Wasting is sort of what our culture has come to now isn’t it. Buying the newest thing, following the freshest trend and upgrading is all we want right now plus we’re told we deserve it. Fixing things that are old and broken, buying something once for the long run and making do with what you have seem like quaint old fashioned ideas now don’t they. And it’s hard I get that, it’s hard for me too. I love the beauty space on youtube and I’m always thinking I should get that and then thinking twice, people tease me about my older than dirt car, thrifted clothes or super old apple products but there are so many reasons not to waste. So what are they? Here are some ideas that I’ve incorporated into my life. Worry not though, I’m a normal person and none of it’s too granola!
Of course you’ll save money and the environment
This isn’t new or anything you haven’t heard before but it’s my major motivation for wasting less. Saving money is a great thing whether it comes in the form of electricity from hanging your clothes to dry, driving a four cylinder or hanging on to your electronics. Wasting less means spending way less money! But it’s also great for the environment all those things you’re not buying don’t end up in a landfill same for things you use up before you throw them out. The electricity and gas you don’t burn by planning your trips doesn’t become greenhouse gasses and that’s all just amazing! While this is my major motivation (environment first and money a close second) all the other stuff after this in my post is the side benefits wasting less has brought me. A good place to start for both is to re-consider any single use products you use!
You have what you need in house
If you have a long list of must haves like fuzzy water, make-up wipes, sheet masks, coffee cups, bottles of wine, 25 cleaning products and packaged snacks you’ll always be running out of something and running out to get more. In my experience at the worst possible time and you’ll just end up buying more stuff you don’t need while you’re out. When you re-consider all those options and replace them with things like tap water, facecloths, clay masks or olive oil, tea bags or 1 kg coffee jars, tap water again, big jugs of all purpose cleaner and homemade snacks you’ll always have what you need on hand. At least way more often! You’ll waste less gas but also less of your time running around for must haves you already have at home, well maybe after you do the laundry.
You’re less susceptible to desires and whims (and advertising)
Once you’ve made the conscious decision to waste less you’ll find you start to see through the ‘have to have’ messages we’re all bombarded with day in and day out. No one needs to have a certain brand of anything really and for stuff you use all the time buying in bulk makes sense. You don’t need to have this season’s jeans when you have a closet full already or a certain useless tiny purse to attend you’re friend’s wedding. Just put you’re everyday one down when you’re getting your picture taken. There’s no reason to own more than one face powder, eyeshadow pallet or laundry detergent. After a while that commercial for the new car, vacation destination or super-convenient packaged food item won’t have the same effect on you.
You start to see through people’s facades
On a very related note a weird thing that happens when you decide to waste less is you start to see through the image people build for themselves and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. One thing that we’re having a hard time with (alright mostly me) is that our house is WAY too big for the two of us and that’s pretty dang wasteful. I get that it wastes our time, our money, our attention and takes away from our free time. But we have so many memories here, I love the location and I am SO emotionally attached to it. It’s not even that big at about 1800 sq ft but…Here’s the thing though, if we moved to a smaller better designed house for our lifestyles now we’d reap the rewards of not being so wasteful. We could have more time not working on the house, cleaning it and even potentially work less and fewer years to support it. We would have more money from heating less, cooling less and maintaining less space. We would even have more efficiency in our lives living in a space that was more smartly designed for us now not who we were ten years ago and it would even work better for us on so many levels. When we talk about floor plans that would work well they come in at about 1500 sq ft if not a bit less and we could build so that it costs less to run and maintain over time.
Seems unrelated right and that I’m off on a tangent but I promise I’m not. Lots of people out there live in these huge houses, drive luxury new cars, wear the latest designer trends and even smell like this season’s hottest perfume and that tends to impress us. They like lots of us are conspicuous consumers for consuming’s sake. Resolving to waste less for whatever reason means you start to re-examine your priorities and none of that stuff is all that impressive anymore. In fact it starts to seem ridiculous, silly and downright stupid! How much time and energy are these people putting into identifying the next cool thing and how does everyone seem to want the exact same things? How much time and stress is going into making all that money to buy all that stuff and isn’t there something else they’d rather be doing with all that time and money? Wouldn’t they rather spend more time with their kids, learn a new skill, indulge a hobby or have an experience rather than buying an audi, posting a date night selfie from an expensive restaurant, drink expensive booze or ditch last year’s Micheal Kors handbag for whatever it is this season?
A lot of people out there buy into things because they’ve never thought of opting out. What gets me is how everyone ends up having the same big house, the same vacations in the same order, the same pure-bred dog, the same yoga pants, purse, SUV and sedan in the driveway in the same parts of town? They do the same renovations, with the same light fixtures (with incandescent bulbs now) and floors in the same year and no one stops to question why? How did they end up with the same wants, desires and priorities as everyone else? Why does every house one their street have a big SUV for mom and a fast sedan for dad in silver or grey form the same year range in the driveway? After a while you start to see through it an realize a lot of these people just aren’t that interesting and it’s their choice!
