Tips on How to Live Green (and Save Money) While Looking for a Job

Thrift store bargains on business attire can be unbelieveable!

If you’ve just graduated from college and are scouring the city for your first real job, chances are money is tight right now. Job-hunting can be costly, not just from lack of income but also due to things like buying a business wardrobe, dry cleaning, incurring extra transportation costs (to get to interviews), resume services, additional postage, and any other little hidden expenditures that always seem to rear their ugly heads when you’re least flush with cash.

And then there’s the issue of wanting to live a green life, which was easier in college when you had six roommates, four of whom were vegans that loved to cook with fresh ingredients and refused to clean with bleach. Plus, back then you got around only on your bike because you couldn’t afford public transportation, let alone a car.

Ah yes, it was easy to be green in college.

Well, it turns out that you still can be a little green (chartreuse, at least) even though your life now requires a bigger carbon footprint. Just because you need to burn fossil fuels in order to get to an interview on time, doesn’t mean you still can’t make a few little changes that will not only save you money, but will also lighten your load on the environment.

Use Soap Nuts to Do Your Laundry

What the heck are soap nuts, you ask? It’s literally soap that grows on trees. Safe, organic, and 100% biodegradable, it’s the nut that comes from the Chinese soapberry tree, and contains saponin, a natural cleanser used for thousands of years by Native Americans to wash clothes. I use soap nuts in my washer and can attest that they actually get my clothes cleaner (and smell better) than any of those environmentally harmful chemical-based laundry detergents you find in grocery stores. And soap nuts cost way less per load to use than any detergent on the market. You can get them online, in select Whole Foods stores, and at some privately owned health food stores. Soap nuts are a green, cheap alternative when doing laundry. This one’s a no-brainer.

Buy Your Business Attire at Thrift Stores

Yes, you heard that right. Get your power suits, dress shirts, ties, and fancy scarves secondhand. Why not? People usually take very good care of their business clothes, so it’s not like they’ve been out playing rugby in them. In major metropolitan cities there are high-end thrift stores that only accept designer clothes in primo condition, and you can pick them up for dimes on the dollar (which beats paying full price at Nordstom’s). Granted, you probably won’t be able to buy everything you need in thrift stores, but even if you get just a few dress shirts or silk blouses the reduced rate you pay will save you substantial money AND you’re helping the environment by recycling clothing.

Ditch the Dry Cleaning

When shopping for clothes (in thrift stores or otherwise) opt for pieces that don’t have to be dry-cleaned. Dry cleaning is not only expensive, but the chemicals used to clean the clothes pollute the environment and the plastic bags and wire hangers that your clothes are returned on are not good for the landfills.

Even if you do fall in love with a silk blouse that says “dry clean only” you may be able to get away with washing it by hand or using the gentle cycle on your washer (again, soap nuts would work great in this situation). Don’t be afraid to try washing your dry-cleanables, especially if you only paid $8 for a silk blouse at a thrift store. If it’s a high-quality garment, hand washing will not hurt it.

Turn Off the Electronics

Typically when you’re not using your computer, printer, monitor, TV, stereo, etc., they go into a sleep mode, which uses less energy than if they were fully “awake”. However, sleep mode still uses power, and why waste electricity on a device you’re not using? Therefore, when you know you won’t be using your computer for a half hour or more, turn it off and unplug it. Also, turn on your printer only when you need it, and unplug ALL electronic devices when not in use, including TVs, monitors, stereos, etc. Even though they’re off they still draw a small amount of power (when left plugged in). Same when charging your cell phone—most phones now charge in about an hour, so instead of leaving it plugged in all night, charge it in the evening and then unplug it before you go to bed. The amount you save by making these changes may be small, but they add up over the course of a year.

There’s no doubt your life after college comes with its own set of challenges, income not being the least of them. However, with a little effort and some lifestyle changes, you can hold on to some of those altruistic values you had in college AND save a little money at the same time. Both good habits have even after you eventually strike it rich in your career.

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