go green and save

25 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 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, empty beauty containers etc 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.

    • H&M

      While many recycling schemes only accept clothes in decent condition, H&M says if you bring a bag of unwanted clothes or home textiles from any brand, in any condition, to your nearest store, you can get a £5 off £25 voucher.

      While you'll likely get more back by selling any clothes that can still be worn (including on eBay or Facebook Marketplace), if you're an H&M shopper, this can be a great way to recycle old towels, socks and more, and get a little something back.

      What happens to the clothes/textiles you drop off?

      H&M says it does three things with the items it receives:

      • Rewear – clothes that can be worn again will be sold as second-hand clothes.
      • Reuse – old clothes and textiles are turned into other products, including cleaning cloths.
      • Recycle – everything else is turned into textile fibres and used for things such as insulation.
    • OXFAM

      You can get a voucher for £5 off a £35 spend on clothing, home and beauty products at M&S when you recycle at least one M&S-branded item at an Oxfam shop.

      Simply take a piece of M&S clothing into your local Oxfam, where you'll get the voucher valid for one calendar month. M&S says you'll get one for every donation you make which includes at least one item of its clothing. The clothes can't be damaged or 'soiled', and you can't donate swimwear, underwear or socks (though bras are fine). For more info, see 'How can I get a £5 M&S voucher from Oxfam?'

    • If you recycle five empty toiletry or cosmetic containers at a participating Boots store, you'll get a voucher for 250 bonus Advantage Card points (worth £2.50) when you next spend £10 at Boots. While this isn't one of the stronger offers out there, it's a decent bonus if you're a regular Boots shopper.

      You can use the scheme to recycle containers which can't be recycled through your household waste, for example, mascaras, lipsticks or make-up palettes. Boots says it won't offer the reward for items which can be recycled at home, such as shampoo and shower gel bottles.

    • MAC

      You can get a free MAC lipstick of your choice (excluding Viva Glam and limited edition lipsticks) when you return six used MAC containers to a MAC counter, or post them to MAC.

      Its lipsticks are normally £17.50 each, so if you're a loyal fan of MAC, be sure to keep the containers when you finish them.

    • Kiehl's

      Skincare and cosmetic brand Kiehl's offers a points scheme where you can bring in an empty full-sized Kiehl's product to any of its standalone stores (find your nearest) and receive points towards a £10 voucher or travel-size freebie.

      You'll first need to sign up to Kiehl's free Family Rewards loyalty scheme. One empty product taken to a store gives you 15 points  once you've got 120 points (equivalent to eight empties) you'll receive a £10 voucher. This can either be used as a discount off one full-price product, or you can use the voucher in-store to get a free travel-sized product of your choice up to the value of £9.75.

      If using the voucher online, there's a £10 minimum spend. See Kiehl's website for more info on the 'Recycle and be rewarded' scheme.

    • Lush

      Lush sells vegan and vegetarian make-up and skincare products either 'naked' (this just means, er, without packaging...) or in recycled and recyclable pots.

      It now has two different recycling schemes...

      If you save up five of its black recyclable pots or any full-size plastic packaging, you can take them to any store to exchange for a free fresh face mask – normally £9.

      Or, you can take any empty individual qualifying Lush packaging to a store to get 50p off a full-price in-store purchase you make at the same time. You'll get 50p off for each item you recycle.

      Qualifying Lush packaging includes PET clear plastic bottles (with lids), PP pots clear and black (with lids), PP make-up packaging, HDPE bottles (with trigger/spray tops).

      Packaging that doesn't qualify includes any non-Lush packaging, non-plastic packaging such as a jar or tin, 10 gram sample pots or bottle tops.

      Lush says all packaging should be empty and thoroughly cleaned before returning. See full info on its Bring it Back recycling scheme.

    • MONKL

      Monki is part of the H&M group, and also offers a discount voucher when you recycle a bag of old clothes or textiles – no matter what the brand. You'll get a voucher for 10% off your next purchase, valid for six months.

    • Like Monki, & Other Stories is part of the H&M group. It also offers a discount voucher when you recycle a bag of old clothes or textiles – and again, it doesn't matter what the brand is. You'll get a voucher for 10% off your next purchase, valid for three months.

  2. Get cash for recycling your old mobile, for example, £146 for an iPhone 8

    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 £146 for a 256GB iPhone 8 (it's £116 if you have the 64GB version). 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 'em

    plastic bags

    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, 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 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, but it will accept bags from any supermarket (up to a maximum of 99 per order).

    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 etc

    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

    recycle sign

    The Government's long been trailing plans for a plastic bottle deposit return scheme in England. Effectively 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 been launched though, and the latest is that it will be "no later than 2023" – 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 1 July 2022 – 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 four 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 Dundee, Edinburgh Granton, Glasgow Yoker and Hamilton.

