Posted on 30 May 2012.
This guest post is by Richard Adams of EcoLivingAdvice.com.
I have a terrible admission to make. I used to work in a supermarket. You know – those giant temples to consumerism, waste, food miles and environmental degradation? That was me. And while I no longer work there it give me an intimate view of the shopping and lifestyle decisions people make every day – and why they make them.
One of my key discoveries was how many people would brush over the Fairtrade coffee, the free range eggs, and the organically-grown vegetables mentally labelling them as “overpriced”. Instead they’d snap up whatever bargains were going and anybody buying organic milk was seen as having more money than sense. “Why spend all that money unnecessarily?” I’d hear them ask again and again.
The fact is that being green and making environmentally-aware buying decisions doesn’t have to cost more when you look at your shopping as a whole and take into account the lifestyle changes that many of us concerned with living in tune with the planet make. Indeed by the time you’ve finished this article I hope you’ll have a better appreciation of how going green can actually save you money overall rather than putting a dent in your bank account.
One key trait of an environmentally-sustainable lifestyle is that we don’t buy things we don’t need. Sure, I’d love a new iPad, and there are some training shoes I would give my right arm for. But I don’t need them.
In essence the more we buy, the more we end up throwing away. We buy a new TV and suddenly we’re left with the problem of how to dispose of the old one. And the most common reaction is to send it to landfill which risks polluting the earth as well as releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere.
The fact that a green lifestyle means buying less immediately means more thoughtful, intelligent purchases and shunning those unnecessary items on which too many of us fritter away our hard-earned cash.
On the flip-side of only buying what is necessary is the environmental principle of reducing our waste. Whether that’s trying to recycle our plastic, cardboard and plastic, or finding ingenious ways to limit food waste from our kitchens it makes perfect sense that the less we throw away the less we need to buy.
Statistics suggest that on average over a quarter of the food we buy ends up getting thrown away. All those resources that have gone into producing, processing, packing and transporting that food was wasted, not to mention the money you spent on it.
By reducing what we throw away we make our weekly shopping go further and thus make considerable savings as a result.
To many environmentalists meat is a luxury rather than a necessity. Some people shun it altogether while others limit their meat consumption but the fact is that meat – especially beef – uses a lot of resources to produce as well as creating significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Meat is also one of the most expensive parts of many people’s diet. Try working out how many vegetables you could buy in exchange for a single steak and I think you’ll see what I mean.
So by reducing your meat use you can save plenty of money on your shopping bill. Furthermore if you do decide to purchase meat you can easily spend that little extra on ethically produced, free-range and organic meat that is better for you, the environment and the animal itself and still come out in credit at the end.
Grow Your Own
If you’ve got a piece of land of any form – whether that’s a huge garden or a tiny window-box – it’s possible to grow some of your own vegetables at home. This reduces food miles as well as the use of unpleasant chemicals like pesticides and artificial fertilizers that many factory-farmed foods rely on.
When you consider how easy many vegetables are to grow, and how you can buy an entire packet of seeds for the price of a single butternut squash or a bag of tomatoes it’s easy to see that significant savings can be made on your grocery bill as a result.
A Taste Sensation
When I was a child, my mother used to take me to a local farm where we would pick our own organically-grown strawberries and sweetcorn straight from the plant. The fact we’d picked our own meant the farmer charged us less than the supermarkets did plus we had the satisfaction of picking and choosing only the ripest and sweetest produce. But this all faded in comparison to one thing – the taste!
Supermarket fruits and vegetables are designed to look uniform and to have a long shelf life so they don’t have too much waste if they guess the weather wrong. But by selecting for these elements taste has somewhat fallen by the wayside.
I challenge you this summer to pick a ripe, juicy, sweet strawberry straight from the plant and not find it incomparable to the impressive-looking but disappointingly-flavored supermarket version. Yes, going to the source either by growing it yourself or buying from farmers can save you money and transform humble fruits and vegetables into an experience worth savouring.
Less unnecessary purchases. Less waste. Producing your own food or buying locally straight from the source. The list goes on and on – and all of these elements can help you to save money and help the planet.
Indeed when you save all this money it’s entirely possible to spend that little extra on the Fairtrade coffee or the free-range eggs and still spend less than you otherwise would have done; plus the warm feeling you’ll get from knowing you’re “doing your bit” as well as the incredible flavours and colors you’ll experience from your food really does make a lot of sense. All it takes is the commitment to change.
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