I've been tempted to reveal the amounts of money we've lived on as a family of four, but I know that it is relative. I try to live in an abundance mindset, even while knowing that we have not accessed what is listed as a living wage in this country. I say this not to garner sympathy. (We have some access to healthcare. Our skin color + citizenship give us advantages. We are college educated.) I say it to let you know, treasured reader, that when I say I hear you when you say that you have concerns about the affordability of sustainability...I mean it.
This blog is meant to come at sustainability from a place where having less was not always a choice. I wanted to turn the tables...to give myself the power to see what I have as "enough"...to find a way to say that "less" can be a choice + that it can be good. I am a work in progress, but I recognize my ability to choose...maybe not always my circumstances...but my perspective.
I am aware that I list clothing brands that have price points that are higher than fast fashion price points. I often hesitate before posting these things, because I don't want to promote the "wanties", consumerism or the feeling that fair fashion is out of reach price-wise. I do think that it can be useful for us to understand what fair labor + organic fibers cost. This can serve to slow our consumption, encourage us to wear what we already have longer, to care for + repair what we have, and to value secondhand shopping.
It is this last sentence that points out what makes a sustainability-focused lifestyle both truly sustainable + more affordable. Let's take a look at a few categories:
- clothing :: Recognizing "enough" in a smaller number of well-chosen pieces + caring for them well means less random shopping. When we need to replace a piece, we can shop specifically for that single piece...secondhand.
- composting :: Build compost bins out of shipping palettes found by a dumpster + coat hangers we or someone we know might already have. If the space for composting is not available, we can find a place to bring our collected compost weekly or monthly (our grocery store has a compost bin).
- garden :: Growing the most expensive food we can, from seed, saves money. Tomatoes and strawberries are at the top of my own list. A balcony or any outdoor space might be a great growing spot. Herbs + sprouts work on a windowsill.
- zero-waste :: No one needs all the "stuff" #zerowaste tries to sell. With a few spaghetti sauce + salsa jars collected over time, a few tote bags + a water bottle probably already in our homes (or ask a friend for one of their extras) we are set to begin. Choose in-season produce + bulk items that are less expensive.
- cleaning :: Vinegar, baking soda + water are cheaper than any cleaner I've ever bought.
- home :: Secondhand is the way to go. We patiently furnished our entire home after an overseas move with Craigslist finds (+ the cheapest mattresses we could find).
- reuse :: Make candles from candles. Grow onions from onions. Refashion spent clothing.
A few perspective shifts that I recommend developing in order to increase sustainability + living within whatever means we find ourselves needing to:
- recognizing "enough"
- wanting what we have
- valuing "less"
- appreciation for nature :: the most spectacular free entertainment :: walks, sunsets, star-gazing, noticing seasonal shifts, cloud watching, moon-gazing, planting + tending seeds, foraging
- getting clear about what kind of life we want to live + who we want to be + revisiting these questions often
- compassion :: allows us to become more outwardly focused + not so focused on what we don't have
- generosity :: can flow from the above
I would love to hear more about the specific budget concerns this reader (or you) have. (I have written a series on budget as well.) When we have less money, we often are making more sustainable choices in many areas out of necessity. So we can give ourselves credit for choosing smaller housing, consuming less stuff and using fewer air miles. We can focus on the sustainable choices that are less costly like the ones above.
Some sustainable choices are a bit more costly, and sometimes I highlight those choices here. I like to give credit to those doing good work + moving the industry as a whole forward. For some, saving money in other areas might allow them to feel that making one of these purchases periodically is money well spent. I don't think that anyone needs to make these more expensive purchases to live a sustainable life.
Bea Johnson's 5 R's struck me as doable right where I found myself ten years ago. (We'd just returned from overseas with a few boxes...had bought our one used car to share on a credit card...and had put our savings of $5000 down on a small home.) These principles don't cost money + ultimately save money:
- Refuse what you do not need.
- Reduce what you do need.
- Reuse by using reusables.
- Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
- Rot (compost) the rest.
There is no perfectly sustainable life...just progress.