How to Be Eco-Friendly on a Budget
There are several reasons why not everyone is so eager to jump on the 'green living’ bandwagon. It’s a much debated idea that living an eco-friendly lifestyle is too expensive. That it’s only for those with the ‘means' to do so. In some aspects I can see why people say this, but for the vast majority I think it’s not true. When individuals talk about it being an expensive lifestyle, I can’t help but think of them talking about those who go out + buy all new “green” alternatives right off the bat or who are going at it from more of an aesthetic angle. Otherwise, this whole “new” zero-waste craze really isn’t new at all. It’s more so about going back to the way our grandparents lived, not too long ago. And if you think about it, they pinched their pennies way more than we do today. They bought things that would last. Things they needed + things they’d only have to buy once. So before I get started on sharing my tips, I want to bring to light that the best way to go about this type of living is to change your mindset first. Our thinking needs to shift from that of compulsory consumption to conscious consumption. If you’re trying to save money with any lifestyle, discern what it is you really need and then plan accordingly. Now onto a few tips for being Eco-Friendly without breaking the bank!
1. Buy only what you need
I know, I sound like a broken record but it true! It’s really all the excess that can really wrack up your bills. When grocery shopping, go with a list and actually stick to it. If retail therapy is usually the way you pass your time, maybe find another activity or hobby that doesn’t make you want to buy things. Most of us have much more than we will ever need or use in our home, so make it a goal to stop purchasing just-in-case items. I think we can all agree that sometimes we buy things because their on sale or we saw a blogger with it or it looked so good on the model! What really helps me to not purchase impulsively or things I just don’t need, is to keep a physical wish list on my phone. Written out, I have a list of NEEDS and WANTS. Needs take priority of course and help me to make sure I am actually getting the necessities for my life to function well. But what’s life without some of the not-so-essential stuff that makes life a little more sweet? Be very intentional about what goes in this category. If you want something, put it on your wish list and let it sit there for at least a week (sometimes items sit on my wish list of months) and then revisit it and really discern if you still want that item. Be honest with yourself. Will it really bring you value? If the answer is no than great! You just saved yourself from buying something you didn’t actually want and wasting your money on it. And if the answer is yes, then you can rest assured knowing you gave it some time, real thought and are certain it will be something of value in your life. Either way, you made the decision with intention. This will help keep unnecessary discarding of items and will keep your wallet fuller too!
2. Purchase second hand
By default, second hand is cheaper. Pretty much for anything! After buying many things second hand, I kick myself for not doing it sooner. Clothing is the easiest area to think about second hand but there’s a second hand market for almost anything now a days! I’ve been an avid thrifter since my teenage days of working part time at a coffee shop. When you have to start paying for your own clothes, you realize how far you want to stretch your money! I still find this a very viable way to shop now. Not only does it save you a lot of money, but it’s also a very ethical way to shop. You’re not putting new waste into the waste stream. Instead, your keeping an item from becoming landfill. There are so many resources now for second hand resources. Thrift stores, high end consignment shops, eBay, Poshmark, Craigslist, ThredUP and many more. Just a little investigating and I’m sure you’ll be able to find some great second hand options in your local community!
4. Shop package free
(image from @_wastelandrebel_ on instagram)
It’s exactly how it sounds. Shopping package free means buying items that are not wrapped in packaging. (Mainly plastic packaging) This is more referring to grocery shopping. Most grocery stores or markets have some sort of bulk section. Some with a larger selection than others. This is the section or aisle of the store where things are usually in clear bins with a scale near by. Instead of buying snacks or essentials like rice, beans, flour in packaging, you can fill up here! We simply bring our own reusable canvas bags to the store, fill them with however much we need of each item and throw them in the cart! One other thing you will need to do is make sure you have the PLU # of each individual item. It will be listed on the tub next to or with the nutritional facts. That will just tell then cashier what you’re purchasing so they know how much to ring it up as. I’ve found this method to save money because first of all, when you buy prepackaged goods, you’re paying an automatic 15% mark up in price for the packaging itself and the space its taking up on the shelf. So when you buy in bulk or package free, your saving on that amount right away. Now, I think where people get upset is when they fill a bag from the bulk section and are outraged by the high price at the check out. Use the scale! You are in complete control of how much you take and end up paying. If you’re used to buying an amount already packaged, look at the weight for that bag and then pour an equivalent weight from the bulk into your reusable bag. It’s really easy to get overly excited at first and get way more than you need! Done right though, it can save you some money + enable you to avoid plastics.
5. Adopt a more plant based diet
No, I’m not telling you to go vegan. What diet we choose is a very personal decision! I’m just saying that in this case, eating more of a plant based diet is more economical and eco-friendly. When my husband and I used to eat a lot of meat and chicken, the things that would make our grocery bill jump the most were those items. If you stick more to vegetables, fruit and whole foods, you’ll save a lot more and you’ll be impacting the environment a lot less. The meat + dairy industry is wrecking havoc on our environment. This industry is the number one contributor to green house gas emissions among other environmental problems. This is one area where doing a little on your part could actually be doing a lot! Even by making small changes.
6. Invest in a couple basic reusables
One simple way to stop throwing so much plastic and money away is to get a couple basic reusables. Sure, plastic water bottles, paper plates + disposable cutlery is seemingly convenient but in reality they’re horrible for the environment and you’re basically investing in the landfill. Think about it — when you buy something that’s disposable, you use it for moments and then throw it away. You’re literally throwing your hard earned money away! Don’t worry though, there’s a simple fix for that. For pretty much any disposable item, there is a reusable alternative that’s much better for you and the environment! Take plastic water bottles for example. A great alternative to them is a stainless steel or metal water bottle that you can reuse and refill for years to come! Another argument here is, “But they’re expensive!” Yes, you do have to pay an initial cost of maybe $20 upfront. But that more than pays for itself within the first few uses! You will end up paying much more than that in your lifetime of re-purchsing plastic water bottles. The truth is — water should be free! With a reusable water bottle you can refill pretty much anywhere. Many places that have traditional water fountains, now have a refillable water bottle station as well! It’s definitely catching on. And if you have a very very tight budget and even the thought of the upfront cost of a reusable isn’t realistic for you — You could easily find a reusable mug or bottle or mason jar with a lid at your local thrift store or even by asking a friend if they have an extra one to spare! Don’t waste your money on disposables.
7. Take care of + use what you have
This is probably the most important tip I can give you. The most ethical, sustainable, affordable and eco-friendly way to live is to just take care of what you already have. Use up what you’ve got before you go out to purchase something new. This may mean you don’t always have the most up-to-date versions or the most fashionable or even ideal — but it will save you money + refrain you from throwing away things that might end up in the landfill or ocean. Doing this has really helped me to put more value back into my possessions and has caused me to take ownership of what I have. Practicing this will also help you to have a greater sense of gratitude. We really have so much more than others in the world do who don’t get to experience the basic amenities, we often take for granted.
No matter where you are on your journey to more green living, don’t feel like you can’t do it successfully if you’re on a tight budget. It’s totally doable! It might take a little more creativity and planning but it can be very rewarding to know you’re doing the best you can with your circumstances to lessen your impact on the planet. Tell us in the comments, any tips you’ve found helpful for being eco-friendly on a budget!