I started my journey to become more sustainable about 6 years ago. I never try to push myself to be zero waste immediately, as I believe this is strongly difficult and might make me want to quit. What I care more about was the process, to learn about the truth and how to build a more sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing the fun in my life.
The greatest thing is that... I AM SAVING MONEY, A LOT of money! I reckon I have said at least $8,000 during those years. That's a lot of money to a young person like me! So what have I cut down on shopping?
1. Trash bags:
Stopping buying trash bags was the very first step of my journey. Each year I would save around $100 by not buying them. Instead, I utilise my other packages that I cannot avoid having (flour bags, delivery bags, etc.). When I do not have any other bags, I will simply put the waste straight to the bin and after throwing the waste away, I wash the bin quickly and give it a quick dry under the sun.
2. Makeup remover pad:
is a great switch and it definitely saves me so much money, at least $400 in the last 4 years. Instead of using single-used pads, I switch to cotton pads. They feel so much nicer, better for my skin and save the environment at the same time. I bought 5 pads for $3 and I have been using them for 4 years. What a saver!
3. Disposable water bottles:
This change takes a bit of planning for a person who loves to travel like me. When I first tried not to buy, sometimes, I still forgot my personal bottle, hence I ended up being thirsty till I could find a free water fountain (easier when I was living abroad as in Vietnam, there is hardly any water fountain). Now, it is a no brain act for me, as I always have my personal bottle in my bag. Simple calculation, 1 bottle is $1, so by saving, let's say 30 bottles a month, it's $30 a month, $360 a year, $2,520 in 7 years since I started. Hah! I have saved enough for a holiday!
4. Kitchen plastic wrap:
What an easy change this is! I love cooking and spend so much time in the kitchen. I have never been a big fan of plastic wrap as it is expensive and the plastic feeling on my food just makes me sick. To store my food, I always use boxes (plastic, glass, ceramic, etc.). The practice I am trying these days is to portion my meals better, so that I can plan exactly how much leftover I want to have. A plastic wrap box in my country is about $5 - $8, and it can last for about a month in a normal family. So by not buying anymore, I have saved about $700! Nice!
5. Convenient food:
Stopping buying convenient food like canned food, ready-prep food or snacks has been one of the most challenging steps for me. I am a FOODIE, and food is what I love so much. After looking at my amount of trash each week, I found out that most of them were from my kitchen: snack bags, chocolate wrap, plastic box for ham, etc. It was a big surprise for me. I started learning how to make my own food. Now I am proud to say that I can make pretty good pasta, bread, pancake and chocolate sauce! I can't calculate exactly how much this has saved me but I reckon at least $1,500 throughout the year.
6. Aluminium foil:
I ditched using aluminium foil after watching about how bad it could be to our health. This is a simple ditch, as I don't find it that necessary to use it in cooking in the oven. I think I have probably saved about $50 over the years. Still better than nothing:)
7. Shower gel:
I switched to using soap about 6 years ago. I did a lot of research in the truth about the beauty industry, and one interesting fact to me is that most shower gel brands do quite exactly the same thing to your skin (except if you have super sensitive skin). And soap can do exactly the same (thankfully I do not have sensitive skin). Sometimes, I still buy shower gel from ethical brands, but only as gift for my friends and relatives as I know they are not ready to switch to soap immediately. Soap is quite cheap in my country compared to shower gel from ethical brands, so I guess I have save at least $1,000. Another holiday for me!
8. Unnecessary items:
As a girl, shopping used to be my favourite thing. I could easily go shopping for the whole day, buying things that I might never need. I still have tons of stuff in my storage that I have no idea why I bought them (at least I am still donating them whenever possible). Now, whenever I go shopping, I THINK TWICE: "Do I really need this product? Can I still live happily without it tomorrow, next week?". If yes, then no, I'm not going to buy it.
Personally, a key to a more sustainable lifestyle is to buy less. Simple supply-demand theory, if there is less demand, there is less supply, then less resource is used. I guess the amount I have saved on silly items must be at least $2,000.
9. Pen and highlighters:
This is quite my recent change. After realising how plastic pens or stationery in Vietnam cannot be recycled, I had to opt for a new change. I have switched to fountain pen and colour pencils for highlighters. They work just fine, and quite interesting as the feeling while using them is much nicer. I have only 1 fountain pen and it has been more than enough for me for the last year, saving about $100!
10. Wrapping paper and card:
The traditional wrapping paper and card actually contain a lot of plastic. Even though there are recycled types nowadays, I still prefer minimising wrapping paper and ready-printed cards. I often recycle my old wrapping paper (from gifts other people give me), or news paper. With cards, I often draw them myself as I think it's so much more meaningful. Throughout all the Christmas, birthdays, etc., I have probably saved at least $100!
What have you saved? Do you want to share with us?