When you go on any social media (especially Instagram) and look up #sustainability, it is almost impossible not to be bombarded by other people’s presentation of the ideal lifestyle. Eco-friendly influencers are broadcasting the image of sustainability that seems glamorous and aesthetically pleasing. But, unfortunately, that leads to the common misconception that sustainable living is expensive.
Those fancy photos you see help the influencer grow a following and are sometimes the result of a paid collaboration with sustainable brands. However, the reality is that adopting a green lifestyle doesn’t have to break the bank. On the contrary, it can be much more affordable than you think!
As great as social media is, it can give us the wrong image of what sustainability means. They induce cravings for things that we do not have, and this does not make sustainable living seem financially realistic for most of us.
There’s also the threat of greenwashing, a marketing gimmick where brands spend more time trying to convince you that all their products are eco-friendly than actually minimizing their environmental impact. So, for example, you might think you need ten different organic skincare products and four kinds of cruelty-free shampoo, but you don’t.
Misinformation also causes the glamorization of a sustainable lifestyle, and, unfortunately, fake news can spread faster than factual, scientific articles. We tend to fixate on information that seems scary and gripping, then sharing it around without first double-checking its validity.
Finally, it’s the misconception that sustainability has to look beautiful and extravagant. It’s the lousy image that success means having as many green products and visiting as many eco-resorts as possible. The truth is that sustainability does not mean massive purchases and glamorous beach vacations; it is the small changes and intentional choices that matter.
As the famous saying goes, the most sustainable option is the thing you already own.
1. The things you wear
What you wear can affect the environment as the clothing industry is one of the most significant sources of pollutants and chemical waste. So be wise when you shop for new clothes and opt as much as possible for eco-friendly options. Unfortunately, shopping is also a pastime for many people. The sheer number of brands and the latest trends circulating can make choosing the right clothes even more difficult.
Alternatively, you can go thrift shopping and participate in online swap shops. They’re often cheaper than constantly buying new clothes. Best of all, you can explore new styles and outfits that you may not normally wear!
Another tip is to choose essential clothing pieces that will never go out of style. Of course, it’s okay to own a few statement pieces once in a while, but try not to give in to the urge for impulsive buys.
2. The foods you eat
Besides clothing, what we eat is also a massive factor in a sustainable lifestyle. Indeed, organic foods are generally more expensive (in fact, Consumer Reports says they are on average 47 percent more expensive). However, that’s not always the case. Buying local and organic produce is a way to support farmers while getting the freshest ingredients.
We recommend meal planning and bulk buying your ingredients, especially for pantry items such as rice and pasta. Having an entire week's meals planned out will help you shop more cheaply as you use discounts and “2 for 1” deals, for example. Besides, you will be less likely to eat out and spend more money!
Another thing you can try is growing your herbs at home. Starting a home or kitchen garden is much simpler than you might think. Most of the time, all you need is a small container or pot and some starting seeds. Then, you’re all set for that particular herb for the rest of the year!
3. The way you live
Finally, you can make some affordable changes to how you live that could save you costs in the long run. For example, did you know that the average US homeowner pays $2,060 per year just on utilities? Of course, this number varies depending on your country and income background, but it’s safe to say that most of us spend a heap ton of money on electricity bills and water.
Consider alternative energy such as solar or wind turbines. While implementing the system for the first time may be costly, it’s still much cheaper in the long term. Some more minor changes include using low-emission windows to trap more air inside your home, thus reducing cooling and heating costs.
You can also try using plant-based foams to protect your walls from mold and keep your interior warmer without having to blast on your heater. Even on a smaller scale, something as simple as building the habit of turning off the lights when you leave and not letting the tap water run can make a huge difference!
To sum up, sustainable living is not expensive because it can be as affordable or as bank-breaking as you want. So be wary of the beautiful lifestyle that businesses and social media are selling you, and remember that sustainability is all about re-evaluating your values and why you are doing this in the first place. Good luck!