Living Sustainably for the Average Joe (or Jane)
By: Nicole Rodgers
A sustainable lifestyle is a noble goal, and one that we should all strive for, but going green can get expensive. Not everyone has money to burn, and for the average Joe, paying the rent and putting food on the table get first priority. But living sustainably is not just about reducing your carbon footprint by using high-priced hybrid cars and solar power systems; it’s also about saving you money, right now.
You Are What You Eat
Let’s look at one of the most basic human needs: food. “Organic” has become quite the buzzword in recent years, but buying organic food, especially from a large grocery chain, is not always as green as the marketers would have you think. It certainly tastes better, but there are a few other things to consider.
Organic farming is better for the surrounding environment, to be sure, but it also usually produces less per acre than standard factory farming methods. This means that more land must be cleared for the same amount of food. Of greater importance, however, is the transport issue. Food costs aren’t rising because farming is getting harder – they’re rising because fuel costs are rising, and it costs a lot to drive a refrigerated truck from California to the east coast. Instead of buying organic food from thousands of miles away, try to buy locally sourced food whenever possible. Some grocers go out of their way to stock as much local product as possible, and you’d do well to find them. Not only is local food fresher and better, it can also be cheaper. Anytime you can cut out a middleman, it’s good news for the pocketbook. The next logical step, of course, is to…
Cut Out ALL of the Middlemen
Do you have a green thumb? Put it to work in the backyard; it doesn’t get any more local than that. Certain items, like tree nuts or fruits, require more long-term investment than the casual gardener might like, but vegetables are easy. Even a small garden can save money. If you have lots of time, or kids to handle the grunt work, you can grow a surprisingly large amount of food. Be sure to compost as well, so you can enrich the soil before the next planting.
Nothing but the Water
That garden is going to need water, but you don’t have to use the hose. If you build or buy a cistern, or rain barrel, you won’t drive up the water bill. It’s probably not a good idea to drink collected rainwater, but the plants won’t care. They like dirt.
Now think about the water you do drink. Chances are it comes in a plastic bottle, because tap water in some areas is just plain nasty. However, bottles are bad news for numerous reasons. Most of them get wasted, for starters. Even if they get recycled, that uses energy too. Reusing them is also a bad idea due to concerns about chemicals leaching into the water from the bottle itself. Your best bet is a water filtration system of some sort.
This one is simple: use your feet to travel whenever you can. While it’s not practical or even possible for everyone, a lot of money can be saved by using a bike for short errands and trips. As an added bonus, it’ll help get rid of that spare tire.
Nicole Rodgers has been blogging in the environmental and technology and sustainability industries for three years. To use her time most efficiently she utilizes her family to outsource work when it comes to things like housework or gardening. When she was considering getting her environmental MBA she took GMAT review classes to increase her chances of getting into her choice school.