6 Ways to Live Sustainably on a Budget

Living sustainably is difficult in the best of times; it’s taken me years to find effective strategies to cut down on waste and make my life a little greener. But if you have recently been laid off, furloughed, or are just facing financial difficulties, the thought of attempting a lifestyle change may seem intimidating, if not impossible. 

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However, here are some tried-and-true strategies for folks who’d like to live with Mother Nature in mind without destroying their bank account. These methods worked for me when I was broke in college, and they work for me today, when I am also broke after college.  

Buy non-perishables in bulk

Buying in bulk has always been a great way to make the most of my money while making grocery trips more infrequent (meaning less gas!). Now, purchasing online offers similar benefits with fewer grocery trips — plus, it adheres to social distancing measures.

Boxed is a website that provides wholesale groceries in bulk. My go-to’s are their coffee, protein powders, and canned goods. No membership is necessary, just buy as you need. Plus, a quick online buying experience takes up a lot less time than a journey around a grocery store in search of that brand of organic tomato sauce you like!

Adopt a meatless or meat-reduced diet

You may want to reconsider your meat consumption for a few reasons: Not only does its industry contribute to 10 to 30% of man-made greenhouse gasses, but also meat can be expensive to buy regularly. For the price of a pound of ground beef, you can substitute a meatless protein for a fraction of the cost.

Invest in a good vegetarian cookbook and watch your grocery costs shrink. One of my favorite cookbooks is “Plant-Based on a Budget” by Toni Okamoto. Toni’s recipes are not only easy on the piggy bank but also serve up delicious and inventive ways to go meat-free. My personal favorites are the tofu scramble and banana zucchini muffins.

Sign up for a produce delivery service or join a CSA

Getting produce delivered right to my door saves on transportation costs and emissions. Sign up for a site like Misfits Market and you will get fresh, organic produce delivered to your home for up to 40% less than grocery prices. The only catch? These fruits and veggies are one of a kind. Deemed too “ugly” for grocery sale, the products sold at Misfits are misshapen and “imperfect.” Don’t worry though, these rejects are perfectly safe to eat!

Alternatively, you can also join a CSA group. Community Supported Agriculture groups allow you to buy ‘shares’ of a farm’s produce and collect a given percentage of the harvest. Use this tool to find one near you along with plenty of information about joining!

Don’t forget that activism is free

Voting for environmentally conscious leaders and participating in community engagement such as urban gardening are free and rewarding ways to stay green. If you’re interested in gardening or ecology, look up community farming groups in your city. If you’re interested in outreach and environmental advocacy, look over Environment America’s job page. They are frequently hiring community canvassers all over the United States.

Personally, I’m passionate about urban gardening, which is not only a great way to meet new people, but it also makes fresh produce available in food-deprived areas in large cities.

Hack your car for better mileage

Biking, walking, and taking public transit are great alternatives to driving, as everyone knows, but not everyone has access to these types of transportation. However, you can take measures to get the most mileage out of your car per gas fill up. Consider getting a front end alignment. Front wheels knocked off-center from wear and tear or driving over potholes in wintertime can cut down on 10% of your gas mileage. Reduce drag by removing any roof racks from your car and make sure your tires are always properly inflated. I have personally found that keeping my car in good shape and sticking to the speed limit helped me get the most out of my vehicle. 

Use an app to streamline recycling

When I first started recycling more and trying to reduce waste, I was pretty in the dark about exactly how to do it. Today, however, there are countless, free mobile apps to help you track waste and learn about recycling. RecycleNation is a location-based app that not only provides you with information about recycling but also gives you locations for recycling centers and clothing donation spots near you.

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