While it may seem that living sustainably comes naturally to me these days, my life looked very different even a decade ago. While the environment is something I’ve cared about most of my life, I didn’t think too much about my personal impact on the Earth – I was too busy living my day to day life.
Sure, I made sure to always turn off the lights, not waste water, and would choose to walk or take transit when possible, my life looked pretty “normal” otherwise. I used paper towels, ate plenty of cheap grocery store meat, and drank my coffee in paper to go cups.
Becoming an Environmental Science Major
I began college as a history major, but soon fell into the environmental science wing at school and started down the rabbit hole of a much more sustainable life. Being at a college that ranked nationally for their environmental science program meant that it attracted like minds who cared deeply for the planet. Being immersed in the program meant I needed to look more closely at the way I lived.
I ditched single use water bottles. I walked some more. I started sourcing my purchases based on local and fair trade options. But I was still a college student, limited in many ways, not the least of which a very limited income. While ecofrugality is meant not to be a costly thing, it still tends to cost more than the very cheapest option, especially when you are beholden to a dining and lodging plan at college.
Slow, Incremental Changes
My life looks infinitely different than it did in college. I own my own home on a quarter acre of property where I grow much of our own summer produce. We’re talking chickens in the near future. I’m able to line dry our clothes in the backyard. We use cloth instead of paper for pretty much everything. We host parties – when not in the middle of a pandemic – with all reusable dishes and silverware.
Many of my choices may now seem different than the everyday family’s, it was a long process to get to where we are now. One year, I decided to learn how to preserve produce and now know how to can our own vegetables and fruits. Another Christmas, a friend sewed me “unpaper towels” to replace the paper towels in our kitchen. The garden has grown in baby steps since we purchased our home nine years ago – those first berry bushes produce all that we – and our friends – can eat during the summer, but that first year, we just got a handful.
Start Where You Are
Does it feel overwhelming to think about changing your life to be more sustainable, especially when attempting to do it on a budget? Ten years ago, I would have very much felt the same way. I’d completely killed my first garden. We had just moved home from South Carolina, and didn’t have a space of our own. I was overwhelmed with day to day life and thinking about changing big pieces of my life to tread more lightly on the planet felt like a lot.
So I started by changing one thing. I figured out how to take the bus to my job. I tried again – and started to succeed – at planting a garden. And I began to remember to bring my coffee mug with me everywhere.
Years later, I’ve overhauled much of my life to be one where ecofrugality is at the center, but it’s taken time and effort. If having a lighter impact on the earth is important to you (and it should be), and you are concerned with your savings account as well, then start with just one new thing. Life doesn’t change on a dime, and there’s no reason we need to either. But when you know better, do better. One step at a time.
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