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How To Save $18,000 While Saving The Environment

profileSarah Chan

Metal straws and reducing plastic waste have been the talk of the town for a while now.

The issue is especially relevant in Singapore as we strive to go zero waste given that the only landfill we have will be completely full by 2035Jialat.

Source: Friday | giphy

Regardless of whether you’re emotionally invested in Mother Earth or think global warming is a hoax (it’s NOT), did you know that being an environmentalist has its perks too?

In fact, adopting a Zero Waste Lifestyle can in fact lead to cost savings in your daily life!

Here at Seedly, we’re all about helping you make smarter personal finance decisions. So let’s embrace the kiasu-ness in all of us and find out how much money can we save while leading an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

TL;DR: Save $18,000 While Saving The Environment!

Saving the environment is not that difficult or expensive. You can do it via two simple steps:

  • Using reusable products for your meals
  • Going bulk grocery shopping 

All it takes is a $35.90 investment in reusables (collapsible cups and takeaway boxes) and a trip to the bulk food store and you can save nearly $22 a month while being environmentally friendly!

$22 a month might not seem much, but if you use a put it into a Regular Savings Plan and earn a modest return of 5% annually, your savings will amount to $18,385.98 after 30 years.

What Is The Zero Waste Lifestyle?

The Zero Waste Lifestyle basically encourages consumers to produce as little waste as possible while going about their daily lives.

This lifestyle is centred around the following 5 Rs, arranged according to importance:  

  1. Refuse: Saying NO is the first step to keeping our waste at bay
  2. Reduce: Question your purchases & resist any impulsive buys
  3. Reuse: Bid farewell to your disposables and switch to reusable products instead
  4. Repurpose: Give things a second life by upcycling, revamping or DIY-ing them
  5. Recycle: This is our last resort after all the other Rs have been exhausted

What Can I Do To Save The Environment?

So how can a beginner start adopting this Zero Waste Lifestyle?

The simplest step is to switch from disposables and one-time-use plastic products to reusables instead.

This means you should be using stuff like:

  • metal straws
  • cutlery sets
  • lunch boxes
  • reusable bottles and cups
  • tote bags

And just like that, we would be fulfilling 2 Rs already: Refusing and Reusing!

Source: giphy

As you can tell, the reusables which I listed are all meant to help us reduce plastic waste from our meals. Especially since most of us are drinking more bubble tea recently and ordering more takeout through food delivery services or simply by dabao-ing our lunches from food courts and kopitiams (FYI: all of these activities generate a lot of plastic waste!).

That said, a lot of people have the common misconception that being an environmentalist would be expensive.

But did you know that you can also save money while saving the environment?

How Can I Save Money While On The Zero Waste Lifestyle?

Up to this point, you must be wondering to yourself “Sian sia, so many boring terms. I can really save money by switching to a zero-waste lifestyle meh?”

The answer is YES.

And you can do so by following these two very simple steps:

  • Using reusables for your meals
  • Going bulk grocery shopping 

Use Reusable Products For Your Food And Beverages

Here are the reusable products I invested in, to aid me in my journey towards zero waste:

Reusable ProductCost
Collapsible Cup (550ml)$18
Collapsible Lunch Box (1,200ml)$6.90
Cutlery Set (spoon, chopsticks & metal straw)$11

Obviously, there’re cheaper and even more expensive reusables out there. So choose one that suits your budget and style.

Here’re the perks I enjoy if I used my reusable products for food:

Use Your Reusable Product At...Savings
Canteens, Kopitiams, Or Food CourtsSave $0.20 to $0.50 off depending on the stall you buy your food from- Plastic box
- Plastic utensils
- Plastic wrapper for chopsticks
- Poly-coated Kraft paper
- Styrofoam box

And here’re the perks I can enjoy if I used my reusable products for beverages:

Use Your Reusable Product At...Savings
Common Man Coffee RoastersEnjoy 10% off takeaway coffees when you use your own cup/bottle- Paper cup & lid (hot beverages)
- Plastic cup & straw (cold beverages)
- Plastic film over the cup
- Plastic straw
- Plastic straw wrapper
Dutch ColonyEnjoy $0.20 off takeaway drinks when you use your own cup/bottle
Foreward CoffeeEnjoy 10% off takeaway drinks when you use your own cup/bottle
Joe & DoughEnjoy $0.50 off takeaway drinks when you use your own cup/bottle
PunchEnjoy $0.50 off takeaway drinks when you use your own cup/bottle
StarbucksSave $0.50 when you use your own cup/bottle

Pro Tip: Get More When Using Reusable Containers For Your Beverages

When I order a Grande sized drink (473ml) at Starbucks, I’ll use my own collapsible cup (550ml) to get $0.50 off.

