Everyday environmentally friendly & money saving possibilities

Household tips for reducing the impact on the environment and your wallet.

1.       Libraries: Use the public library for books, magazines, audio books, movies, music, attending free lectures, etc. Besides being free, saving paper and having a knowledgeable staff who can give recommendations, libraries have the advantage of having a much larger selection than book stores (aside from Amazon). These days all large libraries also have a growing catalog of downloadable audio and ebooks, so you never even have to get in the car to check out or return items. Libraries can provide a nice alternative to a coffee shop or living room for quiet reading/writing. Many libraries also have areas for small group meetings – again more inspiring than a coffee shop and less likely to temp you into buying overpriced coffee and sweets. If you think you’ll be at the library a long time, bring along a thermos or some other drink or snack.
2.       TV & other subscriptions: With the amount of DVDs at the library and legally free contents online, I personally don’t see any reason to pay for any television channels. You’ll save a ton of time and money if you opt out of all paid TV and just use the set to watch the films and programs you choose at a time that’s convenient for you. In many areas you can also get over a dozen high quality public digital HD channels with just a simple antenna. As far as print subscriptions, even if they’re offered free or at a heavily discounted price, I usually opt out; free quality publications are available online and at the library. Unless you’re a serious fan of a particular print publication and always read it from cover to cover, most print subscriptions are either legacy or impulse buys and just pile up in people’s living rooms, sucking emotional and natural recourses out of our lives. If you must keep up with the news, spending a few minutes a couple of times a week to glance at headlines through a reputable online portal rather than being pumped with fear and advertisements via TV news channels is really a much healthier option.
3.       Community & sharing: Imagine how cool it would be if you didn’t have to rely only on yourself to buy all the things and services that make a nice home. Make friends with your neighbors! Once you’ve gotten to know them a bit and can trust one another, suggest forming a small “tool co-op” where some rarely used but important items like power tools, a car trailer, certain appliances, garden tools and even recreation gear (kayaks, tents, cross country skis, etc.) be shared in some equitable way. For example, if someone owns very few items of interest perhaps they could pay a reasonable fee (which could go to fixing or replacing a broken piece of equipment) or barter or in other ways provide something useful to others. Beyond community sharing in this basic but forgotten way, try to encourage bartering of time, furniture, cooking services, and care of children/pets/gardens/household repairs. Possibly the greatest benefits of this kind of community are not just the increased material conveniences and money saving, but the new friends and deeper connections.
4.       Driving: Are any of your errands within walking or biking radius? Why not combine the errand with your daily exercise? Even if the destination is some distance away, it’s possible that it will take less time to walk or bike there than it would take to battle traffic and park and then exercise separately. Basically try to optimize by combining errands, carpooling and searching out recreational activities that require the least driving, and use carpooling/internet rideshare when possible. If you have to buy a car, consider different options for getting the most fuel efficiency (for example, light and inexpensive diesel passenger cars can get up to 100 mpg, double that of fancy hybrids or Smart cars).
5.       Sports & recreation: Do you ever wonder why motorized or gear-intensive or organized/spectator sports get so much more attention in our society relative to simple and healthy stuff like hiking, running, swimming, yoga or neighborhood soccer/basketball games? Not necessarily because they are more fun. But companies simply can’t monetize things that don’t require us to spend very much to enjoy something, so we don’t hear much about it on TV or in magazines, and many of us end up either spending a lot on sports or gyms or figure that we can’t afford to be active. Some of the most enjoyable things I remember growing up was going to the park, the beach or a playground, or to the forest for berry picking. Doing something active outdoors with my family that, as a bonus, produced a valued prize – like blueberries or wild apples or chanterelles – felt really rewarding; most kids are actually terrific foragers and take real pride in it. So even if it’s not a matter of money, consider doing more outdoor stuff like gardening, foraging, biking, walking, hiking or trail running, cross-country skiing, non-motorized water sports, etc.
6.       Vacations and relaxation:  Different people will crave different experiences, but there are certain types of vacations (e.g. beach, amusement park/resort, super short tour of some other country) that have become the default choices simply because they have been marketed and talked about the most. Will getting on that plane for that standard week in a pricey crowded resort really be more memorable than perhaps two weeks (for a fraction of the cost) in a cabin or camping, exploring beautiful wild places and really spending time together because there are fewer electronic and commercial distractions? Or perhaps just immersing yourself for that time learning a new skill (or teaching others or your children) or building/creating something. For those who can afford it, it’s fashionable to relax by going to a spa (not exactly sure how getting waxed to within an inch of your life is relaxing, but anyway). But what if one day you took a massage class instead of paying for massage to become a giver rather than just a consumer? Learning a skill like basic massage is gift that you could give yourself and then always have with you to give to children, spouses or friends. And then you would have that skill for a lifetime. These are just some things that people have told me they enjoy more than the commercial ways or vacationing and relaxing, but the possibilities are many.
