Baby Steps to Ecofrugality: How to Slowly Transform Your Life

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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3 thoughts on “Baby Steps to Ecofrugality: How to Slowly Transform Your Life

  1. I love this post. That’s how it starts, little steps. Little things slowly add up, and it becomes your new normal. Before you know it, you’ve saved thousands disposable items from ending up in a landfill. Some of the perspective can be getting older too. 10 years down the line seems like forever before 30, LOL.

    What’s also interesting me, is that so many things that I did for frugal reasons, were ultimately environmentally friendly. They can feed into each other. I’m so glad you guys started this blog and perspective.

  2. I love this… baby steps (even those that are still in the thinking stage are steps!) help so much! I still have a ways to go but just recently switched to unpaper towels. I had cut up an old flannel sheet months (maybe years ago) to make the switch but then felt like I needed to hem the edges and that was too big of a hurdle. Another hurdle was where to put them….but then i got a cute box when buying something else and decided that would work for this and voila! a space came available. Then a month or so ago, I just decided to use them unhemmed and they come in really handy! I just throw then right in the wash, creating no new loads and also decided just to stuff them in the box when done (I tried folding them but found it cumbersome). I still use papertowels for raw meat and some fried food but that’s pretty much it!

    I’m not sure I’ll ever be a family cloth person but I won’t say never… since I moved to cloth pads (7 years ago) and those fancy undies (1 year ago) and that’s been great!

    I think an adjustment to thinking really helps (and fits in the babysteps thinking)… I used to think my garden had to produce enough for meals to make it worthwhile… now I’m seeing the whole process as a learning process and excited at even the things that produce small snacks…. (there are so many benefits! less waste, a reason for the kiddo to get in the garden, the deliciousness of snacking right out of the garden, etc!)

  3. I follow you at your other blog and love to see your thoughts expressed here as well. I moved to where I am now from South Carolina too when I got my graduate degree although I am not a native of SC either. I set up and re-set my garden ever since I bought my home 10 years ago. I have a small lot unfortunately. I am very mindful of turning off lights and water and keep my AC quite high compared to other folks in this hot humid part of the US. We keep chickens too but when I redo their coop I’ll most likely not allow them to roam around the backyard at will as the’s poop everywhere. I had to fence all my raised beds because of them which makes it incomvenient for daily tendings. We cook all at home and are not the typical consumer but I don’t seem to be able to make the move to non-paper towesl or non TP. In my mind, we’d have to do a whole lot more laundry, and right now we are only doing 1 load per week. No single use water bottles but we use the 2.5 gallon ones because I do not trust our water for drinking, though I cook and make coffee/tea with it. Looking forwrd to hearing more tips.

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