Affordable Sustainability

     There are two camps on the issue of sustainability. Those that say that we can’t afford it and those that say we can’t afford not to have it. I’m of a third camp – I say we can afford it. I haven’t achieved that goal yet, but I’m working on it.
     Here are my thoughts on Affordable Sustainability:
     Read Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez. This has helped me change my attitude toward what’s affordable and what isn’t. You have to decide for yourself just where you’re going to draw the line, and when you’re going to say never again to sustaining an unsustainable lifestyle. Look at what things are going to cost you over the long term. Living sustainably, could mean you’ll live longer. That in turn will cost you more in the long run. ... Oops! we’re supposed to be saving money here.
     Buy in Bulk. This costs more up front, but saves money in the long run. Buying in bulk also saves on packaging material. Speaking of which, it’s still a mystery to me why Post-It Notes are double sealed. Perhaps it’s like those medicines which are double sealed for our protection.
     Get a commuter car. Sure you could try to help the environment by buying a $1000 car, thus keeping it out of a landfill. But pretty soon you’ll end up sinking another $1000 into it for repairs, and just like the song, "Now you’ve got a $2000, $1000 car." Which automatic/non-deisel car costs the least for the most mileage? Toyota Echo. That is unless you go electric.
Note: The Echo is no longer available, you’d have to search for a used one. The Yaris is supposed to get as good gas mileage. The EPA has lowered the estimated mileage of the Echo from 41 to 36 mpg. I get 43. The Chevy Aveo and the Kia Rio are Rebranded Toyota Echos.
Hypermiling will extend your milage.

     Use Organic Rice Syrup or Raw Bulk Honey, rather than Organic Jelly. Both Rice Syrup and Honey costs less than Jelly, and you’ll end up using less of either of them than Jelly, so you’ll save even more. Also, Rice Syrup and Honey are more versatile than Jelly. Also, Jelly comes in a smaller jar, so you’ll be throwing away/recycling less.
     Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Usually in that order. Buy stuff made and grown locally, this reduces the pollution caused by the trucks/airplanes that have to carry the stuff.
     Use Laundry Detergent from the Health Food store. It takes much less of this laundry detergent than the powder form you buy in a regular store. So, it may cost more, but it will last longer. Baking Soda and Vinegar are great deodorizers in the laundry. I haven’t bought dryer sheets (ever), but I can’t imagine they’re much (if any) cheaper than Baking Soda. Besides, you can use Baking Soda for so much more than just laundry – versatility again. Oh yeah, use Baking Soda and Vinegar in the Washer, not the Dryer – Just thought I’d mention it.
     Eat Healthy Ice Cream. I find, if I buy Ice Cream from the regular grocery store, I eat more of it than the Ice Cream (or Soy Ice Cream), I buy from the Health Food Store. In fact, I eat about twice as much. The Ice Cream from the Health Food Store costs about twice as much, so it comes out even in the end, plus I’m dieting this way!
     Support the Hydrogen Economy. In a Hydrogen Economy (vs. a Petroleum Economy), Hydrogen is used to power everything, rather than Petroleum. (I should say Hydrogen along with Solar, Geothermal, Wind, Biodiesel, and other non-polluting fuels.) In a Hydrogen Economy, the Federal Government would give subsidies to non-polluting technologies at the same rate as they do for polluting technologies. OK, so maybe this isn’t something most of us can do much about, but we should at least be aware of all the options.
     I haven’t done this, but it’s a thought. Write an outline of how you’re going to pursue affordable sustainability, and submit it for a grant. That way the federal government will pay for your lifestyle. Take notes while you’re do the “Affordable Sustainability Study” and after the grant money runs out, you can write and book about it and make money that way. After all, everybody gets rich writing books.
