4 ways your money choices can help with environmental sustainability

Investing in your values

These strategies can help protect the environment and save you money.

Making financial decisions that align with your values can help support the things you care about and your well-being. “Over time, it gives us higher satisfaction with our lives,” says Bright Dickson, an expert in positive psychology and co-host of the Money and Mindset podcast.

So if you’re passionate about protecting the environment, you may be looking for ways your money choices and habits can help create a more sustainable world.

If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. A recent survey found that 69% of Gen Zers and 73% of millennials are actively trying to decrease their environmental impact.Disclosure 1 Spending with sustainability in mind is one way you can have a positive effect not just on the environment—but on your personal finances.

The highlights:

  • Shopping more sustainably can help protect the environment and potentially save you money.
  • You don’t have to completely overhaul your lifestyle. Small changes can make a big impact.
  • Avoiding impulse buys and being more mindful with your purchases can help you limit overconsumption. 

4 good money habits that support sustainability

1. Spending and consuming less

When you’re buying something new, it can be a good idea to pause and ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Let’s look at shopping for clothes as an example.

Research shows that fashion production is responsible for 10% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and discarded clothing is a major contributor to landfills.Disclosure 2 Buying fewer new clothes can help you save money and reduce waste.

For dressy events, consider renting those items you’ll likely only wear once or twice. For everyday wear, you can look for vintage finds or exchange clothes with friends. By taking good care of the clothes you have now, you can also make your wardrobe last longer—and sustainable style can still be chic.

Applying that less-is-more mindset to other things you buy, from tech gadgets to big-ticket items like a new car, can help you save more money and safeguard the environment. For example, you could consider repairing your old phone when it breaks instead of upgrading to the latest model.

“I love the idea of just allowing your things to go further,” says Brian Ford, head of financial wellness at Truist. “You can be grateful for what you have and know that you’re using less of the earth’s resources.”

2. Shopping for responsible brands and shopping closer to home

Sometimes you have no choice but to buy something new. But there are ways to keep the environment in mind while shopping.

Buying products made in your community, from local produce to handmade jewelry, can be an effective way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that come with long-distance production, storage, and transportation.Disclosure 3 Consider heading to the farmers market for homegrown food or browsing shops that stock goods made locally.

You can also stay on the lookout for merchandise made from recycled material. To use one example, it takes 95% less energy to recycle an aluminum can than it does to make a new one.Disclosure 4

Similarly, you can take inventory of how much single-use plastic you’re using, such as bottled water. It may be better for the earth and more cost-effective to buy a reusable water bottle and a filter.

“Being frugal and buying less stuff is actually good for the environment.”—Brian Ford, head of financial wellness, Truist


Potential savings on your lighting expenses from turning off lights during the dayDisclosure 6

3. Making lifestyle adjustments.

Lowering your thermostat a degree or two in the winter—and raising it in the summer—can help you save energy and money.Disclosure 5 You can also change your HVAC filters and turn off electronics when you aren’t using them to help reduce your utility bills and conserve energy.

Outside of the house, how you get around can make a big difference for both your wallet and the environment. If public transportation is accessible where you live, taking a bus or train instead of your own car can help you reduce carbon emissions. A study of the cost of transportation in 20 major U.S. cities found that using public transportation instead of owning a car could potentially save you an average of around $1,100 a month.Disclosure 7 Even if owning a car is a necessity for you, you may be able to save a little money and help the environment by choosing public transit whenever it’s an option.

If you live in a bike-friendly area, replacing just one daily car trip with a bike ride can reduce your carbon emissions by up to 67%.Disclosure 8 And you’ll never have to pay to gas up your bike.

4. Investing toward a greener world.

Money doesn’t grow on trees—but in a way, your money can help grow more trees. If sustainability is one of your top values, you can invest in organizations that are committed to environmental solutions. You can consider renewable energy, green transportation, and clean technology companies. But if you do focus your investments in these companies, be sure your portfolio stays properly diversified so that you don’t put your long-term financial well-being at risk.

Ford recommends talking to a financial advisor about ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing if you’re interested in taking this step. “When it comes to investing, there are funds that support sustainability, and they’re becoming more popular,” he says. “You can ask an advisor to guide and direct you so that your portfolio has more companies that agree with your values.”

If you prefer to be more hands-on and choose your own companies or environmentally focused funds to invest in, Truist Trade offers independence and control for self-directed, real-time trading.

Next step suggestions:

  • Take inventory of your spending. Consider whether you could shift any of it toward more sustainable choices.
  • Create small sustainable goals, like keeping your phone for another year or changing the thermostat by a degree or two at night.
  • Consider scheduling an appointment with a financial advisor to learn more about sustainable investing.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.