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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Earth Day -- Recycling Helps Your Finances

I have a lot of fond memories about Earth Day going back to the 70s when I met my soon-to-be brother-in-law at an Earth Day Festival to last week when I enjoyed talking with a group of older ladies about recycling and energy conservation. Over the years I have participated in many conversations about the importance of conservation. Clearly conservation is good for the environment, but have you considered how it is also good for your finances?

Conservation involves the three "Rs": Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle. Let's think about ways you can incorporate the three "Rs" into your life:


  • Buy things with less packaging. We win two ways with this: there is less materials to dispose of, plus typically items with more packaging cost more. For example, when food items are packaged for convenience rather than bulk, the cost per serving tends to be higher.
  • Before you buy a new widget or gadget, stop and think, "Do you really need this?" Not buying something is the simplest way to lower your costs while conserving!
  • Decrease your water use: repair leaks, replace current toilets with new "low-volume" toilets, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, install low-flow showerheads or take shorter showers, and more. These activities will lower your water bill.


  • Donate items you don't need to a charity or thrift shop to be re-used.
  • Buy recycled products.
  • Consider new uses for items before you throw them away. For example, using packaging from an item (such as shoe box) to organize and store other items is a better solution than buying a plastic box/organizer.
  • Carry your own reusable bags when you shop.


  • Recycle items – check with your city offices to see what can be recycled locally as well as with stores and vendors that sell items.
  • We often think about recycling items like newspaper, glass, cans, etc. and these are great. But think about other things too. Consider recycling electronics such as computers, TVs, cell phones. Not only are different metal and plastic parts reused, the heavy metals that are in these products are reused too and kept from leaching into our groundwater when thrown into landfills.
  • Have a yard sale or sell items in another way such as E-Bay or at a consignment shop. Making money on something you don't need or want helps your finances and decreases clutter.

Conservation is a lot like saving money -- small steps make a big difference over time. You don't have to do everything at once. Brainstorm with other household members about ways you can start conserving. Think about what you can do in the short-term as well as in the long-term.

Perhaps in the short-term you can commit to a couple of things that are easy to begin such as replacing old light bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) and turning off appliances (such as TVs and computers) when not in use. Your energy bill will be affected immediately; plus it's estimated the CFLs pay for their initially higher bulb cost within two years.

In the long-term you might decide to replace appliances with Energy Star appliances that use significantly less energy to run. Over the life time of an appliance, such as a refrigerator or dishwasher, how much energy it uses will impact your finances more than the original cost of the appliance.

I learned at my first Earth Day festival that it's worth trying new things -- what new conservation practices can you try that will save you money and be good for our global environment?

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