Replacing your electrical conduits with solar panels or bicycling to make enough power to toast bread is environmentally romantic, but that level of dedication is beyond the financial and physical means of most people.
Most green consumers are people needing to tighten their belts and wanting to do so responsibly. Living both sustainably and affordably is not as difficult as you may think. Just change a few habits to embrace some very simple and absolutely practical principles.
Buy ingredients instead of meals. The less packaging you purchase, the less trash you produce. This is not only environmentally sound, but it also makes economic sense. For example, if you buy a frozen chicken dinner, you have one meal with a leftover plastic bag or box. Purchase a fresh, whole chicken and you not only have several meals, but you can make broth with the carcass and skin and compost whatever`s left.
Purchasing staples such as flour, pasta, beans, grains and nuts in bulk saves you money and reduces packaging. Keeping the freezer stocked with frozen poultry, meats and seafood and the refrigerator stuffed with fresh fruits and vegetables ensures that on busy nights you can toss together a healthy and hearty meal from what`s on hand instead of sending the person standing closest to the car off to the drive-thru.
When you do want to eat out, eat locally. This doesn`t necessarily mean eating expensively. Many small restaurants purchase from local farmers, which means they are not paying fuel costs to have things trucked in. Patronizing smaller, local businesses is also good for the community because people who are successful where they live are far more likely to give back than chains or franchises owned or licensed by multinational corporations.
Read labels to check for sustainability. Look for energy ratings on anything that consumes power. Check for Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, certification on anything made from wood. This guarantees that the piece was made from sustainable wood. Purchase as many products made from recycled materials as possible.
Tailor your purchases to where you live. In areas where there is a scarcity of water but good recycling programs, it makes sense to use recycled paper towels and plates and recyclable plastic utensils and cups rather than washing dishes, utensils, glasses and dish towels. If you live in a place with abundant water but no real recycling, use only washable items.
Buy things that last so you can repair them instead of replacing them. Investing in well-tailored clothing for toddlers makes no sense unless you`re expecting several more to come along. But spending a few extra dollars on coats, shoes and other apparel made well from sustainable materials means that you don`t have to keep replacing them. Doing so eases the strain on your budget and helps to keep small, local repair shops in business.
Purchase as much of what you need used when you can. This not only offers you a bargain, but it helps someone else by putting a bit of cash in their pocket.
Think `people` when you think sustainability, because what use is it to save the planet if everybody`s struggling so hard to survive that they can`t enjoy it? Locally, you can help your fellow human beings by supporting small businesses and being a `locavore`. Globally, look for Fair Trade items to ensure that what you are purchasing was made by people who are working in safe conditions and being paid fairly for their labor.
The green consumers at The Backyard Chicken Farmer suggest contacting experts such as those found at Caffe Society to start your day off right with the most delicious Fair Trade coffee available.