7.        Gifts: Have you ever felt stressed during the holidays by all the gift mania, or by getting or having to give not very useful or especially memorable gifts that at the same time were none too cheap? How about creating and sharing wish lists online for yourself and encouraging others in your circle to do the same. Whether it’s a birthday, the holidays or another special occasion you will have an ongoing list of what you truly desire (some could be non-material or experiential things, and some even opportunities to donate to your favorite cause in your name). And if something you really want is kind of expensive, having it on the list will give others the opportunity to contribute any amount or pool funds toward that particular wish (like taking classes, a trip, fixing the roof, etc.) rather than giving you another Starbucks gift card.
8.       Purchases and clutter: Before acquiring anything, however small or inexpensive, ask yourself if it is really essential to your life, or if at the very least it will provide beauty or enjoyment on a regular basis. Also check if there’s anything at all that you already own that could be repurposed and used in place of what you are about to buy. After you do decide to buy or otherwise become an owner of an item, unless all your worldly possessions number less than a few dozen, resolve to not let yourself use this new purchase until you have gotten rid of one other less useful thing (by giving away or selling, not putting into storage). Also don’t default to buying brand new – ask around if your friends or neighbors have just what you need that that they may be eager to give away or sell, or check on ebay. This is known as cutting clutter at the cash register, before the stuff ever enters your life. If you practice this, pretty soon, despite your mind trying to rationalize buying this or that, you’ll feel a physical aversion to acquiring something that isn’t highly useful or beautiful.
9.       Clothing: As with grocery shopping, rather than making sporadic trips to see what’s on sale at the store, try making a deliberate list of what you really need in your wardrobe (first go through all your closets to be fully aware of everything you already have to wear so that you’re not double buying). As a general approach it’s best to have a small number of really comfortable, attractive and versatile outfits purchased deliberately rather than a full closet of things that were bought on sale or impulse. That being said, after you’ve figured out what you’re missing, and if there’s a good neighborhood thrift store around, take a look there first just in case they have exactly what you need. For children’s clothing nothing beats getting barely used items from friends with older children or second-hand stores.
10.   Laundry: Do only full loads of laundry and avoid the dryer whenever possible. Unless you require hospital-level disinfection, there’s no need to use hot water or iron or dry on high heat. If you live in a dry climate and have a space for a clothesline or several drying racks then you’ll get fresh smelling clothes in just a few hours without the energy-sucking lycra-elastic-destroying dryer. Even in a relatively humid climate synthetic or woolen fabrics (basically everything besides thick cottons or jeans) will air dry fairly quickly. To get pleasantly soft and static-free clothes and towels, even when air drying, skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets – just use a bit of vinegar in the rinse. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle by either putting it int0 you washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser or into one of those refillable plastic balls meant to dispense fabric softener just at the right time in your wash. Vinegar costs next to nothing, is hypo allergenic and odorless (when diluted), and extra gentle. Dryers, dryer sheets, and artificial fabric softeners, on the other hand, besides being expensive and allergy-causing, cause your clothes to wear out quicker. If you do have to use the dryer, consider either getting European-style dryers (which are basically dehumidifying that use lower heat and don’t require exhaust) or at least using the delicates and “less dry” settings, which will save considerable energy and reduce heat damage to your clothing.
11.   Eating out: It has become increasingly popular to default to restaurants for special occasions or meeting friends, or even daily lunches. While exploring a unique new dish or cuisine or atmosphere by eating out may well be worth it on occasion, if we rely on eating out simply for getting nourishment or having a place to sit and talk then it not only becomes a significant expense but also stops being special. If you get in the habit of cooking tasty food for yourself, then taking leftovers as lunch becomes pretty easy, as does having company over – just cook what you normally would but in slightly larger quantities! Plus friends will usually appreciate being asked to dinner more than being asked to split a check at the restaurant.
12.   Less recycling: Recycling and composting are necessary and good, but it’s even more important to prevent excess food and non-food items from entering your life in the first place. Recycling as a way of “doing your part to help the planet” has been much more enthusiastically marketed and received because it allows us to continue consuming as much as ever, or even more, with a clear conscience. In practice, however, just a small shift toward “refusing, reducing, reusing” would have a far greater positive impact on the environment, and your own life, than a whole lot of recycling.


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About this blog

The goal of this blog is to celebrate delicious food that's also practical. Contrary to certain foodie trends, we believe there is no reason for amazing food to be expensive or complicated or time consuming.

Our hope is to bridge the ethos of the slow and simplicity movements (cooking delectable traditional foods from scratch, connecting with others, minimizing waste and clutter) with the everyday needs and constraints of “the 99%”.

Check out the recipe section for easy, healthy, authentic recipes from the world’s vegetarian traditions that ANYONE can make.