Our Footprints

Three Ways to Live Sustainably on a Budget

22 November 2020

When I first started trying to minimize my carbon footprint, one of the barriers I faced was (actually, “is”) the unbelievably high price tag on “zero-waste” products. (I didn’t plan on going zero waste because that’s too big of a commitment when living as a student, but I did want to replace certain high-use items with more sustainable and durable ones.) I can’t really bring the sass in this article because it’s actually so heartbreaking that so many who care about the future of our planet are prevented from buying sustainable products because of their price tags.

Before we judge these products’ prices, we need to keep a few things in mind.

Firstly, we can’t compare these products to disposable ones, because you have to keep spending money replacing those.

Secondly, these products will reduce your cost of living eventually (say you buy a strong produce bag that will last you a year. This means you don’t have to spend 50 cents on plastic bags every time you get groceries).

Finally, these products claim to be ethically sourced. Some companies also claim to give back a small percentage of their profits to help the planet (Seed & Sprout, for example, claim to plant a tree with every order).

All this is great, but what’s the point if we aren’t making sure it isn’t accessible to the majority? These products are catered to a targeted the fortunate few who can afford to spend $24 on 3 dish bars to reduce plastic waste.

What’s even more concerning is that we have such accurate targeting tools on social media that if I google “ecofriendly products”, I would be instantly bombarded with ads for zero-waste products, while my friend who is not as invested in climate change might get ads for cheap dresses and plastic accessories. The problem here is that I don’t need to be told every time an iceberg cracks in the Arctic, while my friend should not be kept completely out of the loop.

In an ideal world, products that help reduce waste would be accessible to everyone but, oh well- *sighs *. So, here are 3 tried-and-tested ways to save money while living sustainably!

1. Don’t throw away your plastic containers just yet!

This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt. I’ve collected a few milk containers over time, thinking they would be excellent for storing beans, lentils, and rice. Of course, they don’t look very aesthetically pleasing, but do the job incredibly well!

(here is a picture of my pantry)

Having them means I don’t have to spend a lot of money buying these:

2. Buy items that are in tune with your budget.

The market for sustainable products is booming and there are a lot of options. The companies with the highest price tags often source their products the most ethically and give back a good portion of their profit to the planet. These are good practices (and you know about these companies because they spend a pretty penny on digital marketing), but the reality is that most of us can’t afford their products.  Neither should we get tangled with brand names, at least not in this sector please! If you need a reusable coffee cup, buy something in the lower price range that is still durable. Something like this:

Instead of this:

3. Try DIY!

A friend of mine has stopped buying shampoo altogether and instead uses apple cider vinegar with baking soda to clean her hair to reduce plastic waste from shampoo bottles. This has inspired me to also look at products I can make at home! For example, cleaning spray, which we use to clean the dust on tables or glass. We don’t need to buy that along with its plastic waste and toxic ingredients! We can make our own with orange peels and white vinegar (procedure here).

Now, we might not be able to wholly remove the scourge of capitalism that has seeped into the ‘eco-friendly’ industry. But together, we can make sure that these industries don’t turn into those they seem to be fighting against by being conscientious consumers and letting them know we are well-informed.

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