Some people think that taking care of the environment is going to be hard and costly, but it doesn't have to be! In fact, the main reason I follow these general guidelines is not because they reduce my carbon footprint, but because they save me money! Lots of it, in fact. Practicing these 10 simple rules, you too can find yourself not only with a few more dollars to rub together but also working to keep our world a safe and enjoyable place to live.
Before buying something new, take a look at what you already have and...
1. Fix it, Updo it, or Move it
Sometimes, all that is needed to make an item usable again is a simple matter of replacing the buttons, running it through the wash, or changing out a battery or small part. Time may be money, but a lot of the time that ten minutes it would take to fix something is worth less to you than the hour or two's wages you would have to work to replace it.
Then there are the things that are starting to look dated and dingy. Whereas a new end table would look fabulous in your living room, you may be able to get one that looks even better and showcases your personal style just by throwing a new coat of paint and some hardware on the one you already have! You would be surprised the difference a bright color can make, especially on small pieces. Here's a great example:
Another trick for making your home look fabulous is to rearrange. Use a piece of furniture in a way you wouldn't have previously thought of, group like items (whether in function or color) to make a photo-worthy display, or switch the function of a room altogether! Moving things around can be that burst of style that you were looking for without spending a dime.
But, if none of these are working for you
2. Reuse it.
I remember, as a kid, doing all my coloring on the back of printed papers my dad didn't need any longer. We almost never used a new sheet of paper. It didn't make a difference to me if there was a sermon outline or credit card advertisement on the back.
There are so many ways to reuse things, it seems wasteful all the stuff that gets recycled let alone thrown in a landfill! Cardboard shipping boxes can be reused for our own shipping purposes, for packing for a move, for organizing storage, and they're great amusement for kids; whether that be as alien masks, caves, or stick a toddler in one with a crayon so they can have a 3-D coloring experience while you get something done. Milk cartons were always a hot commodity at my house to use as bird-feeders, kitty-litter scoopers, and watering cans. If one of my husband's t-shirts gets stained, there is often plenty of fabric left to make a romper for the baby, and if not, they make great cleaning rags! Paper can be re-used for drawings, as well as paper chains, and paper mache. There are some really cool paper mache birdhouses out there!
And, of course, there's the ever industrious toilet paper roll. There are soooo many uses for these things! Pinterest is loaded with ideas! Here's a link to one guy's list:
I would be amiss to leave out recycling, no matter how cliche. But, again, the main reason I recycle is because it reduces my "garbage man garbage" by about a third. Where I live, no one picks up our recycling, we have to take it to a site ourselves. But, since it is only the next exit over off the highway, that doesn't bother me any. Make sure you read through the material they give you to ensure the things you are donating are things they take. We don't need to be be a burden on anyone else by making their jobs any harder than they already are.
Only exception I would make to this is paper, cardboard, or other burnable fibers. Please don't recycle your paper!!! Hate me for saying it, but paper recycling creates toxic waste and releases harsh chemicals into the air. Until they come up with a better way of doing it, recycling your paper does more harm than good. Save that for the next tip.
4. Burn it.
Most houses have a burn-pit or something of the like in their yard. Save your burnable fiber items to use as fire-starter, things like: cardboard, printer paper, newpaper, and dryer lint. Occasionally, you may have to burn a pile of just "fire-starter", but the smoke from the fires actually cleans up the air. Just make sure you're not burning plastic, rubber, or anything like that.
Between burning and composting, I reduce my "garbage man garbage" down another third. I compost all organic food material, including egg shells, oatmeal, and coffee grounds. The majority of the leaves I rake and grass I cut is also put in there. Even if you don't garden, compost is in high demand. There are local gardeners that would jump on the chance to get some prime compost.
6. Donate it
This is out of place, I realize now. But, if you are no longer in need of something that it is still in usable condition, consider donating it to a secondhand store. Some people have garage sales, and that can be a way to make some money, but it takes a lot of work. If you are looking to get the most bang for your buck, I would recommend taking the nicer items to a consignment store, especially if you can find one that pays you up front instead of waiting till it sells, possibly at a severely discounted price. If they aren't going to sell there, again, think secondhand. Please don't take them to Goodwill, though. This store is arguably one of the most corrupt organizations out there, using a loophole to pay their disabled employees below minimum wage and then turning around and using that money for extensive executive compensation and travel-related expenses. Support the local economy instead and donate to a locally-run store.
If you can't make do with what you have, which is the singular best way to reduce waste of both resources and money,
7. Consider want vs. need
A lot of the expenses here in America are "wants", not "needs". I mean, do we really need every type of shoe in every color? How many t-shirts does a person really need? And consider the stress level, not to mention waste, that comes with the care of all of this stuff! Laundry piles up way faster when you have a lot of clothes, and then you're running water, detergent, and electricity unnecessarily just because somebody determined that it is socially unacceptable to wear the same dress twice a month.