On top of that, the staff will usually top off my drink to the brim which means I get more drink for the same price!

Basically, if I ordered a Grande-sized drink, I’m actually getting 77ml more drink AND a $0.50 discount!

And guess what? The same also applies to Koi bubble tea too.

If I ordered a Medium-sized drink (500ml) with my collapsible cup, I’ll be getting 50ml more bubble tea (no discount though)!

I can’t say the same for other bubble tea stores as their menu, prices, and cup sizes are different. But do try and let me know if you can benefit from this little hack!

Bulk Grocery Shopping

Source: Unpackt | YP SG

Bulk grocery shopping means buying package-free food products such as nuts, grains, spices and sauces (mostly food, but other household products too) with your own reusable containers, bottles, jars etc.

Since these products aren’t pre-packaged, you get to buy them according to your household’s needs, for example purchasing 500g of oats since your family only consumes that amount every month.

Source: giphy

This helps to eliminate food wastage and saves money as compared to buying a packet of oats which only comes in say… 1 kg pre-packaged sizes, and throwing out the rest when you can’t finish it.

So where do I do my bulk grocery shopping, you ask?

Well, I usually go to Unpackt, Singapore’s first bulk food store, as their food items are pretty affordable.

(Disclaimer: we’re not sponsored by Unpackt! It’s just the store that I frequent since it’s the most convenient one for me to get to.)

Here’s a look at how much I save in a month by going bulk grocery shopping vs. grocery shopping at a regular supermarket like Redmart:

ProductPrice @ UnpacktPrice @ RedmartSavings
$1.70 per 100g$11 per 500g$1.25
250g: $4.25250g: $5.50
Acai Berry Powder
$2.54 per 10g$25.90 per 100g$0.50
100g: $25.40100g: $25.90
Chia Seeds
$1.69 per 100g$11.90 per 450g$1.30
50g: $0.8550g: $1.30
Raw Almonds
$2.80 per 100g$9 per 2 bags (150g each)$0.60
300g: $8.40300g: $9
Dried Raisins
$1.80 per 100g$3.90 per 198g$0.20
100g: $1.80100g: $2

As you can see, the more food you get from bulk grocery shopping, the greater the savings!

Also, the flexibility of buying however much I want from bulk grocery shopping is particularly useful for spices and dried fruits. Ultimately, I am reducing my food wastage and I’m saving money too!

Source: giphy

A Breakdown Of How I Saved ~$22/Month

Here’s what my life looks like in a month:


I usually get coffee about 3 to 4 times a week from Starbucks or cafes which I frequent regularly on the weekend.

Savings per month: $6 to $8 (+ extra coffee)

Bubble Tea

I also get Koi bubble tea about 1 to 2 times a week (P.S. Do keep your sugar intake at a reasonable level, guys…)

Savings per month: extra bubble tea


I am a pretty frequent dabao-er when it comes to my meals, sometimes 4 to 5 times a week. The price for takeaway containers varies from stall to stall.

Savings per month: $8 to $10

Bulk Grocery Shopping

I do my bulk grocery shopping once a month.

Savings per month: $3.85

Total Saved Per Month

Savings per month: $17.85 to $21.85

The amount I managed to save (~$22) in my first two months will cover the initial cost of buying my reusable products ($35.90).

As long as I keep my reusables clean and use them religiously, I’ll be effectively saving $22 a month just by making the switch.

It might not seem much, but putting $22 a month into a Regular Savings Plan and making use of compound interest (assuming a modest return of 5% annually) will give you:

  • $1,502.37 after 10 years
  • $9,080,42 after 20 years, or
  • $18,385.98 after 30 years

So there you have it.

Being environmentally friendly is good for the environment AND an investment in your financial future.

Zero Waste Lifestyle Beyond Your Meals

Of course, the zero waste lifestyle extends beyond using reusables and refusing plastic options for your meals.

Another common reusable that is gaining traction (among women) is the use of menstrual cups instead of disposable pads.

Additionally, thrift and secondhand shopping are becoming popular too. And since the rise of fast fashion is a major contributor to our landfills, it’s great that we’re doing whatever we can to help save the environment.

Source: @ketnipz | Twitter

Saving the environment is often misunderstood as being difficult and expensive.

While it takes extra effort to buy reusables and carry them around with you for your meals, perhaps the financial savings from this lifestyle would appeal to the Singaporean in you who loves a good deal and the opportunity to save.

Remember, taking baby steps for the environment is better than nothing. Similarly, saving for your future begins with taking small steps today.

Have any other tips which saves the environment while saving money? Let me know in the comments below!

About Sarah Chan
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