Ideas for everyday living

Five easy ways you could help the planet and your pocket

If you think it’s expensive to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, think again. Here are five ways to live more sustainably that could also save you money.

Reuse, recycle

The next time something breaks or starts to feel old, instead of replacing it with something brand new, could you reuse or recycle it instead? Secondhand clothes, appliances, furniture and computers will generally cost less, while extending their life and putting less pressure on the planet’s resources. Vinted, eBay and Facebook Marketplace will have plenty of options, or for a real bargain, scour Freecycle and Freegle for free items locally (and save on carbon-hungry shipping miles too).

Recycle your own goods and you could make some cash at the same time. A damaged 64GB iPhone 6 could raise up to about £30 on eBay (based on a May 2023 eBay search of sold items) – but also try envirofone or Compare and recycle. Even dead printer cartridges are worth something: printercartridgerecycling.co.uk pays up to £3 for each one. 

Shop smarter

Overpackaging sucks up resources – yours and the Earth’s. Take the time to plan before you purchase:

  • Shop in a zero-waste store that sells its products without packaging and in the exact quantity you need – check out this UK directory for one near you. Some zero-waste shops will even sell cleaning and laundry products.
  • If you don’t have a zero-waste store near you, buy non-perishables, such as loo roll, cleaning products or long-life food, in as large a size as you can. This is usually cheaper in the long run and uses less packaging. Or make your own cleaning products with these ideas from Friends of the Earth – allowing you to repurpose bottles and jars, cut harmful chemicals and save cash.
  • Plan ahead so you don’t get caught shopping for expensive plastic-wrapped drinks or snacks when you're out and about. As well as a reusable water bottle, try to carry a reusable coffee cup too. Most high street coffee chains will give you a discount on your drink if you bring your own.

Reduce your energy use

Warmer weather means lower heating bills, but the price of energy remains steep. Using less will also reduce emissions. Some easy wins are to wash clothes less often and at 30ºC, which saves 38% on the energy used when washing at 40ºC, says Which? (2022). 

Retire the tumble dryer, at least for the summer when it’s warm enough to dry clothes on a rack. Open your mind to microwave cooking – it can do a jacket potato for just 7p, against 37p in the oven, according to Sust-it. Finally, a five-minute (non-power) shower should be cheaper to heat than a bath, but always time yourself to make sure you don’t linger.

Reduce food waste and cook savvy

Reducing your food waste is a no-brainer. If you split the total edible food wasted between every UK household, each home would save £491 a year, according to The Eco Experts (February 2023). It also contributes to around 8% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions (Energy Savings Trust). But there are some quick ways to reduce it. 

  • Make a judgement call on best-before dates. Wilting vegetables can be revived in ice-water for 5-10 minutes (lettuce, broccoli, carrots), stale bread can be revived when immersed in water and then baked, and fresh herbs will last for longer if you freeze them. For advice and reassurance check out the Food Standards Agency.
  • Have meat-free days or make the meat you have go further. Substitute half of your minced beef with tinned lentils – they have a surprisingly similar texture – then you can freeze the other half for another time.
  • A bit of time spent on weekly meal plans and prep is a hugely efficient way of making sure that you have exactly the right amount of food every day. You can also plan around repurposing leftovers, batch cooking and making use of what is already in your cupboards. For inspiration follow chefs like Anna Jones. Or manage your food with an app to track what you need, what you have and what not to waste. Try No Waste or Nosh.

Track your carbon footprint

Your personal carbon footprint is the sum of the emissions created as you go about your daily life. Lowering it will benefit the planet and could save you cash. NatWest’s handy Carbon Footprint Tracker can be found in the NatWest app, criteria apply. 

How and why to use our Carbon Footprint Tracker

Designed with experts Cogo, it could help you tackle your spending, change your lifestyle and have a positive eco impact. It analyses your monthly transactions and matches them to their industry category (eg travel, food bills), then provides tips that could lower your total footprint – and hopefully your spending. 

Find out how to live more sustainably

For tips on how to live a more eco-friendly life, check out the climate change hub on our website.

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