    • Sainsbury's is running two different trials in a number of its stores. Seven stores have reverse vending machines, where you get a 5p voucher for each bottle (up to 500 bottles). These stores are Braehead, Denny, Lincoln, Mansion House, Newbury, Newcastle Northumberland and Sutton Park Local.

      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.

    Due to the pandemic, some will currently only serve you in a takeaway cup, but as long as you show them your reusable cup, you'll still receive the discount. Others have a contact-free process which allows staff to fill your cup without handling it.

    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)
    • 25p off Costa and M&S
    • 20p off Greggs
    reusable cup

    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.
    yogurt pots
    • 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 etc.

    See our 42 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. Make your own face masks, or buy cheap reusable ones, to avoid chucking disposables

    guy wearing mask

    Face masks have become a fact of life during the pandemic, and are still mandatory in some situations, such as in shops and on public transport in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In England, wearing a mask is no longer a legal requirement but is still recommended in crowded areas and is required by some businesses who can set their own rules for customers.

    If you use them a lot, disposable masks can be pricey, and sadly they've become an environmental issue too, with discarded masks far too commonplace a sight on the street.

    The environmentally-friendly and MoneySaving solution here is to use a reusable mask, which can be washed and worn again and again. If you're feeling handy, making your own simple face covering is much simpler than you think – see MSE Rhiannon's blog for tips on using up old fabric to make face masks, plus draught excluders, reusable face wipes and more.

    Alternatively, you can buy a cheap ready-made reusable mask instead, for as little as 50p (was £1) at B&M stores or £1.70 at Lloyds Pharmacy. Wear one of these a few times and it'll soon work out more cost-effective than the disposable alternative, as well as better for the environment. 

    If you do use disposables, check if you can recycle them

    If you do wear disposable face masks, at least check whether it is possible to recycle them, though sadly this is often tricky. For a good overview of the options and what you can try, see this Which? article.

    One good option if heading to the shops is to use Wilko's special collection bins – it's installed face mask recycling collection points in 150 of its stores. Check if your local store has one.

  9. Refill your water bottle for FREE

    refill water bottle

    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.

  10. 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."

    Illustration of a set of traffic lights showing red.
  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. For example, when we checked, all of the top 10 cheapest energy tariffs were online-only. 

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

    reusable nappies

    Reusable nappies can be much cheaper than disposables and some councils even give 'em 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  13. 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...

    • menstrual cups

      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 had children.

      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

    • reusable sanitary pads

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

      They're sold at Amazon* and a number of specialist websites – Forumites recommend Cheeky WipesEarthwise GirlsHonour Your Flow and Wee Notions. And 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

    • menstrual underwear

      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, as many of the specialist sites that sell them are based overseas. But you can now buy Love Luna period knickers from the Sainsbury's Tu website for £10-£12 as part of its clothing range – a decent price.

      More expensive brand Thinx (£22-£36) is available at Asos* and Selfridges*.

      You can also find a selection at Amazon*, plus there's UK-based Flux UndiesLuxury MoonWuka and Pretty Clever Pants (designed by TV's Carol Smillie).

    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

  14. 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.

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

    taking photo of clothes

    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 (if it's safe and not against coronavirus guidelines) 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.

    In early 2020, before the pandemic hit, MSE Rhiannon held a successful swishing event at MSE Towers, and gave people the option of donating to charity if they found items that took their fancy. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    plastic straws

    In October last year, a ban on single-use plastic straws came into force in England. 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.

    Elsewhere in the UK, similar bans are being considered, but haven't been implemented yet. But you don't need to wait to stop using 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 £3.99 (20p each) at Lakeland*.

  18. 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.

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

    fruit and veg

    Supermarkets have started getting quite serious about combatting plastic waste – Asda, for example, scrapped free plastic bags for loose fruit and veg earlier this year, 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.

  20. 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) £2.75 (20ml) 55%
    Duck Fresh Discs toilet freshener £3.50 (six discs) £5 (12 discs) 28%
    Carex Moisture handwash £0.99 (250ml) £1.50 (500ml) 25%
    Kenco Smooth instant coffee £4.50 (200g) £3.75 (150g) 8%

    Prices found online at Tesco on 26 February 2021

  21. Replace cling film with reusable wraps or Tupperware

    reusable wraps

    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 OK 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).

  22. 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).
  23. Switch shower gel and handwash for bars of soap

    bar 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 50p, 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

  24. 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 etc – 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 etc 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.

  25. 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 £4.25. It's own-brand Plant Chef vegetarian mince (454g) is just £1.75 – 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.


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