Living a more mindful life has everything to do with conservation at the consumer level. In my journey to simplify my suburban life of excess (yes, I am as guilty as anyone), I have come up with some strategies that are easier than you think to slip into your daily life. We have noticed some unexpected benefits.
- when you use less you spend less
- when you focus on core needs versus wants you end up focusing on what’s ultimately important to you
- when you consider what you put into or on your body, you end up putting less trash on the curb and into the ground
In this blog, I cover three areas and will finish up with a part II to the series later this week.
Reducing household consumption
- AC Usage – as Americans we have become intolerant to heat…we spend more on AC than any other country in the world and to the extent we end up wearing sweaters indoors in the summer time. We know this isn’t good financially and some studies show that extreme AC usage is not good for your body. There’s conflicting research on the effects AC has on the body, but generally if you don’t live in an over polluted (air) area, it is better to have your windows open.
- Here’s a funny read from the Washington Post on American’s addiction to AC
- In an article from 2012, Daniel Engber via slate.com sums it up very well: to critics of the technology, not to mention the protectors of America’s moral core, the desire for comfort had been transformed through advertising into a false necessity. Full article
- Food Waste – A staggering 40% of all food in the US is wasted..it goes into the trash – who’s to blame? EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US. What can we do to change it?
- Compost -Anyone can compost, even in an apartment on your patio. Even without a patio you can compost with a box of worms! In the most sustainable countries, a composting service is offered like our trash service. This dramatically reduces the amount of trash added to landfills.
- Meal Planning – Planning ahead is one of the best ways to reduce food waste at home. Perhaps you struggle to use your fresh items in time, consider shopping more in the frozen section – frozen veggies offer less sodium than canned varieties. Frozen can also save you money, not only because they are cheaper per pound but that you can use exactly the serving amount you need and save the rest for later.
- Bulk is bad – Bigger is not always better -bigger homes, with bigger pantries and bigger refrigerators have led to much bigger waste. Pre-packaged items have longer shelf time, but come with different problems – typically unhealthy and come packaged in plastics and other hard to recycle materials. Do your shopping every 3 to 4 days, and if possible, ride your bike to the store when you have to pick up that one item that you are out of. This will help to curb your shopping food frenzy…Where you go into the grocery store for one item and spend $100. This will reduce waste, get you some extra exercise, and save money.
- Self Image be damned – Have you ever eaten out and wanted to take your left overs but felt a little cheap doing so? DON’T! Because we are in Texas, we eat a lot of TexMex…consider the amount of tortillas thrown out on a daily basis. I’ve started taking them even if that’s the only thing left on the table, I freeze them to be used later..they never go to waste at our house.
- Clothing – From a personal standpoint, this is where I have really fallen short. For many years, I have had quite a shopping habit. Simply put – I love clothes. I am guilty of buying trendy clothes from discount retailers. I’ve known it was bad for a long time but didn’t realize just how bad until I did a little research.
- Environmental Impact – Non-organically raised cotton is responsible for 25% of all pesticide use in the US. When cotton is made into clothing, many hazardous materials are used and added to the product, including heavy metals, flame retardants, ammonia, phthalates and formaldehyde, and more. These harmful chemicals pollute the air, water, soil and get into the fabrics we put next to our skin everyday.
- Human Impact –Poor working conditions, minimal environmental regulations, and child and slave labor are commonplace in the $1 trillion garment industry. Consider shopping for brands that are part of Fair trade or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)certified associations.
- The Waste factor – Discount retailers, also referred to as the Fast Fashion industry, is the second dirtiest global industry after oil. (WHAT??) 84% of all donated clothing goes into a dump or landfill. If these clothes are not organic cotton, all the pollutants mentioned above go into the earth and pollute our soil and water.
- What can we do about it? As much as I hate to say it, stop shopping at Fast Fashion/discount retail stores. Buy/wear organic cotton and shop second hand. Find ways to repurpose or reuse no longer needed garments, for example using old T-shirts as cleaning rags. Influence organizations that you’re involved with that promote high volume distribution of T-shirts that it is not OK! With two school age kids in sports and various activities – the amount of Tshirts we buy, wear a few times and throw out is mind boggling!
While it would be hard to implement everything I’ve mentioned immediately, I hope that something resonates. I believe if you even try one thing, it will be rewarding and start to unravel a pattern of conservation. Who knows, maybe you will find yourself in the not so distant future on a bike, wearing organic cotton, grabbing some fresh produce for dinner, that will be served with the windows open…..