I’ve always been an environmentalist at heart. When I was about 8 or 9 I felt so strongly about environmental issues that I wrote letters to both the Queen and the Prime Minister (John Major at the time) about how worried I was about the ivory and snakeskin trades. I’m not sure if I thought they’d be compelled to do something about the matter after reading 1 little girl’s letter, but I just felt the need to write and try and do my bit.
Of course I didn’t abolish the trades in ivory or snakeskin with my efforts but the important thing is that I made my voice heard. I took the effort to try and make a difference. And that’s what we all need to be doing if we want to look after the world we inhabit.
Today’s modern society of consumerism and convenience does not lend itself to being environmentally responsible but there are easy things we can all do to help to reduce our impact on the environment; with the beauty that they can help save some money at the same time.
Combat Food Waste
In 2015, the UK threw away £13bn worth of food. That equates to 7.3m tonnes, of which 4.4m tonnes was deemed to be avoidable, ie. waste that was edible at some point before it was put in the bin.
That £13bn converts to £470 worth of food per household. The thing about food waste is, if you went to the supermarket, bought £470 worth of groceries and then went straight to the landfill and threw that food on the mountain of waste, you’d probably be disgusted and shocked at the amount you were throwing away.
But week to week, it doesn’t seem so bad. Maybe it’s just that packet of hummus you thought you’d get as a ‘just in case’ or some salad leaves or fruit that went mouldy – households throw away approximately £10 each and every week. But it shouldn’t be looked at in isolation – it’s part of a bigger whole that adds up to wasting money as well as wasting food.
Food waste can be combatted so easily. Plan your meals, make a list and stick to it. Buy ingredients that can be used for multiple meals and try and shed the ‘just in case’ mentality of buying food in case it might come in handy.
I’m the first to admit that meal planning and list writing can be a very frustrating activity – I’ve spent many an hour bemoaning that I don’t know what I wanted to eat that night, let alone next Wednesday. But the effort pays off when you can keep your weekly food costs down as well as not throwing wasted food away. Throwing food away is literally throwing your money in the bin.
Use The Second Hand Market
Advertisers lure us into thinking that we need homewares every season – like, your rug from 2015 is so last season. I’ve never understood the concept of accessorising your home for the seasons/annually. I just buy something and when it wears out I replace it.
So. You’re lured by said advertisers and are thinking of redecorating and maybe want to get rid of some old furniture. Or perhaps you’re having a clear out and finally getting rid of all those things cluttering your garage/loft/storage unit.
How about the next time you either want a new something or have things to get rid of, you use the second hand market instead of buying new to simultaneously save money and help reduce landfill waste.
Other options are to upcycle by adapting what you have (sanding down your dresser and painting it a different colour for example) or arranging for a charity shop to come and collect larger, unwanted furniture.
So, the next time you’re looking for something, maybe don’t let your first response be to jump in your car and rush to Ikea. Look at the second hand market and what your neighbours might be getting rid of. On the flip side, don’t automatically fill up the landfill with perfectly reusable items. Put it out there on the second hand market and maybe even earn some money from it
Buy Once, Buy Right
The saying goes “if you buy cheap, you buy twice”. Buying a cheap but inferior product is a false economy as it will need replacing sooner than if you had purchased a quality item. I’m not suggesting you go and rack up debt to buy everything top-notch. It’s about waiting for decent items to go on sale or saving for something.
I would much rather keep buying £40 pumps from Clarks that actually support my feet and are comfortable than pay £10 for Primark pumps that are ridiculously uncomfortable and break within 2 months. Not only am I saving money over the long term purchasing better quality, more expensive shoes, I am limiting my impact on the environment by not constantly throwing away cheap plastic shoes.
Don’t Buy It At All
Do you really need it? I’ll admit I’ve embraced a more minimalist lifestyle as I’ve gotten older but the next time you think you need something, wait 72 hours before making a final decision. If you still want it, go ahead. But chances are if you’ve a). forgotten about it or b). your feelings towards it have cooled, you probably don’t need to be buying it.
And that’s a win, win – your bank balance stays healthy with your environmental impact negligible.
Also, by not buying unnecessary crap that you don’t really use anyway, you’re cutting down on the actual amount of crap you own. And the less you own, the less need you will have for things like external storage units. Which are not only a total money drain but are a blight on our landscape.
Our default too often in modern society is to just sink money into things but by living with a bit more environmental awareness and being mindful with our spending we can help not only ourselves, but this beautiful planet we inhabit.