Four Frugal Ways to Live More Sustainably

Each choice we make matters.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

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.
Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

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.

Why I ate a scorpion

Can bugs feed the world? Entomophagy for sustainability.

Yep, that’s me taking a bite of a scorpion snack… bread, cream cheese, a big black arachnid… and I ate everything except the claws. It was … interesting…

en·to·moph·a·gy /ˌen(t)əˈmäfəjē/ noun: the practice of eating insects, especially by people.

Years ago friends in Minneapolis experimented with starting a business raising crickets and making them into food. To announce their new endeavor, they hosted a backyard party and asked for three volunteers to eat giant scorpions. Although their focus was crickets, the enormous scorpions were more attention-grabbing and in the same broad category — bugs. One of the enthusiastic entrepreneurs raised scorpions as a hobby. I had been a “pet sitter” when he traveled, feeding live crickets to the scorpions. Never imagined I’d be eating them, though. Have you, or would you, eat a bug?

After munching on the scorpion, it wasn’t a big deal to sample their granola made with cricket flour. It was high in protein and tasted like… you guessed it – granola. It was really amusing to watch children taste the cereal and see their reactions when they were told it was made with bugs! The process in a nutshell involves purchasing crickets, roasting them at high temperatures, and grinding the charred carcases into powder: cricket flour. From there, the granola was made as one would make any other variety. Honestly, if no one told you the ingredients I doubt you could tell whether it was made with rice flour or insect flour.

Although they didn’t pursue the business long-term, I learned a bit about entomophagy from those friends. The reasons eating insects may be a more sustainable solution to feeding the world’s population, rather than livestock, are well documented. I won’t go into detail, as there are plenty of online sources highlighting pros and cons of entomophagy on a greater scale.

Meat has been the main source of protein in rich countries for years and consumption is increasing in middle-income countries… where eating meat is a signifier of wealth. But eating animals exacts a high toll on the planet. The bigger the beast, the more food, land and water is needed to produce the final edible product, resulting in higher greenhouse-gas emissions. A cow takes 8kg of feed to produce 1kg of beef, but only 40% of the cow can be eaten. Crickets require just 1.7kg of food to produce 1kg of meat, and 80% is considered edible. Insects are also high in protein, minerals and micronutrients. 

Source: The Economist

As a person who rarely eats meat and is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle, entomophagy intrigues me. Although I’m not at the point of roasting and grinding my own crickets, writing this article was inspired by researching local sources of insect flour. The most interesting discovery so far is a restaurant near Minneapolis that offers cricket flour milkshakes on its menu. They say the bugs add a nutty flavor. If I get there, a blog story will follow… Would you taste an insect milkshake?

My (brief) tale of two cities

From small town girl to big city cyclist

My favorite t-shirt says it all, “Ride like you’re from Minneapolis”

When I moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota I was clueless about city culture. Growing up in North Dakota with six siblings did not prepare me for navigating the life of a single college girl, alone in a metropolis. The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St Paul are many many times larger than any of the small rural towns I had lived in. I arrived green eyed, eternally hopeful, and way too cute for my own good (as they say). Naive was my middle name. Looking back, I sometimes marvel at how I thrived. Or at least, survived. Thankfully my positive energy attracted mostly good people and I’m creative enough to problem solve most unexpected situations.

As a child my nickname was Min, as in Minnie Mouse, because of my tiny size. I didn’t outgrow it. (Hey, I just revealed the origin of my username, min in the city). Settling into my dorm room, I felt worlds away from small town life, both physically and emotionally. There I was, feeling independent and free, yet directionless. I knew I wanted something more, but what?

My family gave me very little direction and a hearty helping of unnecessary fear. I recall a conversation with my sister about getting around the sprawling campus alone. I said I felt safer on my bike than on foot. Her response was that biking instead of walking wouldn’t keep me safer. A rapist could hide in the bushes, jab a pole into my wheel spokes as I passed, and attack me when I fell off my bike. Thanks for the pep talk, sis. I get it, sort of. None of my family members had lived alone in a city this size. How could I, the littlest? And why would I want to? All they saw here was too much traffic. But I saw opportunity. Stepping out of the little box I was raised in, beyond my comfort zone, growing.

After several years of living at Minneapolis addresses, this city was becoming an important part of my identity. When I accidentally moved to St Paul, it was weird realizing I’d become so attached. The University of Minnesota is immersed in the city and it’s not obvious where the Minneapolis and St Paul campuses begin and end. When my future roommates and I chose our apartment I didn’t realize it was just outside Minneapolis city limits. So, for one year, I had a St Paul address. I never connected, though. No offense STP. My heart is in MSP. My favorite city lakes and parks, bikes shops, restaurants, co-ops, and other local businesses are here. I never felt a strong sense of place as a child because we moved to different parts of North Dakota. Finally, I understand why people express pride in their home city.

Although I wasn’t the passionate cyclist I am today, I loved experiencing city life on two wheels. No need for gas stations stops or parallel parking skills! After years of grinding on pavement with my mountain bike, I met a changemaker. This guy chased me down the Greenway bicycle path. I on rollerblades, he on bike, we introduced ourselves. Thankfully I said yes to meeting for a bike ride several days later. Now he’s my favorite guy. And more to the point of this story, that ride motivated me to get a bike more suitable to riding on pavement. I sold my mountain bike and never looked back.

It seems obvious now, but I didn’t know any cycling enthusiasts until I met him. I didn’t get it. I thought there were bicycle riders like me, and cyclists who wore spandex, clipped their shoes to the pedals and showed up everywhere drenched in sweat. I was NOT a cyclist. I was a girl who rode bikes… I’m so grateful I started exploring various riding styles and began my journey to where I am today. Sometimes I am that cyclist clad in spandex, clipped in, and wiping sweat out of my eyes. Sometimes I commute and do errands by bicycle. Sometimes I go on joyrides to my favorite places. And approximately once per year I saddle up and ride a century (100 miles in a day) just because I can.

Thinking back to small town life when I wanted five children, or my college years when I studied Elementary Education, I never dreamed I’d become a cyclepreneur. Cycling entrepreneur. Sharing my love of cycling and sustainable transportation with the world is everything that girl never knew she wanted.