Budget-Friendly Lifestyle Changes to Get You On the Road to Sustainable Living
The recent results of COP15 have reinvigorated sustainability efforts and have motivated millions to double down on their commitment to sustainable living. In the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature.”
The good news may have given you the extra incentive you need to start living a more sustainable life. But, like many Americans, you may need to start with some budget-friendly options that are good for the planet and your wallet.
Walking and Biking
There’s nothing more energy and cost-efficient than walking or biking. Transport accounts for one-fifth of global carbon emissions so driving to and from work puts an immense strain on local ecosystems.
Biking to work is a great way to reduce your stress and improve your overall well-being. Commuting on two wheels can also help you see your city in a new light and connect with nature. You’ll notice all manner of wildlife, flora, and fauna when riding a bike to and from work.
Likewise, walking does wonders for your health. The health benefits of walking include better balance, improved mental health, and more efficient immune functioning. This means that strolling to work can help you fight off viruses and give you the dopamine boost you need to fight off the onset of depression.
Gardening and Farmers’ Markets
Gardening is a family-friendly way to get outdoors while reducing your family’s waste and carbon emissions. Food accounts for 30% of human-caused carbon emissions as growing, transporting, and packaging food requires a huge amount of energy.
Everyone can pitch in with gardening and kids will love sewing seeds or harvesting vegetables. Start with easy projects and consider growing beginner-friendly produce like:
These fruits and vegetables are relatively cheap to grow and can help your whole family develop a love of gardening.
You probably can’t grow all your food and will need to outsource some of your weekly shops. When possible, opt for locally produced food and reduce your meat intake. Animal agriculture accounts for 71% of food emissions as raising and transporting animals requires a massive amount of carbon.
Thrifting’s popularity has soared in the past decade — and for good reason. Currently, the average household creates 400 kg of waste per year. Sustainable shopping can save you money and massively reduce the amount of clothing you send to landfills.
When thrifting, look for second-hand clothes that have been “gently used.” Online shops like Poshmark, Thredup, and Vinted offer a digital alternative to diving through piles of clothes and poorly organized hangers.
If you’re new to thrifting, look for brands that you recognize when searching through shelves and rails. Choose jackets and thick shirts as these are less likely to feel “worn” and will help you develop an eye for a great find. Take your friends with you when you go thrifting to maximize your impact and create a community of sustainability-oriented folks.
Our homes are our biggest sources of energy use and waste. Everything from boiling the kettle to turning on the AC uses energy, and safely disposing of wastewater can be a drag on the local environment. However, many home-renovation ideas are costly and can’t be completed on a tight budget.
If you’re remodeling your home, consider using reclaimed or reused materials. Utilizing old materials can save you thousands of dollars and reduce your reliance on methane-producing goods like flooring and fixtures. Prioritize budget-friendly renovations and improvements that increase energy efficiency and minimize your consumption of things like water, electricity and natural gas. These can include:
- Installing low-flow showerheads and faucets
- Caulking cracks and filling in spots where air can escape, such as around doors and crawl spaces
- Installing LED lightbulbs
- Installing energy-efficient appliances
- Installing a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature based on whether you’re asleep, at home, or away
- Sealing ducts and making sure they’re insulated properly
Set aside a budget for better insulation. Properly insulating your home can save you up to 20% on your home’s heating and cooling bills. Try to make one simple insulation change per year, as double-glazing your windows or insulating crawl spaces can quickly provide a great ROI on your original investment.
Opting for a Used Electric Car
Let’s face it, the best and most affordable lifestyle change for sustainable living is to ditch driving altogether. But if you need a vehicle, go with a used EV over a new EV, a hybrid or a gas-powered car. Driving an electric car can help you reduce your carbon emissions and save money on fuel. However, many electric cars are expensive when new and are unaffordable for most.
Fortunately, you can still reap the benefits of battery engines by buying a used electric car. You’ll spend less than you would for a new EV, and most importantly, you won’t be pumping carbon into the air as you would with a gas-guzzling car or a hybrid. Furthermore, new EVs come with their own environmental price tag from manufacturing-related emissions and the mining of lithium for batteries. By buying a used EV, you’re using your wallet as a vote to minimize waste.
When buying a used electric vehicle, be sure to inquire about the battery health of the car and compare the “when-new” range to the range of the car today. Battery degradation of 2% per year is normal but other factors like overuse and weather can speed up deterioration.
Ask about warranty coverage and fixes before buying. You may find repairs to the battery are still covered under warranty, but you should read the fine print as some manufacturers only step in once the battery reaches 70% degradation.
Living a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to break the bank. Start with small changes today like thrifting your wardrobe, making minor home improvements and growing some of your own food. When possible, consider larger investments like buying a used electric car, insulating your home, investing in solar and more. These changes will save you money in the long run and help reduce your waste and carbon emissions.
Author Bio: Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in eco friendly lifestyle, mental health, education and fitness-related content. She found her love for sustainability at a young age when she started gardening and forging with her grandmother. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.