Welcome back to Savvy Shopper. This week, we’re trying to work out if our efforts to be more environmentally friendly are actually saving us money.

It’s commonly believed that making the right choice for the planet costs more and in some instances, it’s true. Buying the sustainably caught fish is more expensive than the stuff that’s been mass trawled; buying the earth-friendly laundry powder will set you back more than the standard product; and the compostable doggy poo bags are so expensive it feels ridiculous considering their purpose.

However, in other instances making an effort to go green requires an initial financial outlay, but then it saves you money in the future and pays itself off. In other cases, choosing the “greener” option is actually cheaper, though it may require an adjustment of habits or tastes.

For example, while buying a reusable coffee cup will cost you, say, $20, it does give you the option of making coffee at home instead of buying them at the cafe, saving you $3.50 each time (less the cost of beans and a coffee pot for home). Some cafes will even give you a discount if you bring in your own cup.

On a bigger scale, buying an electric car is more expensive than a petrol car (and there still aren’t many second hand options on the market in Australia) but long term, will cost you less.

For starters, electric vehicles are cheaper than petrol cars to maintain since they have fewer moving parts, thus requiring less in the way of servicing. According to Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council, powering an electric vehicle is around 70 per cent cheaper than a petrol or diesel, saving electric drivers, on average, $1600 in fuel per year. If you charge at home and use solar power, it’s free to power your car.

Solar power is another instance of a high initial cost that saves you money in the long run. Adding solar panels to your property will cost you at least a few thousand dollars to start with but there are rebates available to reduce that upfront cost. The federal government’s Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme offers households a financial incentive to install renewable energy systems such as rooftop solar, solar water heaters and heat pumps.

State governments also offer incentives: ACT and South Australian households can get discounts on a battery storage unit for saving energy from a rooftop solar power system; in Victoria, you can get rebates on solar panels, batteries, energy efficient heating and cooling and solar hot water systems; in Queensland you can install a solar power system without paying upfront and pay it back by “buying” the energy you produce from the power provider; NSW residents can access the Empowering Home interest-free loan to install a solar power and battery system.

It’s estimated that, in NSW at least, using solar will reduce your power bill by around $400 per year per kW of solar. If you install an 8kW solar system you can save up to around $3,400 a year, which can pay off the installation in around four years.

Reduce your electricity bill even further by installing LED lights instead of traditional halogen ones – we looked into this in more detail a few weeks ago.

Another way you can spend less and help out Mother Nature is by cutting out meat. New research suggests that vegans spend, on average, 40 per cent less on food than omnivores. Giving up meat is also one of the most impactful things you can do for the environment and, as a bonus, countless studies have shown that plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease, various cancers, strokes, diabetes and inflammation. I’m not telling you to give up meat entirely if you don’t want to, but consider reducing your intake for your wallet, if not for the planet.

And, of course, the simplest (though not necessarily the easiest) way you can go green and save money is by just consuming less. Re-wear what’s already in your wardrobe or share and swap with friends; eat what’s in your pantry and fridge, rather than letting it go off; finish off skincare products before buying new ones; don’t give in to the urge to upgrade your phone annually. Seek out second-hand, refurbished or hand-me-down goods, and borrow rather than buy things you’re only likely to use once or twice (like single-purpose kitchen appliances or tools).

We’d love to hear how you’ve saved money by being more environmentally aware – share your tips in the comments section.

Until next time, stay savvy, shoppers!

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