Living Green: Sustainable Living on a Budget

In a world where environmental concerns are coming to the fore, the importance of adopting sustainable practices cannot be overstated. After all, there’s only one Earth, and it’s in our best interest to protect it. 

However, many people worry that going green will clash with their financial goals. The good news? It doesn’t have to! In this article, we’ll explore practical ways to embrace sustainable living without breaking the bank, from using energy-efficient equipment to everyday DIY cleaning hacks.

Energy-efficient equipment and easy cleaning hacks

Investing in energy-efficient appliances can significantly reduce utility bills over time. When you’re shopping for your next electrical appliance, look out for its energy label with the tick rating issued by the National Environment Agency. The tick rating indicates how energy efficient an appliance is. The more ticks, the better, as this means that the appliance uses less electricity to produce a certain output. While appliances with four or five ticks are costlier, you’ll probably end up spending less due to lower energy costs over their lifespan. This tick rating currently applies to refrigerators, air conditioning, clothes dryers, televisions and lamps. 

Simple cleaning hacks using everyday household items like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon can effectively clean various surfaces without the need for harsh chemicals. These DIY solutions are not only eco-friendly but also budget-friendly, and they’re easy enough to learn from YouTube tutorials!

Thrifting and upcycling

Vintage and thrift shops are increasingly common in Singapore. Thrifting offers a budget-friendly way to refresh your wardrobe and home decor, and is also a sustainable choice. By giving pre-loved items a second life, you reduce waste and minimise the environmental impact of fast fashion. Furthermore, instead of tossing your clothing away, donating, swapping or blessing them ensures that your old clothes end up in someone else’s wardrobe, instead of at a landfill. 

Read more: 8 Best Thrift Shops in Singapore for Sustainable Shopping

On a related note, upcycling is a rising trend, with many vintage stores also stocking upcycled apparel and accessories. Good news is, you can embrace the art of upcycling by repurposing your old items into something new and useful! Get creative with DIY projects like turning old jeans into trendy tote bags or transforming mason jars into stylish storage containers. Extending the lifespan of your existing items can go a long way in reducing your consumption. 

Sustainable eating habits

Not only does transitioning to a more plant-based diet benefit your health, it’s also good for the planet. Plant-based meals tend to be more budget-friendly than meat-heavy dishes, as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains are often cheaper and have a longer shelf life. Like meat, you can also easily find frozen plant-based food, which is great for meal prepping.

That said, shifting from a meat-centric to a plant-based diet is not easy, especially when you can find such a wide variety of delectable food in Singapore. Instead of forcing an immediate change – which can be counterproductive – make small but tangible changes in the way you eat. For instance, you can incorporate ‘Meatless Mondays’, or try experimenting with new vegetarian recipes to reduce your overall carbon footprint and grocery expenses.

Read more: How To Cultivate Mindful Eating and Improve Your Relationship With Food


Minimalism is not just about decluttering Marie Kondo style; it’s a mindset shift towards intentional living and conscious consumption. This means focusing on quality over quantity and buying only what you truly need. This could mean buying a new pair of shoes to replace an existing pair that’s broken, instead of for the sake of expanding your collection. Once you get more intentional about your consumption habits, you can save money and reduce waste.

Start decluttering your space by letting go of items that no longer serve a purpose or bring you joy. Donate or sell items that are still in good condition to social enterprises, charities and mutual aid efforts. Remember to resist the temptation to replace them with more unnecessary purchases!

Cutting out single-use, disposable products

Single-use plastics contribute significantly to environmental pollution. In 2021 and 2022, only 6% of Singapore’s plastic waste was recycled. Though the country has implemented measures such as introducing a 5 cent charge on plastic bags in major supermarkets, we can still do our part as individuals to reduce our reliance on disposable products.

Invest in reusable alternatives like stainless steel water bottles, cloth shopping bags, reusable straws, and silicone food storage bags. When you’re ordering takeaway, opt for no cutlery and use the ones you have in the office or at home. These eco-friendly swaps not only help protect the planet but also save you money in the long run – think about the sum total of all the 5 cents you’ll save from not getting a plastic bag at the supermarket! 

Ditch cars and embrace other forms of transport

Cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Not to mention, they’re also quite costly as you’ll have to contend with COE prices and fuel costs on top of the cost of the vehicle itself. To save the environment and your wallet, opt for biking, walking, or using public transportation. You’ll cut down on the upfront vehicle cost, and also reduce your carbon footprint and money  spent on gas, parking, and maintenance. You’ll probably get more steps in too! 

If it’s necessary to travel by car, explore alternative options like carpooling with friends or picking ridesharing options with other passengers, to reduce your transportation costs while promoting social and environmental sustainability.

Taking part in local community initiatives

While individual efforts are important, we can only move the needle on climate change if we work together. This is where your local community can band together, working collectively on initiatives such as community gardens. These non-commercial gardens are already a common feature in many neighbourhoods, and have been touted by observers as a possible “fourth food basket” for Singapore. Community gardens renew our commitment to protecting nature, foster a sense of collaboration with our neighbours, and produce some tasty greens for us to savour!

Of course, there are also bulk buying initiatives that grew in popularity over the years of the pandemic, allowing residents to purchase essential items in larger quantities at lower prices, reducing packaging waste and saving money in the process.

Making small but incremental changes is the way forward

In conclusion, adopting a green lifestyle doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. You don’t have to buy that $200 top made of organic and ethically-sourced cotton to signal your intent to go green. 

All you need are small, mindful, and intentional changes that help to reduce your environmental impact while also saving money. Start with easy changes like incorporating energy-efficient appliances and DIY cleaning hacks, then progress to bigger ones, like making changes to your diet, all at a pace that works for you. 

Together, the sum total of our individual efforts will go a long way towards a greener, more sustainable future for ourselves and generations to come.

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