In the past year or so I have become extremely conscious about my lifestyle choices, particularly about choices that affect the environment.
Maybe it is because I live in France where it is easier and cheaper to buy organic, bio, green products or maybe it is because I work in environmental sustainability and as such am exposed to helpful information.
I find that these choices have made me feel lighter and more mindful about other lifestyle choices as well.
Occasionally, I have shared these experiences with friends and family who have often pointed out the costs of these changes or the “fad” thinking behind them, but my choices have been inspired by extensive reading as well as observation during my childhood years.
Hence, I am writing this article to share my tips which can bring about changes in your lifestyle but won’t tear a hole in your wallet.
You may remark that most of them are common-sense, but they have been forgotten or left behind with the onset of modern/time-saving/clutter-free promise tools.
Think before you buy:
Plan your meals over the weekend, so that you buy only the groceries you need for that week. Even refrigerators cannot keep vegetables fresh for too long, buy them every two to three days instead.
This will help you save money as well as address global food waste by not throwing away food you have forgotten to eat before expiry date or ingredients that are not multi-functional.
Carry your own bag to buy your groceries and avoid the plastic bags. Avoid the home delivery option if you can—when you realize you have to carry your own bag, you will resist the temptation to buy everything you think you need.
Cook as much as you want, as you like. It can be a creative process, a relaxing one, or a challenge—you will save money, appreciate what you eat and maybe even pick up a hobby!
You can make the same bagel sandwich at home with the same ingredients for a fraction of the cost or a rice dish that can be carried over to the following day. This way, you will be able to spend the saved money on a really great meal at a restaurant which you previously could not afford because of your daily meal expenditure.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for a doggy bag if you haven’t finished your meal—you paid for it.
Cutlery and accessories:
What did people do before tissue papers were made?
Use tea towels and cleaning cloths to clean at home. These towels can be washed and used multiple times. You don’t even need to buy specially made cleaning cloths: cut up from threadbare bath towels. You can make smaller cloths to be used at picnics as well.
If you order food and are provided with a bunch of paper towels, don’t throw them because you don’t intend to use them right away. Store them in your handbag for emergencies, at home instead of buying a new roll, and please consider how much tissue paper you need to mop up one drop of a liquid before using them all because they came free of cost.
Say no to plastic cutlery if you are carrying your food home or having it delivered. If you did take them, use the same principle as the tissue papers—use them for lunches at work/school, or at home before throwing them.
Containers and Packaging:
Open gift packaging carefully and re-use them as book covers or even further gifting. Buy tinned food initially and then buy refill packs. You can re-use the tins multiple times, and then throw them for recycling when they’re too old or if you move often.
Some food stores offer cereals, grains, and other items in distributor form to be bought in packets. Take your own tins and boxes to buy these items.
Cosmetics and Hygiene Products:
This one was hard for me as I am a product junkie and used to buy them on a whim. Then I would get tired of all of them halfway, and buy some more! I taught myself to buy one at a time, and only to buy another product when the bottle was absolutely empty and had been thrown in the right garbage bin.
I am learning to buy biodegradable products where possible or products with recyclable packaging. The little extra cost I pay for them encourages me to get the maximum out of the product.
The recommended amount of detergent powder is actually more than you really need for a load of washing. If your regular load is just clothes and bath towels, you don’t need to use a lot, unless you roll around in the mud every day.
If you wash your dishes immediately, you need only a teensy bit of the liquid detergent and a little water to clean. If you are doing the dishes at a later time, give them a slight rinse with water before leaving them in the sink so that the food remains don’t dry and require more detergent.
There is immense potential for all of us to save water on a daily basis, if we paid attention to our actions. Time your shower to five minutes, and don’t leave the water running while soaping or shampooing yourself. Don’t leave the water running while washing the dishes—soap your scrubber, pour a little water over the dishes, scrub them all and then turn on the water for rinse.
Europe is pedestrian friendly, but other countries may not be so. However, you can still change habits by car pooling, using public transport where possible, making different choices such as visiting nearby restaurants or hang-outs and choosing far-off spots for special occasions.
Trinkets and souvenirs need not be thrown away, recycle them as gifts. Check if your city/parish/or department stores take old clothes, lingerie and shoes. Pharmacies in Paris sometimes accept old, unused medicines—check with yours. All of these can be used to help people who are in dire need but can’t afford basics.
If you have canned food that you won’t consume, check if your neighbourhood school has a food programme or Christmas collections which need such contributions. Paris has a lot of homeless people who are always grateful for anything you can afford to give them; maybe your city does too?
As mentioned earlier, a lot of these tips are common sense but we don’t practice them for many reasons. You can start small, create your own changes, and make better lifestyle choices. Just give it a try!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: North Charleston/Flickr