This is a story of how small changes can compound into big savings – both for your hip pocket and for the environment.
And today, maths is telling the story.
You know how the power of compounding can increase our financial investments.
“Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.” Albert Einstein (allegedly)
But the power of compounding goes beyond finances.
It can feel like the little things you do to help the environment don’t make any difference. What’s the point when your actions are but a drop in a vast ocean of apathy?
It’s important to remember that our actions inspire others.
Good ideas are contagious.
There are currently 7.6 billion people on the planet.
Seven billion small gestures add up to huge and radical change.
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4 Small Changes…4 Big Impacts
There are dozens of ways you could live more sustainably, without spending a lot of money.
You can put up curtains to reduce your heating and cooling costs. Or you could instal draft guards.
In today’s article, I’m sharing five specific examples of how a small investment can save you money and reduce your environmental impact.
Example 1: Reusable Water bottle
Initial Cost = $30. Potential Savings = $510 a year.
One million bottles are purchased around the world…every minute!
And that’s expected to increase by 20% by 2021.
Let’s look how this compounds:
One million bottles per minute equals 1,440,000,000 per day. Or 525,600,000,000 per year.
(That’s 525.6 billion or approximately half a trillion.)
Just this year.
Thrown on top of the ones already in landfill from last year. And the year before.
Not only is that an EPIC TONNE of plastic that ends up in the landfill and the ocean (only 7% gets recycled into new bottles), there’s the environmental and social cost of removing, bottling and shipping that water all around the world.
The average person living in the US used 167 bottles last year – it’s probably similar here in Australia. The average bottle of water costs around $3 here. That adds up to an average cost of $510 per year.
Compare that with tap water, which will cost you a few cents.
I’ve had my water bottle for 10 years. There’s a dent in the side where it fell off the roof of the car on the way to the hospital to give birth to my daughter. It’s not a flaw; it’s a memory. And the dent makes it easier to hold – it’s accidentally ergonomic.
You can’t make memories with something that gets thrown out in minutes.
If I were an ‘average’ consumer, it would have saved 1,670 bottles so far, and $5,100.
That’s just one person.
And there’s 7.6 billion of us.
Imagine the impact if each of us invested in a reusable water bottle, and as a collective, we removed 525.6 billion water bottles per year from circulation.
Further Reading: How to Make Tap Water Taste as Good as Bottled
Example 2: Clothes Airer
Initial Cost = $10 – $30. Potential Savings = $140 a year.
Clothes dryers are one of the most energy-sucking appliances in the home.
By not using a clothes dryer – at least most of the time – then you can save a packet in energy costs and greenhouse emissions.
But…what if you don’t have a clothesline or the weather is unconducive to clothes drying?
That’s when a clothes airer can save the day.
(Or you can just string up line in the garage or under a patio).
How much can you save by switching from a dryer to a clothes airer?
You can use this handy calculator from the South Australian Government to calculate the running costs of your dryer:
By their calculations, a dryer adds up to $244.60 in energy costs a year.
Personally, I only wash 4-5 times a week for our family of 4, so if we used a dryer, our savings would be closer to $140 a year, which is still not bad for a $13 investment.
Further Reading: How to get your washing dry if you don’t have a dryer.
Example 3: Tap Aerator
Initial Cost = $10. Potential Savings = $42 per year.
A tap aerator is a cheap accessory that fits onto the end of a regular spout and restricts the flow of water – saving you water without reducing water pressure.
They are appropriate for the kitchen and bathroom taps, which are often used for small tasks like hand washing.
If you already have a newer-style low-flow tap, you don’t need to install one of these, but if you have an older style tap, an aerator can reduce water flow from an average of 15 litres per minute to around 6 – 8 litres per minute.
Here’s how I calculated the potential water savings:
(I assumed the kitchen and basin tap would be used for 5 minutes a day – this is pretty close to estimates given here.)
Example 4. Menstrual Cup
Initial Cost = $45. Potential Saving = $120 per year.
According to this report, the average Australian woman spends between $120 and $200 a year on disposable menstrual products.
Over 50% of the world’s population menstruate, and the average woman uses approximately 11,000 tampons or pads in a lifetime [source].
Of course, not all women have access to disposable products, but in the US, 20 billion products end up in landfill every year.
While that adds up to a “colossal waste burden”, no one wants to go back to the stone age and use rags!
Women deserve hygienic and convenient alternatives.
They save you money every year and reduce the amount of waste produced.
Living more sustainably doesn’t have to cost the earth (pardon the pun). You don’t have to drive a Prius, get solar power or make other grand gestures (although if you can afford to, all the better).
Small changes add up. And if we all focus on making small, consistent changes to our everyday habits, then epic, radical change is inevitable.