Like with so many things, being ecofrugal is more a mindset than any specific action. It is that always being open to new ideas and ways to solve problems, and to not be limited to how things have “always” been.
Just remember, no one is standing at the end with a grading sheet, and no one is looking for that “perfect” ecofrugal score. It’s all just about being willing to try, being willing to not be perfect, and find whatever works for you.
1. Line drying clothes
This is such an easy swap if you live somewhere that isn’t too humid. If you think you need outdoor space and a traditional clothesline, think again! There are so many different indoor racks you can buy (used, if you can of course!). From the small to more elaborate and wall-mounted solutions.
Not only does line drying save you electricity/gas and maintenance costs on the dryer itself, but it also extends the lifetime of your clothes. Think of all that lint actually staying with your clothes instead! That means you save resources by needing to buy clothes less often. Even more resources are saved if you don’t buy the tumble dryer in the first place.
2. Reusable shopping and produce bags
Every single reuseable shopping bag I have ever bought is still alive. I have never been known to pack my bags lightly, so that really goes to say something about their durability. Several of my reusable bags are made for folding up, so they easily fit in one of the pockets of my backpack and come with me for every trip.
The same goes for produce bags! That flimsy plastic bag at the fruit and veg aisle rarely holds anything of substance. There are a plethora of produce bags available online, but if you are craftually inclined, they are just as easy to crochet or sew out of leftover fabric scraps.
3. Commute greener
Whether you drive your car, take the train or ride the bus, is there any way you could make some of those trips greener?
Did you need to take the car to the city, or were you just meeting friends and might have taken the bus instead? Do you live close enough to work or the grocery shop that you might take the bike? Or even walk?
Perhaps work is too far by bike and you don’t want to arrive sweaty, but an e-bike would solve all that plus less maintenance and no parking costs? Only you know your own situation, but perhaps take a few minutes to reflect on how you might green your commute. It is usually a boost to your health too!
4. Grow a plant
Maybe you don’t have the space or the knowhow to plant a whole vegetable garden just yet, but that does not mean we can’t practice our green thumb!
Tomatoes, peppers, leafy greens, herbs, and even carrots and potatoes are all examples of food that can be grown in pots (ad buckets) of various sizes. To me, there is such magic in nursing a plant to life all the way from seed, and I would do it even if there was no food reward at the end. But knowing you managed to grow even a single item of food for yourself is empowering in a way few other things are.
5. Cloth napkins
If you are utterly dependent on paper towels in the kitchen, perhaps you could consider sacrificing and old, raggedy towel to turn into kitchen rags? They go in the wash with the rest of the laundry and, with a big enough stack and a reasonable laundry rotation, you never have to run out ever again!
Of course they would work just as well for napkins, but if you want something softer and smoother to dry your face and hands, you could always make or buy a stack of cloth napkins for that specific purpose. We inherited a stack of pink, floral cloth napkins that had probably never seen the light of day for all that they were still waiting for that “special occasion”.
Well, no more! Stop saving grandmas cloth napkins for special occasions. Use them daily and wash them often. You get the luxury of using a pretty product, but you’re saving money at the same time? That’s just ecofrugal crazy talk.
6. Bar soap
I will never not love bar soap. It’s simple, it’s convenient, it doesn’t take up a lot of space and it doesn’t require a lot of metal springs, plastic tubes and other parts to transport the soap from the container to your hands.
Bar soap is also easy to transport when you travel. All you need is a little tin that seals properly, and you’ll never have to worry about soap spillage over your entire suitcase again!
Ecofrugal swaps tip: If you really can’t use bar soap, you can buy a bar, grate it, and boil it to get the consistency of liquid soap. Adjust with more soap shavings/more water until you have the consistency you want and spoil yourself with a pretty or quirky and long-lasting liquid soap dispenser (second hand, if you can! 😉 ).
7. Learn to cook your favorite dishes
Even learning to cook even just one of your favorite take out or processed food items can save you loads in both health, money, and packaging. I don’t know about you, but where I live, sugar and flour come in paper bags, while pre-made cookies come in plastic trays wrapped with more plastic around it. Not to mention just how many cookies a single bag of flour can make!
Obviously I don’t know what exactly your favorite meals are, but there are many possibilities and recipes to come! Just look at this scrumptious ramen recipe from Angela. Does it get better?
8. Make gifts instead of buying them
There is something special about knitting, sewing, crocheting, cooking, carving or otherwise making a gift for someone who will appreciate it. Not only do I get to enjoy a hobby of making something, but I also get to think about that special person the gift is for as I make it for them.
Be it a birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah or any other celebration, and be it friend or family does not really matter (and if they can’t appreciate a good handmade gift, they don’t deserve you anyway).
9. Loose-leaf tea
Ok, this might be considered more of a “fancy” one by some, but I looove my loose leaf tea. The only time I use teabags these days is really if I am visiting someone.
Depending on where you live, it might be difficult to find a physical shop where you can buy a strainer and loose-leaf tea. But there are so many fabulous places online these days, we really are spoilt for choice. If you know nothing of tea strainers, my personal favorite ate open-top, stainless steel strainers like this one. They are by far the easiest to clean and can take a round in the dishwasher without breaking a sweat.
10. Go for an adventure in your backyard
Whether you understand “backyard” to be an actual backyard with garden and a picket fence, or simply the city or neighborhood you currently live in – explore, be curious!
There are usually so many things we can find out about our neighborhood if we just dare be curious and think like a tourist. Imagine, if you came to your city as a tourist, what would you want to see? Are there museums or attractions nearby that you still haven’t seen even after x number of years??
If you explore your own backyard, could you host a picknic? Host a mad hatter teaparty (complete with each guest bringing their own plate and cup for a mismatched Wonderland)? What about a tree-climbing or decorating contest?
We could all do with more joy in our lives, but a lot of us could also do with more staycations in our lives to appreciate what we already have! Do we have to travel half-way across the glove to sip coffee at a nice cafe with a book in our hand? No! Dress up for the everyday adventure!