It seems to be fashionable these days to look down on those seeking to implement small changes in their lives for the good of the planet.
Think reusable bags, composting, and minimalism.
Real progress, this line of reasoning goes, will come from policy changes—sweeping environmental reforms. But while these big shifts are of course crucial, I must disagree when it comes to the micro-changes.
Individual action matters. Every change has a ripple effect. No, your decision to switch to oat milk, build a compost pile, or avoid plastic may not stop climate change, but it’s not pointless.
Maybe your choices rub off on 10 people in your immediate circle, or on your children, or your mother. Maybe your local coffee shop switches to compostable to-go cups because so many people start asking for them. You get the idea.
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Change compounds. It builds on itself.
Now, before I knew or cared much at all about climate change, I managed to make quite a few eco-friendly choices just by being my cheap and lazy self. I hope this list will push you to think about the changes you can make that cost you no time, no money, and no effort. Because why not?
Nope, none of this will “change the world,” per se, but if it adds just a few more ripples to the global pool, isn’t that worthwhile?
The point here is that making good choices for the Earth doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming, or complicated. In some cases, doing less—and taking, buying, needing less in particular—is the most eco-friendly choice we can make.
Eight ways being cheap and lazy greened my life long before I was an environmentalist:
1. Not having a car.
The maintenance? The cost of petrol? No, thanks—I’ll pass. I survived four years in semi-rural Vermont without a car, so this is not just for the city folk.
2. Skipping the plastic grooming habits.
Makeup, nail polish, disposable everything—that sh*t is expensive, and who has the time? Not me. Oh yeah, and unless you’re buying (actually) natural beauty products, it’s pretty terrible for the planet, too.
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3. Waiting until clothing actually smells or looks bad to do laundry.
Socks and underwear aside, I’ve never understood the wear-and-wash samsara loop so many people seem to be stuck in. Wear it, smell it, wear it again. Repeat until you gross yourself out.
4. Not cooking meat.
It’s common knowledge at this point that mass meat production is poisoning our environment with a potent cocktail of methane, carbon dioxide, and more. While I’m not a vegetarian, I hate the clean-up required after cooking a meaty meal, and so I mostly go veggie when I cook at home. And, I mostly cook at home (cheap, remember?).
5. Drinking from the carton, eating from the pan.
Why make dishes dirty if you just want a sip of juice? There’s 60 seconds of your life you can spend doing something more interesting than washing dishes. Bonus: save on heating and water bills, and pour a little less dish soap into the sewer.
6. Buying used clothing.
Cheaper than fast fashion. More interesting. Oh, and—it’s a kinder, greener, and more ethical choice!
7. Taking shorter showers—and not every day.
I always wondered what other people do in the shower for so long. Rinse: one minute. Soap: one minute. Rinse: one minute. And forget about shampoo. Like laundry, I think so many of us shower every day because that’s simply what people do—not because it’s necessary for good hygiene. Marathon runner? By all means, then stick with the daily shower.
8. Just not buying stuff.
It’s a lot less effort (and money) to just not buy new things. The longer I live out of one bag, the less impulse I feel to possess more, and the more I enjoy having less.
What other cheap and lazy lifestyle choices are good for the Earth? Please share your favorites in the comments.
Author: Toby Israel
Image: @tobyintheworld on Instagram
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen
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