I have long realised that frugality and sustainability are natural bedfellows. It is logical that if you consume less and waste less you can help the environment as well as your bank balance.
Sure, my initial reasoning behind embracing a frugal lifestyle was to save money. I was on a suddenly reduced income and needed to get through to the end of each month! However, being frugal also appealed to the eco-warrior in me.
Swimming against the tide of consumerism
If we buy fewer things, it saves us money, obviously. But when we swim against the tide of consumerism and stop buying mindlessly, the returns don’t just mean we free up money to save, pay debts or simply live better. Becoming conscious about each purchase also enables us to help the environment.
We become creative with what we have, meaning that something new doesn’t need to be produced, packaged and transported. In addition, by using what we already own, we don’t clutter our homes with more unwanted items.
For example, how often do we impulse buy clothes when we already have a wardrobe full of things we hardly wear? That we bought on a whim, only to find we have 5 T shirts the same, or the new purchase doesn’t go with anything else, doesn’t suit us or actually even fit?
Questions you need to ask as a conscious consumer
It’s worth stopping to think before mindlessly buying. Learn to become a conscious consumer.
Ask yourself: do I really need this? Can I afford it? If you can, ask yourself if it is worth the money? Could you get it cheaper or maybe second hand? Maybe you will decide you don’t need it after all.
Go one step further to help the environment and ask: How far did this have to travel to get here? Could I buy more locally? Is it over-packaged? What is it made from? Is there a more planet-friendly version available?
Being more mindful in the choices you make when spending your hard-earned cash can help you to shop sustainably to help the environment and help you stick to your budget.
Here are some more ideas for small switches you can make.
Buy second hand to help the environment
If we buy second hand, not only does it save us money but it potentially stops an item going to landfill.
Buying second hand also means that item isn’t having to be produced from scratch, saving on the energy involved in its production and transportation, not to mention the packaging.
Clothing, toys, furniture and electrical products are just some of the things worth buying second hand. Personally, I try not to buy new unless it’s really essential.
Being thrifty in the kitchen is good for your wallet obviously, but a frugal approach to food also cuts down on food waste. The less we waste the less we have to buy. Food waste costs us an average of around £800 per year per family, but also rotting food in landfill creates methane, a greenhouse gas.
Plan your meals and shop with a list. Freeze leftovers for a quick ready meal. Make stock from chicken carcasses and veg peelings and then make soup. This is really good for using up veg that is on the turn or left overs, especially mashed potato.
If you only buy what you are going to eat, you save money and cut down on food waste.
There is also a strong argument that cutting down on your meat and fish consumption, even if you don’t want to go full on vegetarian or vegan, will help the environment. Vegetarian food prepared at home (rather than bought pre-made and packaged) will also be cheaper.
Finally, and this works well if you live in a city, consider getting an app like Too Good to Go. It enables you to buy food from cafes, restaurants and other retailers at the end of the day at a hugely reduced price.
Olio is a similar app, but this also encourages individuals to offer their spare food – even home grown vegetables!
The marketers will tell us that we need a different product for every job – even each room of the house. They also fill our homes with a chemical cocktail of nasties that can be bad for our health and the environment. They also cost a lot of money.
I prefer a simpler approach. It saves you money if you make some of your own cleaning products, reduces plastic packaging, plus fewer chemicals is better for the environment as well as your health, as I argued in my recent post about reducing the chemicals in your home.
There is a lot of information on the internet about cleaning with old fashioned products such as bicarb of soda, soda crystals, white vinegar and citric acid. I really like my own home made lemon cleaning spray, for example.
Even if you don’t fancy making your own or don’t have the spare time, stores like Wilko do their own range of eco-friendly cleaning products really cheaply. I use their dishwasher tablets and washing up liquid.
When you go out for the day with the family, pack a picnic and take water and coffee in reusable containers. This saves money and side steps all the packaging that comes with take away food. You also don’t have to queue for ages at busy events – an added bonus that is worth considering, especially if you have fractious, hungry children with you!
I keep two light weight reusable coffee cups in my handbag and my reusable water bottle comes everywhere with me. Even if I am just out and about, I usually have an apple or cereal bar about my person to prevent sudden hunger pangs tempting me into McDonald’s…
Gardening and growing your own
Organic food means fewer chemicals, but you do usually have to pay a premium. However, if you have a bit of garden, you could start to grow a few vegetables. Packets of seeds are so cheap and produce loads of plants.
Home grown produce uses less water and fewer chemicals, needs no transportation, and entails no packaging.
You can compost your raw kitchen scraps too to use on the garden to keep the soil healthy. It’s cheap and saves them from landfill.
If you don’t have a garden or enough time to grown your own produce, even the discount stores like Lidl and Aldi have some organic fruit and veg options at reasonable prices.
Cycling or walking
For short trips, we would save ourselves a lot of petrol if we used our legs to walk or cycle rather than jumping in the car without thinking. It’s a cheap way to get fit too, so you could ditch the expensive gym membership.
I admit to being the worst for this, driving what would be a ten minute walk to the local post office far too often. When I do remember I have legs, I feel so much better for getting outside, especially on a sunny day.
I find I frequently end up chatting and waving to neighbours too, which is an added bonus. However, cutting short trips will definitely help the environment.
Now that I work from home, I was worried about the electricity and gas bills going through the roof this winter. I have found a few tricks to keep our energy bills low and help the environment in the process.
I religiously turn off the lights when I leave a room. The cats don’t need the hall light on, when I am in the sitting room! They see pretty well in the dark.
I get pretty chilly when I am sitting for long periods at my laptop. However, by layering up and keeping a blanket nearby I can avoid putting the heating on. I also move around the house with the sun. It gets very warm in the sitting room in the morning, but is better in the bedroom in the afternoon!
We have a wood burner in the lounge as well, which means it is easy to heat just that room rather than switching on the gas heating for the entire house.
Small changes such as the above really can have an impact on how much you spend as well as helping the environment. For me, these actions make me feel in control and positive, rather than deprived in any way.
Do you find that a frugal lifestyle makes you more eco-friendly?