“It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Leading a low-impact lifestyle in today’s world is anything but intuitive. Wasteful options are easy, quick, and require little thought. True ‘green’ living takes planning. It takes time. You have to be present and consciously think through the decisions you make on a daily basis.
You need to arm yourself with the proper tools and knowledge to prevent waste, reduce your impact, and cause less harm. Here are a few examples of how you can to start.
Plan to invest. Think beyond this very moment, or even your next trip to the grocery store. You’ll need to invest in some basics: cloth bags for produce, larger bags for groceries, glass jars for storing bulk goods, a reusable water bottle, travel mug for coffee runs, bus pass or bike, etc. These items may come at a larger price than their less eco-friendly counterparts, but they’re less damaging and many companies will give you a discount for bringing your own bags, travel mug, etc.
Plan to make the right choice easy. Prepare every area of your life so it’s easy to make the right decision. Keep four to five cloth bags in your trunk for impromptu grocery or farm stand stops. Keep tins or tupperware in your car for takeout. Arm yourself with a reusable water bottle and travel mug always.
Plan your weekly meals out beforehand. Is hummus on your grocery list? Look up a recipe for making it at home from dried beans you can buy in bulk. This will save you money and prevent more waste from going into a landfill. How many times a week will you go out to eat? Account for these outings and don’t buy too much food. I like to add my detailed meal and grocery list to Evernote, which syncs with my phone, so I can’t forget my list at home.
Plan clothes shopping for only a few times a year. Keep your wardrobe minimal. Never go clothes shopping without a specific product in mind. Even better, take a Saturday to learn the basics of sewing. When you find a hole in your favorite sweater or need to take in or let out your jeans, fix it yourself instead of dumping it.
Above all, plan to think. Re-examine your daily habits and think about how you could reduce waste and energy use. One of my favorite sites for this is Zero Waste Home.
You get the point. The trick is to make it impossible for life to surprise you into choosing wasteful options. I’m all for spontaneity and flying by the seat of your pants, but not when the outcome will be harmful to the earth or others.
What are your methods for living a low-impact lifestyle? Do you plan, or does winging it work for you? Please share your tips below.