Saving the planet is a goal everyone can rally around, but it’s easy to feel discouraged if you think your contributions will have little impact on the environment and, worse yet, if you think it costs you more to do so. If you need extra motivation, remember this: when you live more sustainably you do more than reduce your carbon footprint, you can even increase your savings.

For most Canadians, some thoughtful changes in just three areas – food choices, plastics use and emissions reductions – can make the biggest difference in achieving your savings and sustainable living goals.


With record inflation having everyone thinking twice about what they add to their grocery cart, many Canadians are discovering that they can lower their food bill and be gentler on the environment. Here’s how:

  • Shop for seasonal, local produce. If you want the best buys in the produce section, zero in on in-season fruits and vegetables. By consuming more root-based veggies in the colder months and more greens in the summer, you’ll be supporting local farmers – and saving money because of lower food mileage costs. Shorter trips to the market for comparable items don’t only mean lower transport costs passed along to the customer; they also translate to a lower carbon footprint and healthier options, since produce can lose as much as half its nutrients in transport.
  • Grow your own food. You don’t need a tractor or a large piece of land to grow your own food. In some cases, all you need is a balcony or rooftop garden. By making room in your flowerbeds to plant fruits, vegetables or herbs, you’ll not only have access to fresh and inexpensive food, but you’ll also lower your carbon footprint in the process.
  • Cut down on meat and dairy. Nothing in your shopping cart carries more embedded carbon than the animal-based protein portion of your diet (details in this climate change food calculator). If you can find opportunities to swap out meat and dairy for plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils and tofu, and oat or soy milk, you’ll save money and have less impact on the environment.
  • Reduce food waste. The average Canadian household tosses $1,766 a year in food. Given all the carbon emissions generated to get that food from the farm to your plate, cutting food waste can have a major impact on reducing your carbon footprint. Creating a meal plan, storing food properly and only buying what you can eat in a week will help you manage your food bill and lower your food waste. Composting scraps and creatively using leftovers will also keep food out of your green bin.


Plastic pollution is all around us, and because plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it never goes away. Instead, it breaks down into ever-smaller pieces, eventually turning into microplastics that are ingested by people and animals and contaminate water and soil. Here are a few ways to reduce your plastic use while shopping, going to work or eating out.

  • Buy loose fruit and vegetables instead of pre-packaged items.
  • Buy canned foods rather than plastic-packaged foods.
  • Use your own reusable containers at the local grocer.
  • Along with using these containers, try taking things a step further by opting for reusable sandwich bags or reusable wraps made of beeswax.
  • Refuse single-use plastic. In 2022, the federal government banned six categories of single-use plastics, including shopping bags. The ban takes effect at the end of 2023. Many establishments now comply, but you can do more:
    • Say “no thanks” to single-use items when they are offered.
    • Only accept single-use items if you need them.
    • When ordering via apps or online, specify the items that you don’t need.
    • Carry a fork, spoon, cloth napkin and reusable straw in your bag or purse.
    • Bring containers when dining out in case you have leftovers; otherwise, you can ask restaurants for reusable containers that you can borrow or rent.
    • Ask for a reusable cup or dish when dining in at a quick-serve restaurant.

Carbon emissions

Along with the steps noted above, there are many other practical ways to cut your carbon footprint and increase your savings at the same time. Consider these, particularly when it comes to major purchases and lifestyle choices:

  • Make energy efficiency your mantra. When buying appliances, electronics or lighting, pick the most energy efficient models you can afford. Also, choose items in sizes that match your needs. When using them, keep energy use to a minimum (e.g., wash clothes in cold water – and double up by doing your laundry during off-peak hours)
  • Electrify your ride. If you drive a car, make your next buy a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV). Lower-priced models are coming to market, and there are more used EVs to be had. Yes, making EVs emits carbon, but research is conclusive that their lifetime emissions and operating costs are far less than combustion engine vehicles
  • Embrace thrift shopping. There are many environmental benefits to buying second-hand or refurbished items in thrift stores or on Facebook Marketplace. But from a carbon footprint standpoint, they are the original zero-emission goods. The only new emissions come from delivery and sale. Everything else that went into them originally is now carbon under the bridge.
  • While Canada is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, you can do your part now. Try measuring your carbon footprint with this carbon calculator and setting your own goals and targets. You might just find you’re not only embracing new sustainable daily habits, but you’re also accelerating your financial goals from cost savings, too. Win-win.