Each choice we make matters.
Our choices as consumers come with costs to both ourselves and the earth. Choosing to live more sustainably can not only save the planet from damage, it can save you money. Let’s consider four areas where frugality and sustainable living meet.
1. DIY: Do-It-Yourself.
What can you make yourself rather than purchasing? To reduce the amount of packaging waste in your household, give DIY a try. You are very likely to reduce your spending, too. I’ll share a few simple favorites.
Shake it up. Shaking up a few ingredients (i.e. olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice) in a mason jar creates tasty, fresh salad dressing. Consider this instead of buying dressing in a plastic bottle. I make a batch approximately once a week. It’s also an ideal mixture to toss vegetables in before sauteing or roasting. That’s a twofer for the mason jar concoction.
Chop chop. Make time a couple days per week to wash and chop your own fruits and vegetables instead of purchasing pre-cut produce. This will reduce packaging and likely save money. If you’re in the habit of buying ready-to-eat foods, consider a gradual change. Set an intention to prep your own food more often and notice how you feel when you make the time. It doesn’t have to be never or always. Once a week is an admirable effort.
Get sudsy. Make your own soap. This is one I admittedly don’t have experience with. I feel inspired when I see recipes for DIY soap but haven’t tried. Instead, I buy bars of soap at the co-op that do not come with packaging — not even a paper label. This may be as close as I get to making my own and that’s okay. The result is similar. I’ve reduced waste by avoiding packaging and it saves me the time of making my own. Each choice matters.
2. BYO: Bring your own.
The list of reusable items we can bring on outings to conserve resources is growing. As manufacturers and entrepreneurs recognize the demand for environmentally friendly practices, options for convenient reusable items that can replace disposables are readily available. Glass, stainless steel, and bamboo are a few examples of materials preferable to plastic. However, if a plastic container is what you have, bring it! You’ll be saving a disposable version from being used and that’s a choice that matters. When you lead by example people may be inspired by your actions.
Here are five ways to practice bringing your own. It does take practice!
- BYO reusable water bottles and hot beverage mugs. If you’ll be staying awhile, ask for your coffee or tea in a “for here” mug. When those aren’t available, drink from the paper cup without a lid. Drinking hot liquids through a plastic lid is not ideal for your body or the planet.
- BYO straw. Alternatively, opt for no straw.
- BYO forks, knives, spoons, or the fabulous all-in-one utensil, a spork. My titanium spork is all I need.
- BYO containers for leftover food when dining out. Some restaurants offer compostable to-go containers. Bringing your own reusable version is even better.
- BYO bags to grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and other shopping excursions. If you forget, challenge yourself to carry purchases without a bag. You may discover a new talent for balancing items on your head.
3. RRR: Reduce, Reuse, Repair.
Reduce the amount of new clothing purchased by shopping at second hand stores or hosting clothing swaps. I’ve enjoyed getting together with friends and meeting new people while exchanging our unwanted clothing and accessories. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s frugal. Swap til you drop.
Reuse cloth for alternate purposes. When you have clothing you’re no longer wearing, the cloth can be reused to create something else. For example, industrious folks sew scraps together to make quilts or towels. Shelters or farmers may use cloth scraps as bedding for animals. There is probably a book of 101 ideas. Get creative and create change.
Repair and continue to wear. Many clothing items can be repaired rather than replaced. If you can mend it or hire someone at a reasonable rate, I recommend considering this. Once upon a time, mending clothing was the norm. As the fashion industry and culture evolves, it’s becoming more common to replace imperfect clothes. Experience the simple satisfaction of finally sewing a button back on to your favorite coat. I challenge you to consider repairing before replacing.
4. TLC: Tender Loving Care.
Caring for yourself and for the planet go hand-in-hand. Implementing lifestyle changes is a daily practice and sometimes we fall short of our expectations. If you forget your reusable mug and buy coffee in a disposable cup, be gentle with yourself. Take care of you and continue to fight the good fight.
The choices that are healthier for you are often healthier for the earth, too. Rather than shaming or condemning the choices of others, speak with love about why you believe in sustainable living. Share your trials and triumphs, in person and on social media. Let people in your life and around the world know that you care about the planet, our shared home. We can learn from each other and inspire change.