During my last year at community college, I took two classes that brought sustainable living to my attention. While taking those classes doesn't make me an expert by any means on sustainable living, it has made me more aware of my surroundings and my wallet. These are the actions I have gone forth with to help me save money and maybe save the planet at the same time.
We all use electricity, but how much of it do we really need to use? I've discovered that I can live with less light. Natural light from windows is all I need during the day at home. Using functional light at night is tricky.
Option one includes small solar panels. While I'm always skeptical of those people who come to your house to put 'free' solar panels on your roofs as long as they can see x, y and z, that doesn't mean you can't still use them. I've discovered solar lanterns recently. I bought mine for ten dollars and put it out in the sun for eight hours. The charge lasts all night, which allows me plenty of time to finish my projects, and I can use it to charge my phone and kindle! Multi-functionality for the win!
Option two is simple. It might be too simple for some, and I understand perfectly why. Not everyone wants to feel like they're in Victorian times. If it's a rainy day, I can light a few candles. However, I'm not strict about it. If my family or friends come over, I'm not going to risk them stubbing on their toes on stuff because they can't see. Turning the lights on once in awhile isn't going to kill me or my wallet, but it's a nice thought if I'm by myself.
Does anyone still remember or listen to that song 'thrift shop?' I probably just scared most of the people reading this away, but I'm not telling other people to do this. This is just what I do. When people think of thrift shops, they think they only have clothes that their grandmother would wear. As someone in their early twenties, I can tell you from experience that I'm not walking around in overalls or a fringe jacket. (There are shoulder pads sometimes, but you can easily take those out.) When I walk in to a thrift shop, I can't tell the difference between the clothes I see and the ones I would see if I was in a major department store. Well, actually, I can, and it's in the price tag. I bought a dress last fall that would be worth at least two hundred dollars in another store. Mine was a dollar. If you're worried about brands, don't be. I've seen Ann Taylor, Dockers and others in thrift shops. I guarantee you're the only one who notices that you're wearing a t-shirt that costs two dollars versus one that's fifty. Regardless of what anyone says, I'll never be sold on the idea that new clothes are inherently better than slightly-older-but-still-good-and-clean ones. Considering that thousands of clothes are thrown into landfills each year, I'm happy to shop thrifty.
Who needs a television when you have Netflix? Since I don't watch television anymore, I save power and money on that. I'm still glued to my laptop for work purposes. While I like the idea of typewriters, I'll stick with saving enough money to buy a solar panel to charge it in the distant future. For those who need a larger screen, the solution comes from a tiny place. Have you heard of mini projectors that you can synchronize to your phone or ones you can just place inside? Look up 'do it yourself cardboard smartphone projector.'
I don't buy drinks that come in plastic bottles anymore, but my family does. Instead of letting them thrown them in the trash, I take them to the recycling center to get cash back. Five cents a bottle may not sound like much, but I'm happy with any money I can get back for them.
If you're a person with a normal nose, you can use only a box or two of tissues a month. I used to use two...per week. That's a lot of paper and cardboard. The decision to switch to handkerchiefs was made out of necessity. Instead of spending eight dollars on tissues a month or ninety six dollars a year, I bought four handkerchiefs made out of a soft material at the thrift shop for a dollar. If you don't mind washing stuff by hand with gloves, this may be a good move for you.
Don't worry. I don't walk everywhere, but I do try to walk more. Families used to take these things called 'Sunday drives' where you drive without a purpose. Well, I shouldn't say that. The purpose is to explore different areas, take a moment to look at the things around you, and force your family into a car for a few hours so they might actually talk to you. 'My day was fine. Can I go to my room now?' There's no escaping in a car, but there is a different kind of escape. This escape doesn't involve torture-family fun-unless you want it to. Instead of Sunday drives, I take Saturday walks.
If you really want to go off the beaten path, you can go for a walk in the woods or by the ocean depending on where you are. Walking in those areas can make you feel more connected to nature and give you the frame of mind to reflect on things like your future and your spending habits. With that being said, I usually don't take the woods route. Saturday is 'yard sale day' in my area, so it motivates me to walk around even if I don't buy anything. I also only walk around with ten dollars so I don't overspend.
'What does impulse buying have to do with living sustainably? I look at it this way: Would I want to live in a landfill? No. If I look at every item I buy as something that might eventually end up in a landfill, it motivates me to buy less. I've found that having less clutter in my room means less clutter in my mind. College students have enough stress as it is. Why add to it? On the days where I know I won't have the willpower to stop myself, I've found that consciously leaving my debit card at home in the morning is the easiest way to not buy impulsively.
Buying Books Used:
In my mind, buying used books means saving paper. Before my freshman year even began, I only had to look at the bookstore prices for books once before knowing I wasn't buying anything there. If you take the time-at least two weeks-to look at prices online, you can easily spend less. Why would you want to buy a new textbook for three hundred dollars if you can rent it for thirty on Amazon or Chegg or buy it for one cent used? I'm not kidding. I was able to buy books that cheap because I asked my professors if I could buy an earlier edition. Most of the time, the only difference is that the chapters are in a different order. If you have two tabs open in Amazon with two versions of one book and click on 'look inside', you can see those differences and see for yourself. If you want the prices matching process to go faster, you can check out the website Slug Books. I've also found some books in the library, too. You have more options than you think.
Remember that sustainable living isn't just about 'living green.' It means living in a way that is sustainable for you...whether that be financially or emotionally. If it happens to help the planet and your wallet at the same time...Well, bonus points are never a bad thing, right?