Many of us are trying to do our part to help the planet. In our family we’ve seen that thoughtful consumption, use and reuse can also help us lead slower, less expensive, more purposeful, and more family-centered lives.
The biggest influence on my relatively green habits has been my daughter, Anna. From a young age, she showed great concern about our environment and the world she would inhabit.
Plastic waste in the oceans and in our landfills upset her so much that she embarked on a lifestyle of extremely limited consumption of plastic, oil, paper, water and other non-local or non-sustainable goods, which she has followed for about the last eight of her 17 years. She bikes to school and errands.
She buys little and often reuses or upcycles clothing and other items, by embellishing them or piecing them together to create new items. She uses reusable bags, water and food containers, and water-bottle holsters, like these:
Dovetailing with Anna’s desire to use less is a desire to spend less. She sees these two practices as intertwined. Saving resources results in financial savings, and vice versa. Both also result in time savings, and the ability to spend precious time engaged in fun hobbies and with friends, rather than shopping and consuming.
Through Anna I’ve learned that, as conscious as many of us try to be, there is much work to be done, if we really want to change our habits and be thoughtful consumers and good stewards of the Earth. She recently sat down with me to offer her top ten suggestions for reuse, using less, and ultimately saving money, while conserving natural resources.
1. Bring your own shopping bag, instead of using plastic
“Only buy as much as you can carry.”
2. Bring your own utensils
“Camping sets are very inexpensive at army surplus stores.”
3. Turn off faucets and lights when they’re not in use
4. Don’t spend money just because you can
“You will end up wasting money. Focus on what you really need. Put yourself on a budget. Sometimes you have to decide whether you want one large thing or multiple smaller things.”
5. Try to go to local stores and buy local goods
“This eliminates imports and the transportation they require.”
6. Bike or walk instead of driving
7. Get out in nature
“This will immediately make you want to recycle and help our environment because you’ll appreciate where you are.”
8. Use your local library
9. Buy second-hand clothes and upcycle them
and the most important thing you can do:
10. Stop buying plastic bottles
Americans purchase 29 billion plastic bottles of water each year. This takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make, enough fuel to keep one million vehicles on the road for a year. The energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate bottled water takes an additional 50 million barrels of oil each year.
The creation and transportation of plastic causes much of the world’s pollution. Bottles in the landfill take centuries to decompose and many end up on our beautiful shores and in our oceans. It’s easy to see why limiting plastic consumption figured in three of Anna’s ten recommendations.
It’s been humbling and refreshing to be enlightened by my own daughter and to watch her grow into a thoughtful and resourceful young person. I’m delighted to think that there are many more like Anna who are conscientious consumers and educators. Her tips can easily be put into practice by anyone who wants to make small changes that will have large ripple effects on their lives and the life of the planet.
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman and Poor Planet
This post originally appeared in Frugal Mama.