When you decide to waste less you prioritize some things over others. Maybe it is travel for you but once you’re done with Italy, Spain, Paris and Thailand there’s still so much more of the world to see. Maybe you do love you’re SUV (I do) but does it have to be so big or so brand new? You’ll start to see the forest for the trees and realize you’d rather spend your time doing stuff you love rather than just mindlessly following the masses and more than likely and up with a cool quirky hobby that sets you apart from the crowd. I know I don’t want a Lexus or an Audi, or a giant house in a trendy neighbourhood or even an ensuite in my house ( I have no desire to pee in my bedroom, thank you very much) to go to Ibiza for sure because I’ve thought about it. What I do want is to complete an olympic triathlon, get a cute outfit that will work well for the day and represent my bright personality and to inspire people to live their best examined lives, check, check and check. For sure the images people spend so much time crating just don’t seem to have the same shine they once did!
Less new stuff to learn
Ever get a new car, computer or phone and realize you have no idea how to program the bluetooth, set up the operating system or where you’re deleted emails or going? Sucks doesn’t it plus it’s mighty frustrating. Sicking with what you have means fewer of these irritating ‘this is new and I have no idea how to use it’ situations. Going to your favourite restaurant rather than the trendy new one rarely involves reservations or standing in line and never a GPS. You read fewer instructions, stuff works better and the couch is perfectly moulded to your butt all because it isn’t new. Its not a big deal really but reading the owner manual to the car or the microwave cover to cover is something I’m in no rush to do again for a while.
You learn new skills and a different way of thinking
At the same time you also have to learn new and transferable skills and stretch your brain. Figuring out how to change your computer battery, stop buying makeup wipes without having to get up any more often or use a small french press for a single cup of coffee means you learn new skills you’ll have for a lifetime rather than how to pack a purse you’ll only have for for a few months. Learning how to thoughtfully research products in general or learning how to lean something new are AMAZING skills to master and help boost you’re over all level of confidence and badass-ness. I would also argue it’s a better way of thinking. Rather than just buying something new and temporary to solve a want or a need you figure out how to repurpose something you already have or get by without it.
You take better care of what you have
If you’ve resolved to waste less for whatever reason the best way to do that is to make what you have last. Instead of buying a new car ever 3 or 4 years did you know the average car comes out of service at 15 years old, for some brands a lot more. If you plan on driving your car until it’s 15th birthday you’ll have to take good care of it. Same goes for you computer, phone, tablet, appliances and other major purchases. Imagine how much money you’d save if you replaced these items half as often or even less. Imagine if you applied that to everything you purchase not just the big stuff. So I’ll conclude this post with some examples of how you can stretch things out and waste less. But I also want to point out that I’m not perfect or extreme in the waste I produce. I use single use products like tampons, about 10 rolls of paper towel a year, KT tape, we drink a lot of gatorade from plastic bottles in the summer, I use tea bags, all sorts of makeup and on and on. But here are some waist-less ideas to get you started:
- I drive cars until they don’t make sense to fix them, usually over 300 000 km, I only got rid of my 12 year old corolla because someone literally gave me a newer one and over a year later the neighbour I sold it to still drives it every day with no end in sight.
- I bought 2 dozen cloth baby wipes and keep them pre-moistened with a touch of cleanser in a plastic container as makeup wipes. I toss the used ones in a container to dry out and wash them for the next week or so. It’s best to empty the container completely and reload it from scratch so none are sitting at the bottom for too long.
- Our coffee maker has a metal basket and literally the only thing that it makes is wet grinds which get composted (sometimes at least), no Kurigs allowed!
- A refurbished macbook lasted me 9 years but it was done! This air is about to turn 8.
- Some clothes I have and still wear since before high school which was a long time ago. Two pairs of jeans I bought at Eaton’s which closed in 1999! Most of what I do buy is thrifted and I still only buy what I need regardless of price.
- When it comes to furniture I’m in it for the long haul if it’s not built to last I don’t want it so I shop for a long time and buy quality like my Eames desk chair.
- Even though I use the FULL suite of electronics I’m happy and lucky to accept other people’s castoffs when they upgrade. Thanks early adopters! Old half broken iPhones become rainy race phones or home security cameras.
- I cut up old t-shirts into rags instead of using paper towel for the most part
- I bought our kitchen cutlery and glasses at a restaurant supply store so it’s great quality, inexpensive and a few broken or missing pieces doesn’t mean I have to throw out the whole set. I’ll be able to go buy another box of say spoons and still have a matching set.
- A sewing machine and some basic skills let me keep otherwise fine clothes in the rotation. Shortening stretched bra straps, taking in a stretched shirt or darning a hole in a loved sweater keeps it going for a lot longer. Plus you can make it fit you exactly.
- I try to make as much as possible from scratch and cook big batches for freezing in individual containers for when I don’t have time.
- I’m a militant recycler and we have bins by the printer, in the office and both bathrooms as well as three in the kitchen to collect what otherwise might get tossed.
- I try to minimize my water use year round even though we’re on a well so it’s free and we have a great supply unless it’s a full on drought.
I hope this opened up your eyes to the side benefits of deciding to waste less beyond the environment and saving money. What were some other big changes you noticed when you decided to waste less. What motivated you to do so in the first place?