A friend recently asked me how living sustainably on a budget works, which is an especially relevant question with the Christmas season upon us. I think there is a stigma out there that says an environmentally friendly lifestyle means buying expensive, ethically-made products, which is not always the case! And, if you’re already budgeting, chances are these five suggestions I'm about to make already resonate with you!
How to Live Environmentally and Cost-Effectively (in 5 Steps)
- Make items last – This is the most important point in this article, which is why I put it first in the list, and it speaks for itself. Living an environmentally-conscious lifestyle means that you are treating everything you own in a way that makes it last. This means keeping clothes until they are worn out, not buying new furniture until old furniture breaks, only buying food you know you will eat before it perishes. And, when purchasing new items, making sure you buy them secondhand when possible (which is usually a much cheaper option).
- Buy fewer unnecessary things – I love trying to live more eco-friendly because it encourages you to stop buying to be happy. This mindset points people away from consumerism, which ultimately helps you spend less. It says instead of buying junk food, try growing your own vegetables. If you are in the middle of Christmas shopping, make sure you're buying presents that will be used by the receiver. This could be anything from buying someone an experience, like a trip to an escape room, to buying them a gift card to try out some new environmentally-friendly cleaners.
- Thrift and buy secondhand – To be environmentally friendly and live cost effectively, you do not need to buy items from the pricier, eco-friendly and fair trade certified stores. I personally don’t often buy clothing from these places. These companies tend to be pricier, which is why I get most of my clothes secondhand, whether this be from thrift stores, consignment shops, or Facebook Marketplace. All in all, the point of sustainable living is to actually stop buying into trends. Under this mindset, I don’t want to be buying new clothes every year. I want to make my clothes last, respecting the material they are made out of, and caring for it accordingly.
- Grow a garden – Shopping for more organic and locally-grown foods is the more expensive side of zero-waste living. One simple solution is to grow your own food, but if you don’t have the space for that, it’s completely understandable. Consider potting smaller herbs or fruits that grow well indoors, like basil and strawberries. Try only buying necessary items, and eating less snack foods, drinking less sodas, etc. Some people will choose to keep buying these things, and that’s okay! But if you are on a budget and want to live more sustainably, consider buying less snacks when shopping. Taking small steps in the right direction is a good thing, and if you think that your budget cannot support sustainable food options right now, don’t beat yourself up about it. Make changes where you can afford to, and leave the rest guilt-free!
- Use less – Electricity and water use should go down when living zero-waste. Lights will be turned off, electronics unplugged, and water used sparingly. Many environmentalists won’t use their dryer at all. You can use the wastewater from noodle and rice dishes to water plants, and collect rainwater for yardwork. It’s the small actions that add up over time. Initially, the zero-waste lifestyle might cost more, but over time you should see a decrease in spending.
If you run into a block and can't afford the more zero-waste option, that's okay! In the long run, it is more about you consciously stepping away from a consumerism mindset. This is what allows you to live sustainably, not what you have purchase.