The Conscious Shopper preaches on her favorite subject, "Green on the Cheap," for this month's APLS Carnival. Learn more about living environmentally friendly on a budget on August 19 at Going Green Mama.
The day I discovered green blogs, I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. Here were people who were working on the same goals and were passionate about the same subjects as I was! I felt so lucky to have found them and so grateful that they were sharing their lives online.
But after a few months of reading, I began to feel a new, uncomfortable feeling: green envy. Those bloggers seemed to have all the latest green technologies and toys. Their houses were decorated with beautiful sustainable materials. They wore eco-friendly clothing and drove energy efficient cars. Their children played with handmade toys made from natural materials, and they would have never let their babies drink from a plastic bottle.
I began to feel like an olive green gal blogging in a crayon box filled with forest greens. I can't afford all that stuff - green or not! And if I'm not buying all those "green" products, does that make me less green?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away millions of tons of trash a year, including 71.6 million tons of paper, 31.6 million tons of yard waste, 15.3 million tons of metal, 14.4 million tons of plastic, and 13.2 million tons of food scraps, 12.5 million tons of glass, and 20.8 million tons of miscellaneous items.
And that's just the end result of all of our waste. Annie Leonard reminds us in The Story of Stuff that "for every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream just to make the junk in that one garbage can you put out on the curb. So even if we could recycle 100 percent of the waste coming out of our households, it doesn’t get to the core of the problem."
So maybe I can't afford all those shiny new green toys. But by making do with what I have, I prevent more waste from being produced during manufacturing, and I avoid adding something else to the landfill.
Going green can be expensive - at least in some ways - but sometimes the greenest path is also the cheapest. And once I realized that, my green envy subsided, and I was able to get creative with what I have.
Here are some of the ways I'm making do:
If I were a gazillionaire environmentalist, I would drive a Tesla. Oh, beautiful, beautiful car, why do you tease me with your sleek design and fuel efficiency? Alas, I will never be able to afford a Tesla, and it will be awhile before we can buy a Prius, so for now I'm making do by driving less and walking more.
I'm renting, so I can't upgrade my appliances to the Energy Star variety (not that I could afford to anyway), so I'm making do with my energy sucker of a dryer by line drying all of our clothes. And since we don't have a clothesline outdoors, I make do by line drying our clothes on hangers hung on shower rods. It's not the most attractive method, but it gets the job done.
Someday, I'd love a house with solar panels and one of those miniature wind turbines on my roof. But for now, I'm making do by slaying our vampires, being conscious of our overall energy use, and using less A/C and more ceiling fans.
Since we just moved to this house a month ago, I've had the golden opportunity to design without a dime. Instead of buying new stuff to fit the house, I'm making do by decorating with what I have. And honestly, seeing how great all my stuff looks in this new location has made me fall in love with old purchases all over again.
I'd love to toss out all of those plastic electronic toys we've picked up over the years and replace them with some beautiful wood and handmade options. But since my kids can't understand the concept of "taking care of your things" and therefore cannot be the owners of expensive toys, we're making do by getting crafty with our garbage. So far we've made castles out of plastic flower pots and some cereal box houses to go with the wooden little people we painted.
I could go on and on here. Our computer needs replacing. Our couches are wearing thin. We've had the same towels since we got married. And I can't count how many times I've been asked, "When are you going to get a new TV?" I would love to upgrade my entire home to a newer, greener model with a beautiful sustainable garden, a hybrid in the driveway, and solar panels on the roof, and maybe eventually, over time, I will. But for now, I'm making do.