Organic food can be expensive, especially in these days of fast-rising grocery prices. Fair-trade coffees and sustainably grown cotton clothing come with high price-tags too. Still, you don’t have to break to bank to start living in a more environmentally responsible manner.
Following are five ideas for a low-cost but eco-friendly lifestyle:
Food prices at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, urban farms and CSAs (community-supported agriculture) can be far lower than those in retail supermarkets. Another bonus of these alternative food sources: the produce there is often fresher, has traveled fewer miles from farm to market and is frequently grown with more natural methods than those used in industrial agriculture.
You can find connections to local free stuff and barter opportunities at a variety of Websites, including FreeCycle.org, Craigslist.com and Barter.net. But you can also negotiate trades and barters through personal connections. Maybe a retired neighbor grows more backyard tomatoes than she can possibly eat: offer to cut her lawn or run errands for her in return for some homegrown produce.
You can find all sorts of things that can refashioned into useful articles at thrift shops, flea markets and garage sales. If you knit, for example, look for old sweathers you can unravel for yarn you can use to create all-new sweaters, blankets, vests, scarves and more. Or buy and break old tiles to use for tabletop mosaic projects or other home-improvement crafts. The benefit here is that you’re using old materials to make new things, so you’re not consuming additional resources, just recycling existing ones into fresh uses.
Forget about throwaway goods or products made from cheap but fuel-based (and unhealthful) plastics. Instead, look at surplus stores and flea markets for used stainless steel cups and dishes that will never break, or at garage and estate sales for older furniture made from “real” wood as opposed to chemical-laden particle board.
Rather than toss away uneaten food, think about innovative ways to incorporate leftovers into the next day’s meal. Unused spaghetti noodles, for example, can form the foundation of a cold summer pasta salad for lunch the next day. And last night’s leftover entree of red beans and rice can be mashed or pureed to create a base for bean tostadas for today’s dinner. Make it your goal to reuse, freeze or finish all your foods, rather than throw anything away. And what isn’t usable should go into a backyard or community compost pile (as long as it doesn’t contain meat or dairy) instead of the trash.