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Spending Greener Without Breaking the Bank

Buying less, shopping local and being smart about energy use are just some of the ways you can help.

2 August 2023

Most of us want to spend ethically and responsibly – but with the price of food up 12 per cent in a year, it’s not always affordable to shop the way you’d like to.

Here are seven tips for making your spending greener without breaking the bank.

1. Buy less, maximise what you already own

It’s cheap and it’s green: just don’t buy as much stuff. Wear your old clothes in new ways; get your appliances repaired instead of replacing them; and reduce the amount of food you throw out each week. Seems obvious, but it can make a big difference to your savings account and your carbon footprint.

2. Shop local

There’s no beating the prices you’ll see advertised by Temu, Shein or Wish, but these brands get low ratings in sustainability and ethical evaluations. Working conditions in Chinese manufacturing are often unsatisfactory, and products are regularly made with single-use plastic and typically wrapped in it. Returns often end up in landfill, too.

When you shop locally, you’re supporting Kiwi-based businesses so profits remain on-shore. The carbon footprint of locally-sourced items is usually much lower than those made overseas, and you’re helping create jobs in your community. From a selfish perspective, there’s also an extra potential benefit for homeowners. One British study found house prices rose 17 per cent more when town centres had plenty of prosperous independent stores.

If you’re on a tight budget try buying local second-hand goods instead of new – Trade Me, second-hand stores and local online communities are all excellent sources of well-priced products. You can give something a second life and keep it out of landfill.

3. Choose an ethical KiwiSaver fund

It’s rare for Kiwi companies to be publicly called out for greenwashing, but our investment funds are one unfortunate exception. According to Mindful Money, a charity that promotes ethical investment, in 2021 several funds that claim to be ethical were invested in companies aligned with Vladimir Putin’s regime. And New Zealand had $15 million invested in nuclear weapons.

Mindful Money has an online tool that shows how much your fund has in potentially problematic investments, and it’s well worth checking out how what less-than-lilywhite companies your KiwiSaver might be invested in. Not happy with the results? You can choose a new fund by selecting areas of concern to rule out.

4. Go paperless

Bank statements, investment statements, electricity bills, rates notices – if they’re still arriving in your letterbox it’s time to make the switch. Nearly every big business offers the option of replacing physical paper work with electronic notifications. You’ll be saving on paper, ink, and the little plastic window on the envelope. You’ll also save yourself at least an hour a year previously spent opening them up, glancing at them, then throwing them away.

5. Reduce energy consumption – or shift it off-peak

This is a great way to save money and help the environment at the same time. Use timers to switch off appliances so they’re not constantly on standby; take shorter showers and use your clothesline when you can.

Even if you don’t cut back your power at all, by using less during peak times (7-8am and 6-7pm) you’ll also help cut carbon emissions. During peak hours, particularly in winter, we have to turn on the most environmentally expensive types of generation to meet demand. This means using fewer renewables and more fossil fuels like coal and diesel.

6. Switch up your coffee cup

If you buy a coffee each weekday you’re producing about 14kg of waste each year, and most types of disposable coffee cups can’t be recycled, according to the Sustainable Business Network. You could switch to a reusable cup, which is a great choice provided you use it for at least a year. Alternatively, look for a coffee shop that provides compostable cups or those made from 100 per cent renewable resources, which cause less environmental harm than traditional plastic-lined paper cups.

7. Sell or donate second-hand goods

Don’t just send old items to landfill. Sell what you can for a quick bit of extra spending money, or donate anything in good condition to be sold by your local charity shop. Either way, you’re cutting back on waste and giving someone else a chance to get a cheap item.

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.


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