How to Be Sustainable on a Budget
Yes, you heard it. You can become more environmentally sustainable without buying glass or metal straws. If you’d like to buy glass or metal straws though, I quite love them (because of course, I own both) and you can get them on Amazon here.
Okay, so here’s the big idea: stop buying stuff with packaging. In fact, scratch the remark about ordering from Amazon. They use way too much packaging. Buy your straws from your grocery store or the eco-friendly, bulk-buying, dirt-smelling, local place in your town (because almost everyone has one) that I love so much (and buy more items from there if you can). But remember, that’s only if you want to buy something. The key to this post is to be aware of what you’re buying because you’re not just buying a product, you’re buying it’s packaging too.
This amazing article from Food Print is very informative about the environmental impact of packaging. So much trash and pollution come from it! When I was living in Boston, I realized that almost every day, I bought something in packaging that I was going to throw away.
For example (and specifically):
- coffee cups
- granola bar wrappers
- paper target bags (yes, they’re recyclable, but it’s overall better to just not create the trash anyways)
- chipotle takeout
- grocery/food packaging
No, Mom and Dad, I did not buy all of those things every single day.
I was taking my trash out often, and I couldn’t help but notice there were so many people who were doing the same thing. In my bullet journal, under my habits, I usually put in the lower half things that I want to know the last time I did, but that I’m not supposed to do every day (like a face mask, or vacuum, or laundry). At one point, I was taking out the trash up to four times a week! For just me! In a medium-sized trash can!
To kickstart living sustainably, you have to change the way you view material items (this is why there’s no money involved). I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed when they try to start living sustainably because they slowly begin to realize that they’re surrounded by unsustainability and need to do a major overhaul of their life. I’m not here to say that won’t or will happen, but I hope it makes you want to do better, whether you’re on the scale of sustainability or not.
Of course, some of these items aren’t required and can be out of order since you can’t really put an order on sustainability. The point is, there’s always more you can do to become sustainable, even if you’re high up on the scale. But even if you’re on the scale, it’s easy to go up and you’re already making a difference. Yes, even if you’re just thinking about it, because if you’re doing that, you’re likely to move to the next steps, just changing your viewpoint is the kicker.
Up the scale, you can replace the trash with something reusable. Yes, there is buying involved in this step, but for starting out, you can use things you already have. But, if you’re going to replace single-use items with reusable ones, you’re saving money in the long run. And maybe if you order something on Amazon that’s reusable, you’ll stop ordering things on Amazon.
Here are things you definitely have that you can get more use out of:
- A water bottle
- A reusable mug
- A reusable plastic container for food
- A canvas tote (or any tote that you can use for shopping)
- A metal tea strainer
- Plastic wrap
- Plastic bags
- Plastic water bottles
- Disposable razors
- Literally, anything that’s plastic
- Disposable things that you don’t really need like makeup wipes (I’ll post later about beauty products)
Here are some items you buy to replace them:
- Metal safety razor. I’ve had mine for almost four years now and all I have to do is buy metal blades (and those are biodegradable). You can get them at almost any grocery store or pharmacy (and, of course, on Amazon *eye roll*).
- Bar soap! You can even take it one step further and get bar shampoo and conditioner. I personally love Lush, but you can also just go to Whole Foods and get Dr. Bronner’s or any other grocery store if the bar is wrapped in paper.
- Wax cloth and/or cheesecloth. These can store your foods. I have even made my wax cloths into little sandwich baggies. The disadvantage is that it’s difficult to see inside, but you just need to get used to it.
- Wool dryer balls. The more laundry you have, the more you’ll need. If you do really heavy loads, I recommend using 8-10. I think most of them come in packages of 4 or 6. You can use essential oils (I like to use lavender or lemon) to put on the dryer balls before you run the dryer to make your clothes smell good.
- Metal tea strainer and loose leaf tea. Make sure the tea leaves are sold in metal tins (I’m pretty sure they usually are). If you’re used to tea bags, remember they can’t be recycled because they’re lined with non-recyclable materials, and you will have to get used to specks of tea leaves at the bottom of your tea. Honestly, not bad to have those, and if you want to make a game out of it, learn how to read tea leaves.
- A Make Up Eraser makeup removing cloth or something similar. It’s washer-safe and lasts a long time compared to single-use makeup removing wipes. There are also reusable cloth pads out there that you can apply a makeup-removing liquid to.
- And so many other things! You just have to do a simple Google search!
Is it a pain?
At first, it’s a pain to remember to take your reusable bags to the grocery store, to take your straws with you, etc., but that’s only because you’re not used to it yet (mother, this is a callout). This is the hardest part and probably why people give up so easily.
Before you buy anything at all, ever, you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Is this buying of this product or food worth the trash?
- What small thing can I do to create less trash?
- Am I ordering this online because I’m too lazy to go down the street and buy it?
When I was first curious about minimal/zero-waste, a website and person that I’ve been following for a long time is Trash is for Tossers. Lauren Singer, the girl who started it (and my hero), is a minimalist, zero-waste advocate, and she can fit all her trash into a mason jar. She actually started her own company, packagefreeshop.com, that sells minimal/zero-waste items. Her company also ships (with no plastic packaging). You can watch her YouTube videos here, as she gives general and specific advice on how to live minimal/zero-waste.
There are so many other great companies to research too. Most, if not all, also have sustainable packaging, so you can order online:
- For household items, The Grove Collaborative, Blueland, cleancult, Net Zero Company, and The Earthling Co..
- For your phone case, Pela phone cases.
- For personal hygiene, there’s a company for dry toothpaste called Bite (they sell toothbrushes too), by Humankind sells deodorant (and other items) (also, please don’t ever buy powder deodorant––it will ruin your life).
- For clothes, Christy Dawn, For Days, and Pact.
There are so many other companies out there, all you have to do is look! There are so many opportunities to be sustainable, it’s almost crazy not to be, especially if it can help undo the damage we’ve caused to the planet.