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13 Ways to Save Money in College by Going Green

You don’t have to drive a Prius or go into debt donating to the Sierra Club to be green.  Being eco-friendly is just as much, if not more, about what we choose to give up as it is about what we acquire.  It can even lead to leaner spending and heftier savings accounts.  Start being green and saving money with these tips.

Cleaning

  1. Use less detergent.  Most laundry loads—barring items with pet waste—only need a little bit of detergent in cold water.
  2. Hang your laundry in the summer.  You can buy a clothesline for about $5 at the local hardware store and burn a few calories hoisting damp clothes over your head.
  3. Replace the fabric softener with white distilled vinegar.  It works better than fabric softener, which is often loaded with chemicals that pollute lungs, cause mild allergies, and covers smells just by adding synthetic ones.  Buy a huge jug of white vinegar and add a few drops of vanilla extract and lavender essential oil.  You’ll smell just as good for less.  Lavender oil is great for DIY face and body washes, shampoo, and cleaning sprays, so it won’t collect dust in your bathroom cabinet, guaranteed.
  4. Make your own cleaning sprays with these tutorials.  Usually, one spray does it all: 1 part liquid soap, 4 parts water, a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil (which has been proven to be as effective as conventional antibacterials against dreaded ickies, like the swine flu).

Food

  1. Cook.  I’m not kidding.  Just do it.  Students living off-campus with access to a kitchen and a grocery store will save money by pooling money with house-mates and sharing cooking and cleaning chores in the kitchen.  Less food goes a longer way than eating out or fast food, and you can better control what goes in your body if you’re watching the bathroom scale.
  2. Shop local.  Green eating is thought to be reserved for the elite few who can afford it—and that’s right in many cases.  Our household, however, has saved money by cycling to the local farmers’ market, where organic produce harvested by humble families is often cheaper than that shipped from across the world by some mega-corporation.  Getting to personally know the farmers will also guarantee you a friendly face at the market and up your chances of getting a discount.
  3. Look for CSAs, or community supported agriculture.  Many farms will drive boxes of their produce to your doorstep for a significantly cheaper price than any you’ll find in a store.  This also cuts down on car emissions!
  4. Stop throwing away leftovers.  Swing by the thrift store for Pyrex, glass, and ceramic containers (which are better for you than phthalate-laden plastic ones) in which to store leftovers.  Microwave.  Done.  Alternatively, freeze leftovers to eat later in the week if you’re afraid they’ll go bad.  You can also get creative and turn salad scraps into green smoothies or soups.

Outdoors

  1. Start a hassle-free garden.  Rather than buying herbs at the store, grow them in your yard.  Rosemary, thyme, and sage are especially easy to start with, while basil is reserved mostly for the summer months.  You can also grow herbal tea ingredients, like calming chamomile, healthy nettles and yarrow, and yummy mint.  Upgrade to root vegetables and tomatoes when you’re ready for the next step.  Plant in the ground or hunt down free clay pots on Craigslist.
  2. Compost.  We bought our compost bin for $50 from the city, but you can make your own with these video tutorials.  Compost bins will save you money in the long run because, if you’re a gardener, there will be no need to buying nutrients foryour soil.  If you’re not into gardening, you can sell your compost to those who are.  The environment wins too, since food scraps thrown into landfills don’t actually biodegrade and instead produce methane, a gas more harmful to our ozone than carbon.
  3. Get a used bicycle off of Craigslist.  You’ll save money on the car—both gas and repairs for wear and tear—and produce zero emissions on the way to class and the grocery store.  Check out Jeff Yeager’s Green Cheapskate’s Guide to Buying Used Bikes.

Buy used and sell

  1. Sell.  Whenever you move out of the dorms or off-campus housing, consider posting your most valuable unwanted items on Craigslist or organizing a yard sale.  You’ll get some of the money you spent back—to pay off loans or figure out where to live after graduating.
  2. Buy from thrift stores and Craigslist whenever possible.  Even trend-conscious wardrobes will be fulfilled by consignment and vintage stores, not to mention nationwide chains like Plato’s Closet, which buys and sells gently used clothes in trending brands.

Today’s guest article is provided by Carmen Brettel. She is a writer and manager for Studentgrants.org, where she has recently been doing research for school grants. In her spare time, Carmen enjoys gardening and volunteering at animal shelters.

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