Staying at home more extensively than usual leaves us with enough time to reconsider the things we do, how we live and how we show care for the environment and the next generations.
I’m certainly happy to take the time and share my knowledge about mindful consumerism because I’ve been making my choices with this in mind, for over 8 years now. It is also part of our corporate culture here at iCard and we support many environmentally conscious initiatives and events.
The way you spend your money always matters, especially since going for conscious purchases can positively reflect upon your health, your surroundings and can save you money throughout the years to come.
Here are some worthy tips that will encourage your eco spending habits and your commitment, small or large, to buys that make total sense.
Buying green (not the colour) groceries is always an option
There are many wiser choices that every one of us can do daily.
The use of fossil fuels and deforestation are the two primary human activities that negatively impact the planet’s CO2 levels. Next come our diets, especially meat and dairy as part of our daily habits. According to National Geographic, beef production uses 20 times more land and emits 20 times the emissions than growing beans, per gram of protein. It also requires more than 10 times more resources than producing poultry.
Meat consumption, or actually reducing it, is a great way to help the planet’s well-being and your own health. Europeans consume approximately 160 grams of meat per day. This is in stark contrast with what is actually a healthy amount of meat. Dr. William Kormos, who is the Chief Editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch explains that many studies link processed and red meat to cancer and heart disease. He states that 50-100 grams per day increase those risks lightly, but noticeably.
We, Europeans (and not only), seem to be doubling this mild risk for our health and for the environment. There is one last factor to consider when thinking of your diet: Do you eat this 160 grams per day or do you eat, for example, 300 grams per meal? Meat takes the most time to digest and doubling up your intake in any given day, with a fast metabolism, means your money goes to waste because you simply can’t digest all those calories. You don’t have to be drastic and totally disrupt your diet. Instead, you could start off with meat-free Mondays.
Buying locally produced and seasonal food could save on transportation and fuel costs while supporting the local economy. You could also enjoy freshly picked food that tastes fresher than the fruits and veggies that can’t really become ripe away from the sun, during transportation. This simple act has a triple positive impact.
Fruits and vegetables shouldn’t need a plastic cover. Their skins provide totally biodegradable and natural protection. Keep looking for locally produced food and aim at reusing your bags and containers.
Buying groceries online is also a very smart choice for two reasons. First, you don’t have to drive to the market, which saves you time and actually delivery would be more fuel-efficient and greener. Second, planning online food orders in advance can also help you improve your diet and reduce food waste.
How we dress could be planet-efficient
Clothes and garment production emits millions of tons of CO2 in the atmosphere and is heavily dependent on scarce resources such as water and energy. To make the issue bigger, market inefficiencies are estimated to trash over 160 Million Euro of worthy clothing in the landfills.
Avoiding fast fashion could be a great solution in your personal mix of conscious buying habits. It may be counter-intuitive to some of you, but opting for more expensive shoes or jeans actually give you longer-lasting garments which are less intensive on the environment and, potentially, on your budget in the long-run.
Your cheaper alternative of the same quality could be looking for lightly-used, second-hand clothing online or at vintage and charity shops around your town. Used doesn’t necessarily mean bad condition or over-used. Many people throw clothes away after just a single “catwalk” night, or two, or if the garment just doesn’t feel good. Other simply choose to donate high-quality clothes that can make money for the particular charity’s cause, not even considering all the additional benefits outlined here. So, your options are pretty good – fashionable and easy on your wallet.
Going cheap on new fast-fashion garments is really a bad idea. The reason? Cheaper means polyester (or plastic), which when washed releases millions of microscopic plastic fibres that pollute water and endanger wildlife. Your choices can be based on looking for sustainable, recycled and natural materials which are definitely better for the environment.
Cleaner household products and greener house energy-efficiency could work in tandem
Staying at home gives us more time to reconsider other aspects of our life, such as our home’s energy-efficiency and eco-friendliness of the household product we use.
Clean household products can be pinpointed based on a few factors. You probably know that non-recycled, new plastic is bad for the environment. It can take a thousand years to decompose, if at all. Your alternative is to look for products packaged in recycled plastics, paper or metal instead. Many online and main street retailers sell deodorants, cremes, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, shaving creams and household cleaners in recycled and low-waste packs.
Cleaning products are a major category of pollutants, full of chemicals that make them dangerous in wastewaters, threatening wildlife in rivers, oceans and up in the food chain. We can’t recommend any particular brand because each market has local manufacturers, but you can definitely check some homemade recipes that work. The important fact that you should be aware of is that eco-friendly detergents, soaps and cleaners use plant-based, natural production materials. They are bio-degradable, non-toxic for the environment and a must-do for people with independent sewage systems.
Energy-efficient homes with own green energy supply in combination are a great way to reduce your household carbon footprint. A solar panels installation, for generating renewable energy from the sun, is actually on my personal to-do list. I estimate the whole setup and equipment to pay for itself, with my household’s energy usage, after 3 and a half years. Return on investment in such a short time PLUS ongoing energy independence is amazing. It may seem like a bit of a pricey project, and mostly unavailable for apartment owners, but it’s definitely a good thing to consider when making long-term lifestyle choices.
Spending less on heating and airconditioning is also a major driver for a greener planet and for more money savings for your household. Energy-efficient housing and utilities such as heating, AC and other electricals around your house are also a long-term investment, but that’s your only option if you can’t get solar panels or a residential wind turbine generator.
Small steps make a big impact
Re-thinking our shopping habits is not hard and is especially important with all environmental issues surrounding us. Taking small, but well-informed, steps is the way towards a sustainable future.
Making those small changes to your routine can quickly reduce your personal carbon footprint. Your neighbours, friends, colleagues and family do take a closer look at how you and everyone else behaves. Sharing your sustainable lifestyle discoveries and flashing your pretty, multi-use cotton or hemp-fibre shopping bag is likely to inspire them all, especially if you stand up with facts that support your decisions. Bringing up some numbers will definitely grab the attention of an analytical mind that’s been too busy with other life chores.
Be a trend-setter, be an example, look for recycled packaging, aim for organic, biodegradable and natural, recycle and keep reminding yourself that every journey starts with the first step. You might just convince enough people and feel good that slowly, but steadily, we are influencing brands and retailers into changing to sustainable products and services. There are probably other ways that are worth mentioning, so please drop any ideas we’ve missed down in the comments.
Last, but not least, save trees by avoiding physical receipts whenever possible and consider moving your money to an all-digital account provider such as iCard. Our rich and intuitive digital wallet app will also save you travel time and fuel costs because we don’t have branches that you have to visit.