No, I am not a minimalist. I like my trinkets and accessories, and I own two pairs of black flats (gasp!), but there is something to be gleaned from this lifestyle, even if it seems too extreme for you, namely: we own way more stuff than we actually need.
So, before heading to the stores, determine if this is something you want vs. something you need. Not that we can't buy things we want (gotta love my Caribou), but a lot of the time we are compensating for something deeper going on in our lives (self-esteem, stress, depression), and actually making the problem worse by enabling it and spending money in the meantime.
If you need it,
8. Buy secondhand.
Again, not Goodwill, and preferably locally. There are awesome sites like thredup where you can buy gently-used items, but the problem with these is that you don't really know what you are supporting by buying from them, Accountability is almost non-existent, and most national places aren't straightforward about what their money is going to.
But, when you buy from a local secondhand store, you are supporting the local economy, supporting a local family, and you don't have to worry about how the clothes were originally produced because that company has already gleaned all they will from the item. This reduces the waste of production and transportation.
Additionally, small businesses don't feel the pressure to support unethical causes that large companies do. They usually don't even have the money to do so. And, since you are dealing with the owners directly, you can ask them what the money goes to in order to ensure your purchases are ethical.
Buying secondhand does not mean buying low quality. In fact, I often find name-brand items with the tags still on them. I would have never been able to afford this piece from the original store, but here it is at price I am more than willing to pay. I don't buy clothes that are stained, ratty, or outdated. In fact, most of my friends have asked me how I can dress my family so well on our budget, and the simple answer is that I am not afraid to buy secondhand.
Always always always wash clothes that you bring home, especially from secondhand stores.
9. Shop local
Kinda sounds like a repeat from the last tip, but if you're going to buy something new, shop locally first. You may end up spending a dollar or two more, but again the accountability is a lot higher and you're supporting the local economy. Farmer's markets, local craftsmen, etc. All of these things are great ways to be both environmentally and ethically conscientious.
10. Out with the old and in with the new.
When you do bring something new home, get rid of something old. Shoes is a good example for me... I love shoes. Usually, when I do buy a new pair, it is because an old pair is wearing or has grown too small (the joys of pregnancy). So I don't buy a new pair and keep the old. That would be a waste of space. Even if I am buying a pair just for fun, I find a pair in my closet that I haven't worn in two years but are still in good enough condition to get a something for at a consignment store.
This tactic is a great way of maintaining clutter, if not reducing it. For I often find myself getting rid of two or three things instead of just the one, Clutter, as mentioned before, increases stress and waste.
So, there you have it! 10 ways to be environmentally and ethically conscientious and save money doing it! That wasn't so hard, was it? I didn't say anything revolutionary, or anything that is going to take away from you life. On the contrary! Taking these simple steps will help you reduce clutter and waste, save money, and help the environment!
"But, wait!" you say, "you said there was a plus one!"
You're right. I call it a plus one because it isn't as easy as these other tips. Sometimes it takes time and effort, but it is so worth it. The plus one is:
+1. Research the ethics of a company before doing business with them.
A lot of the companies we work with on a regular basis are corrupt. They use unethical practice and environmentally destructive means of producing things we take for granted in our everyday lives.
But, the argument that it is impossible to live in today's world without working with unethical companies is quite false. There are actually a lot more conscientious companies out there than we realize. We just need to do the research. I intend to post a list of common unethical companies and their easily accessible alternatives here soon, but today, let's just keep it to one:
Starbucks is a highly corrupt organization that is particularly known for being two-faced. For example: Starbucks threatened to pull all business out of Indiana due to their religious freedom act, but continues to do business in countries where religious divergents are beheaded. For example: Starbucks claims to be for women's rights, but continues to do business in countries where child marriage, polygamy, bigotry, female slavery, and prostitution are law. For example: Starbucks claims to be for the rights of all people but sends a large proceeds of their money to Planned Parenthood every year, therefore destroying not only the rights but the lives of millions of people every year.
I'm not going to go beyond mentioning, also, the dubious sources of their products... coffee being a large perpetrator of human slavery worldwide.
Taking all of that into consideration, is your coffee worth all of this evil? Especially when you add the fact that you're probably standing in Target to get their coffee, a company that provides abortion and trans-gender surgeries to their employees and their spouses?
Caribou, on the other hand, refuses to support political campaigns and controversial organizations, instead using their donations to better local economy and the environment! Not to mention the fact their coffee doesn't taste burnt.
I leave you with this thought. Is our ease and comfort worth the lives and livelihoods of people across the world and the destruction of our planet? Or is it time to stand up for what is right, even if we have to go out of our way to do it?