Consumerism is everywhere in the ‘modern’ world and everyone is following it like a dog following its master. We seem to have forgotten our power. In the past, we could make nearby everything we needed ourselves, and what we couldn’t make, we made sure we got by trading what we could make with others. It was a far more creative and far more sustainable lifestyle. By attempting to get back to that lifestyle, we could save hundreds, if not thousands each year, and our lives would be simpler in every way. We would not need to ship what we need across the world, nor worry about supporting unethical brands. We’d know where what we have came from, and that’d make it easier to see its value. It is far more difficult acting careless with something or throwing it away if we’d spent our own time and energy creating it.
So what is it that we spend money on that we could be making ourselves? The list is endless if you ask me, but we must get started somewhere, so let’s begin with cleansing agents. There is absolutely no need to buy these expensive cleansing agents, one for each room or thing that needs cleaning. For laundry, soap nuts are ideal and if you aren’t into those, there are many ways to make your own eco-friendly laundry detergent. For stains, try gall soap, aleppo and baking soda. Baking soda, vinegar, a few lemons and water is all you need to keep a clean house. A fun add-on could be mixing essential oils into the mix, but it is not necessary. Water, most of us have access to. Baking soda can be purchased yearly in bulk and be used both for cleaning and as a replacement for yeast and baking powder. Vinegar can easily be made, either from fermenting Kombucha a few weeks extra or you can make your own vinegar from rice or apple scraps.
What else then?
Take out coffee, coffee drinks, soda and alcohol, are all beverages many of us spend a great deal of money on. Soda can be replaced with chilled bubbly ice tea or Kombucha. Coffee can be made and brought in a reusable cup that retains heat. Coffee drinks can easily be mixed at home and enjoyed there or brought with you in the same manner. Alcohol can be replaced by any kind of non-alcoholic beverage, of course, or you can easily learn how to make your own wine and beer at home. It’s not rocket science, and who knows, it might taste better than the store bought ones.
The thing we humans seems to spend most of our money on is clothes and shoes. Fast fashion is seen all over the world and it is dreadful both for the environment and the people involved. Fast fashion is the term used for fashion that is mass-produced worldwide, resulting in a massive amount of waste both into the environment from the factories and from the garments themselves. The fashion is cut using machines and the cloth scraps, tons of them, are all discarded. Worldwide the garments themselves are sold cheap, bought in bulk and they too are eventually discarded carelessly, producing waste. In these clothing factories the workers are often underpaid and abused, and are faced with illness, exhaustion and with the reality of not being able to support their families.
The best thing you can do there is to invest in slow fashion instead. Look for sustainable materials such as organic cotton, hemp, linen, lyocell and tencel. Look for local businesses, small businesses creating handmade or small scale garments or shoes. And the best thing you can do for you and your family is learning how to sew, crochet, knit or all three. Being able to, if not make clothes, then at least mend them, is a skill that we all need and it is far better to mend a garment than to replace it completely. Check Udemy, Skillshare or YouTube for free lessons in sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet.
A good way to keep your garment simple and practical, yet as fashionable as you’d like, is to create a sustainable capsule wardrobe. It will enable you to use everything in your wardrobe as well as being able to create endless amounts of combinations, despite not having rooms full worth of garments.
If you have a lot of clothes in good materials and they fit, but don’t tickle your fancy, why not spruce them up a bit? Try dyeing them in natural dyes, make prints with leaves, pinecones and other items from the woods, or try your hand at embroidery, boro-technique or crochet edges on them. There are endless opportunities for you to turn your garments into brand new ones that fit you like a glove and make you feel wonderful.
As far as food goes, creating a yearly pantry and finding ways to acquire fruit and vegetables for free each year is an excellent way to prevent overspending on food. You could easily create an affordable yearly pantry with only a handful of ingredients that will set you right. Oats, rice/potatoes, soy, vinegar and oil, some sweetener, and legumes will create a world of opportunities for you. Growing some spices and herbs at home, and perhaps mushrooms as well, will make wonderful additions to the pantry as well. Both herbs and pepper can be used for your natural medicine and for your tea. As previously mentioned, vinegar can be made for free. Oil in some for will also come in handy for baking. Olive oil and coconut oil are ones that I tend to keep in good supply. If you are looking something more to add flavour to your food I’d suggest mirin, which mixed with soy creates a wonderful marinade and stew starter, miso, for marinade or your own miso soup and gochujang/hot pepper flakes, for your own soup, stew or kimchi.
If you are looking for a new way to prepare your legumes, look into sprouting them, turning them into tempeh or tofu or into versions of hummus.
Fresh fruit and vegetables can be acquired through growing them yourself, receiving them free from neighbours, by dumpster diving, collecting them for free from farmers or trading them for something else.
As far as gadgets go, try to limit the amount of electrical appliances in your home. We know electrical appliances can disturb our sleep but beyond that, we do not know the full extent of their how they affect our bodies. To limit your time cooking, heat your pot up on the stove or outside over a fire, and then place it in a wonderbag and allow the cooking or baking to continue there. When it comes to laundry, a non-electric washer will use far less water and no electricity. Look into the Drumi.
Most use of pharma can be managed with your way of live and your diet and most pharma can be replace by homeopathic medicine, reiki, acupuncture and acupressure.
Good luck and stay sustainable!