Getting into the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ habit creates financial well-being

SINGAPORE — “Reduce, reuse and recycle” used to seem like just a slogan for conservation-focused greenies. These days, practising the 3Rs not only helps to save the planet, it may improve your finances and help you grow a bigger nest egg.

Many people think that reducing, reusing and recycling is only something to do to protect the environment, and that it entails some kind of sacrifice. The reality is different.

Saving the planet doesn’t have to mean giving up all the things you love, as conservation organisation WWF puts it. While it does preserve natural resources and reduce pollution, you can live a comfortable reduce-and-reuse-lifestyle that also delivers financial perks.

And more people want to live a 3Rs lifestyle anyway. The 2017 Nielsen Global Sustainability Report found that about 45 per cent of millennials in Singapore make an extra effort to save on electricity and gas, and global data firm YouGov found that about one-third have sold old clothes online rather than throwing them away/

The question for many people is how to get the benefits of 3Rs without crimping their lifestyle.

MAKE BETTER CONSUMER CHOICES

A good place to start is by making better choices in what you consume. The Guardian newspaper suggested that simply buying less stuff is a good route to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and it reduces expenses as well. Buying recycled items can help too, since prices are low compared with buying brand new items.

Buying a wool suit may have a carbon impact equivalent to your home’s electricity use for a month, The Guardian said, and a single T-shirt may cause emissions equal to three days’ power consumption. Buying fewer and better clothes can save money and help the environment.

Reducing food costs can be easier than you think. In the United Kingdom, for example, the government gave households practical tips on managing food, such as how to quantify food waste to figure out where it was being lost and how to store food better. The initiative resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in household food waste after just six months, which also lowered their food costs. By managing your food better, you can spend less as well.

ARRESTING THE ‘THROW-AWAY’ CULTURE

Taking care of your possessions and maintaining them well means you can get more mileage out of them, so you can use them for far longer. Indeed, using everyday items longer or reusing them instead of buying new ones, from shirts and shoes to phones and iPads, can result in sizable savings.

A more radical step is downsizing your lifestyle. A recent YouGov survey showed that 30 per cent of millennials had bought half their clothes in the past year, and 34 per cent of Singaporeans threw clothing away after wearing it just once. Reducing purchases of clothes, as well as gadgets, can help the environment and save lots of money.

And if you’re doing some renovation, you can save by installing eco-friendly appliances. Just putting LED bulbs in your five most-used light fixtures can save S$75 a year, while installing a new toilet that uses less water can save S$100 per year or more.

MAKING MONEY FROM RECYCLING

While reducing and reusing saves you money, recycling can put cash in your pocket. There are plenty of places to recycle by selling things you no longer need.

You can sell almost anything online on platforms such as eBay or Carousell, for instance, by registering as a seller and creating your item listing.

Carousell said that selling second-hand goods such as pre-loved clothes can be a great way to earn some extra cash or to turn a small side business into an unexpectedly successful career and you declutter your room while you’re at it.

You can sell online at plenty of specialised sites as well.

If you want to sell goods directly, services such as Cash Converters or Hock Siong buy certain types of unwanted goods.

Or if you want to exchange items with others instead, platforms such as Swapaholic organise “swap meets” to help consumers get rid of items and replace them something else. The swaps enable people to “prolong the life span of beloved possessions by finding new owners who will cherish them”, Swapaholic says, “and save the planet at the same time by no longer discarding good quality items that would otherwise end up in landfills”.

SMALL CHANGES, BIG IMPACT

Along with actions like these, a multitude of other practices to reduce, reuse and recycle can enable you to save money and save the planet. Green groups and even government agencies such as the National Environment Agency, for example, have plenty more suggestions.

Still, steps such as selling used clothes, saving S$75 on electricity and cutting food bills by 15 per cent might seem like they would have little impact.

Over the course of a year, though, you can save hundreds of dollars. If you start in your 20s and save or earn just S$25 a month that you invest to earn 5 per cent interest per year, you can end up with more than S$20,000 by the time you retire. And you’ll be helping to save the planet and prevent climate change at the same time. Little lifestyle changes can indeed have a big impact.