When I first started making a conscious effort to live in a more environmentally-friendly way, I was a broke college student. I remember feeling pressure to immediately overhaul my lifestyle, my possessions, and my habits. Of course, this was easier said than done on a thrift-stores-and-beans level bank account, so I decided to go slowly! Today, as an adult with a few more resources and a few more years of wisdom, I still utilize the same method of taking “small steps” toward the lifestyle that I want to be living. It’s helped me to avoid burning out, overspending, and becoming frustrated with the process.
Here are a few of my observations from years of being on the journey to an eco-friendly lifestyle:
If you can’t choose “perfect”, choose “better”
You’re not always going to be able to immediately choose the “perfect” option. I decided to give up single-use plastic in my lifestyle well over a year ago, but I still get caught in situations where I can’t stick to my resolve perfectly. I’ve learned to simply do the best I can, in the moment, with what I have. I’ve purchased a meal at a fast food restaurant, but asked for my drink without the plastic lid and straw. I’ve purchased food products packaged in plastic, but then turned the excess plastic into an ecobrick to donate. I’ve re-used takeout containers when I couldn’t afford the reusable storage containers I wanted. It’s all about the balance. And it's about making as many good choices as I can without getting completely burnt out and throwing in the towel altogether.
Going slowly is okay!
One of the areas in my life that I’ve chosen to overhaul in my quest for an eco-friendly lifestyle is my wardrobe. I decided, years ago, to only purchase clothing that is ethically made (fair pay given to laborers), made of natural fibers, or secondhand. I didn’t throw out all my old, synthetic, sale rack clothes to “start over”- I simply started waiting until certain pieces wore out and saved up to replace them with better options. It has taken me over four years to slowly get to the point where I feel great about all of the pieces that are currently in my closet. I’ve used that same method in other areas of my lifestyle as well, like replacing toxic beauty products after I've used up my existing ones and slowly adding tools to my kitchen to help me produce less waste.
Purchasing good-quality, eco friendly products can get a bit expensive. A well made metal water bottle is more expensive than a plastic one. Reusable bags are an extra expense when you’re used to using free plastic from the grocery store. One of my best “tricks” for investing in the items I’ve been eyeing for my eco-friendly lifestyle while on a super strict budget is to save up the “extra” in my budget and use it toward one product on my wishlist. If I have a bit left over from under-spending on groceries, or If I haven’t spent the money I’ve allocated for the month to go toward dinners out, that money is free to be used to invest in my “eco-living fund.” The reusable and eco-friendly products, like Stasher bags, that I've purchased (especially for my kitchen) have actually ended up saving me money, and essentially paying me back for the original investment (I haven’t purchased paper towels, cling wrap, single-use plastic baggies, or plastic plates and cups in years!). It’s rewarding to not only reduce the waste I produce, but save myself money in the process.
In the end, slow and steady wins the race. A big lifestyle change doesn’t happen overnight, but making small, conscious choices every day adds up to make a big impact over time. Hang in there, eco warriors! Every day gets easier.