaper, too, as they last ages.

    - pollypenny

  25. Push towards plastic-free with these tips for the truly dedicated

    We've tried to keep these ideas as simple and accessible as possible to encourage people to get involved, but if you've done everything here and want to push on towards a plastic-free or even waste-free way of life, there's plenty more you can do:

    • Make your own bread, pizza bases, yogurt and more – each thing you make means less plastic packaging to dispose of.

    • Make 'fakeaways' – replicate takeaway food by making it at home – as well as doing away with the associated plastic, it'll undoubtedly be cheaper in the long run (recipes from BBC Food, Jamie Oliver and more are available online).

    • Make your own body lotion, toothpaste and scrubs – less packaging, less questionable chemicals and a sense of achievement all in one go.

    • Instead of getting your plastic bag for life replaced when it wears out, replace it with a tote bag you've made from an old T-shirt.

    For many, many more ideas, see the Old Style MoneySaving and Crafting discussion boards on our forum – where you can also add your own.

  26. Consider eating less meat – to help save the planet (and often money too)

    Going vegetarian or vegan (removing animal products from your diet and lifestyle) has become more popular in recent years – and many have switched for environmental reasons.

    Of course, this is very much a personal choice – for some, giving up meat may not seem like a simple step, and others may choose to do so for different reasons. Yet many environmentalists argue it's a key way you can help the planet.

    The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations says farming animals is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems", due to factors such as cutting down forests to create space for animals to graze, and high emissions of greenhouse gases (for example, methane from cows).

    How much can you save by cutting out meat?

    For many, cutting out meat isn't primarily a MoneySaving decision – but if you do it, you may well find you end up saving as a result.

    Buying decent quality meat isn't cheap, and the staples of a meat-free diet are often cheaper – though of course, it depends what you eat. Plant proteins such as beans or lentils typically cost less than the equivalent amount of animal protein. What's more, there are now many meat-free versions of family favourites such as sausages, mince, nuggets and burgers.

    As an example, Tesco's British lamb mince (500g) costs £5.10. It's own-brand Plant Chef vegetarian mince (454g) is just £1.95 – and there's actually slightly more protein in the veggie version, at 17.1g per 100g (vs 16.8g in the lamb mince).

    For inspiration, see MSE Rhiannon's MoneySaving vegan meals blog, for seven easy recipes which can save up to 60% vs the meat equivalents.

    Not ready to go veggie straightaway? Try cutting back gradually

    If you're not sure whether you want to completely remove meat from your diet, you could try simply cutting back. Meat Free Monday is a not-for-profit campaign (launched by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney), which suggests having one day a week where you don't eat meat.

    Planning to go meat-free? Get help getting a balanced diet. If you do choose to go down this route, it's important to make sure you have a balanced diet, so check see the NHS website for info on vegetarian and vegan diets.

  27. Plant trees for FREE by adding a 31-second track to your Spotify playlists

    Whenever you listen to a song on streaming service Spotify, the creator earns a small amount of money. There's a nifty project that is trying to use this process to help the environment.

    The scheme has created a 31-second track called This Song Plants Trees, which it hopes people will add to their Spotify playlists, and listen to occasionally. It's not actually a song – it's a voiceover talking about the project.

    We spoke to the founder, Matthew Gordon, who said for every 100 streams, This Song Plants Trees will donate enough money to the Eden Reforestation Projects for one tree to be planted. For it to earn money, you need to listen to the full 31 seconds, without turning the sound down.

    You don't even need to pay for a Spotify subscription to use the service and listen to this track – there's a free version (you just have to listen to adverts every now and then). See our Spotify MoneySaving tips for more ways to save.

  28. You can try to reduce the impact of travel, diet and more with 'carbon offsetting', but does it really work?

    Carbon offsetting is where money is given to environmental efforts (such as planting trees) to help compensate for carbon emissions. It's often associated with flying, but there are calculators that can help you work out your carbon footprint from other lifestyle factors, such as your diet, how you heat your house and whether you drive a car.

    Does carbon offsetting really help the environment?

    Some argue carbon offsetting isn't the answer to reducing emissions, as it discourages people from changing their behaviour, which they say would be a better way to help the environment.

    If you have to fly, however, the International Air Transport Association says: "We strongly recommend all passengers to use high-quality projects to offset their own CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions as an individual contribution to addressing climate change."

    Carbon-offsetting schemes 

    You can calculate your carbon footprint, and donate money to offset your emissions, via dedicated schemes such as CarbonClickChoooseClimateCare or Woodland Trust.

    For example, ClimateCare says a return flight from London to Malaga would cost about £4 to offset. A return from London to Melbourne would cost £35.

    You can then make a payment through the site, which goes towards emission-reducing projects around the world, such as providing rural communities in India with renewable energy.

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