Stay-At-Home Mom Shifts $1,600 of Household Budget to Protect the Environment and Her Family

Erin Peters knows a thing or two about "green" shopping.

The stay-at-home mother of three young boys lives with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. She writes The Conscious Shopper blog, where her motto is "Go Green. Live Better. Save Money." She's also the newest member of our One in a Million campaign, joining almost 5,000 other folks who have shifted at least $1,000 of their household budgets to the greenest products and services available.

One thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money. But since we're talking about shifting our spending, rather than adding to what we already spend, it's something most of us can afford. Plus, if a million people do it, we could send a message worth a billion dollars to manufacturers that we want them to make our health and the environment a priority.  Here's how Erin made the shift:

Every month I spend about $600 on local and/or organic groceries for my family of five. Over the past year, I've also spent:

$400 on a winter CSA membership
$60 on Charlie's Soap laundry detergent
$54 on Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent and dish soap
$16 on recycled paper towels
$10 on trash bags made with recycled content
$45 on recycled toilet paper
$72 on Tom's of Maine toothpaste
$30 on Preserve toothbrushes
$60 on organic make-up
$7 on Crystal deodorant
$173 on thrift store clothing and Simple Shoes
$27 to set up a worm bin
$52 on recycled printer paper

$1606 – Total

Erin's shifts did not happen overnight. 

"For a long time, I had a misconception that living green was expensive and therefore out of reach for my family," she said. "Then one day, I got frustrated with the feeling that I was buying inferior and unhealthy products and that I wasn't spending my money in accordance with my values. I decided just to go for it and see if I could buy organic, non-toxic, and fair trade products without blowing my family's budget.

"At that time, our budget was extremely tight, but I found that by living more frugally and doing the green things that save money, I was able to shift our savings to our food and clothing budget. Without affecting our overall budget at all, I was able to go green!"

 Erin said some shifts were pretty easy. "I love buying fresh foods from the farmer's market and through our CSA. I love that my family is eating healthier, but I also enjoy meeting the farmers and hearing their passion. Knowing where our food comes from is such a wonderful feeling," she says.

 But there are still some challenges – like clothing. "In my past life," Erin admits, "I was a Target-clothing addict. I've learned to enjoy thrift store shopping, but there are some items (like shoes) that I prefer to buy new and the price difference of eco-friendly clothing versus Target clothing is a hard one for me. Mostly, I get over that hurdle by not going to Target. Out of sight, out of mind."

Erin is taking what she's learned as a green budget shifter and launched a campaign to encourage others  to make small behavior changes, too. It's called The Conscious Shopper Challenge, and it provides weekly goals to help people go green in a year without spending a lot of money. "We start with "trimming your waste-line" (reducing your trash production), then we work on energy, water, transportation, shopping, food, and finally looking "beyond your front door," explains Erin.

"I think a lot of people have the same misconception that I used to have: that going green means big expensive changes like buying a new car or putting solar panels on the roof. But I've learned that there are so many small things each individual can do, and those small things add up to make a big difference.

"I hope The Conscious Shopper Challenge will show people how easy and affordable it can be to go green while providing a strong supportive community to go green with. But beyond that, I hope people will feel inspired to be conscious shoppers, aware of how their decisions in the marketplace affect other people and the planet."

Feeling inspired? Check out even more inspiring One in a Million stories here. Why don't you join us? It's easy. Start here.

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9 Responses to Stay-At-Home Mom Shifts $1,600 of Household Budget to Protect the Environment and Her Family

  1. Richard @ Eco Living Advice March 9, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    I agree that most people think green has to be more expensive. And I think in some ways it can be. But the point here is that it doesn’t have to be – you’ve shown that. I like “case study” articles like this to illustrate such a point.

  2. Diane MacEAchern March 9, 2010 at 5:51 am #

    Thanks, Richard and Mitch. I hope you’ll join the One in a Million challenge – the more the merrier! And it would help you save money, too.

  3. Kathy March 10, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    I think all of this is great work! I just want to add that it pays to search into the products you are buying. For example, Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste is actually now own by Colgate. I find out much of this kind of information by reading OrganicBytes newsletter and keeping track of what the Environmental Working Group is working on. Hope this helps you to get even more (green) value for your money.

  4. Diane MacEachern March 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    You’re all right – it’s the small changes that Erin has made that have added up to so much. Thanks for your comments.

  5. sue March 29, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    I agree with you that going green means shifting expenditure rather than spending more. I have realized that driving around is the most environmentally unfriendly thing that you can do, so I plan my trips very carefully and always call ahead to make sure that I make no unnecessary trips. I soon found that I needed the cheapest cell phone deal to do this and I think I found it in Net 10, which only costs me 10 c a minute, which is a whole lot cheaper than making an unnecessary trip.

  6. Diane macEachern March 29, 2010 at 5:45 am #

    Thanks for the idea. You’re right – cutting back on driving is a great step to take.

  7. Chris Chase April 10, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Saving money is always a good idea. Doing it in a green way is even better. Kudos!
    Great post!
    I’ve been looking for ways to economize and when my cell contract was up, I got a Net10 phone. I pay 10¢ a minute and 3¢ for texts. It’s a terrific value and there’s no contract or overages.
    Highly recommended!

  8. Diane MacEachern April 12, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    I never heard of the NetPhone. Thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out.

  9. Diane MacEachern July 26, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    I agree. I love composting because, in addition to generating great fertilizer, it reduces the amount of trash I have to cart out to the street for pick-up once a week.

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