     Eat in. After all, you’ve got all that healthful food you bought in bulk just sitting around going to waste. Eating in can actually save time. Just think of all the time it takes getting everybody ready to go out, the time it takes to get to the restaurant. The time it takes to get seated at the restaurant. The time it takes before you’re waited on. The time it takes to get the food. The time it takes to get the check. The time it takes to pay the check. The time it takes to get everybody out of the restaurant. The time it takes to get back home. You get the picture. Somebody still has to prepare the meal, so I suggest making that part of family time. Same goes for doing the dishes.
     Growing your own food is supposed to save money. But there’s all the cost of soil preparation and nutrients. Plus the only thing that really grows is that weird squash that you found out nobody in the family likes, after you planted it. At least we haven’t saved any money yet that way. Perhaps I should read SOLVIVA, How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre, and Peace on Earth, by Anna Edey – available at But until the, what works better for us, is purchasing produce at farmer’s markets.
     Save paper. One way to do this is to read books you’ve checked out from the library or that you bought from a used book store. This saves paper because less is used producing new books. Or you could write your own book and read it to your family. Of course that will take paper, unless you just write it on your computer. Printing the book will take paper, unless you also read it on the computer, but that may not be so good for your eyes. But it is better and cheaper for you than playing video games. The easiest way for me to save paper is to purchase junior size legal pads. I usually don’t write any more on a piece of paper than what fits on one of those pads. They’re also more convenient than the regular size. I also try to reuse pieces of paper. I just scratch out the previous note and write the next one. I also try to get multiple uses out of paper towels. I read once that cutting paper towel roles in half saves paper, but when I try that, they shred all over the place. I guess I need to get a finer toothed saw. Saving paper saves the economy and your budget. And when you’ve saved enough money, you can use it to purchase non-tree paper - Hemp, Kenaf, Bamboo, etc.
     Try using natural herbicides and pesticides. Better yet, buy some goats to manage the weeds. We pull our weeds – it gives us exercise and eliminates herbicides from our yard. Some people say that pulling the weeds doesn’t do any good because you’ll never get the root. I say, that if you pull a weed enough times, it’s going to give up – you just have to show it who’s boss. I use the zen method of pulling weeds. I think past the root. (They don’t allow goats in our neighborhood.)
     As for natural pesticides, the mosquito vacuum is a great alternative. It’s a little costly up front, but will eliminate the mosquitoes from an acre of land. Flyswatters are cheaper, if less effective. Unnatural herbicides and pesticides aren’t usually that effective. I just read where weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup.
     My wife makes Christmas Bags that can be reused rather than using wrapping paper which will just be thrown away, unless you’re my Dad. I just use paper bags to wrap the stuff or don’t bother. I can’t understand why some people don’t appreciate my efforts to live sustainably. Sheesh!
     Consider using alternate fuels or living off the grid. Most of the time, this will only save you money in the long run, and only if you do it correctly from the start. Solar and Wind power are perhaps the cheapest and easiest alternative fuels to use. Also consider compressed natural gas (CNG) for your next vehicle. Consider running things off rechargable batteries. This is only sustainable if you recharge the batteries.
     Check with your utility company. Often for a few bucks a month, you can purchase some green power from them. Also check with them for rebates on items such as efficient washers, dryers, and toilets. They might also give you a break if you use a smaller trash container and recycle more. Also check with Uncle Sam, he might give you a tax break for purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle. Your state government might also give you a tax break for this.
     Make that next cup of joe organic. Sure, organic coffee costs a little more, but not that much. Also, you’re buying it in bulk, so perhaps it will come out even. Most healthfood stores give 5 to 10 percent discount for case purchases – check with your store manager for details.
     Change one item per month. That is, pick an item every month, and figure out a sustainable way of replacing or doing without that item. Make it a family challenge to see who can come up with the most sustainable method or to see how many sustainable methods can be thought of (for families seeking concensus, rather than competition).
     Use low or no VOC paint. I just had my deck painted and bought Cabot low VOC stain for the job. It wasn’t that much more expensive than other high quality paints. I might have tried a no VOC stain, but was in a hurry and I could get Cabot at the local paint store.
     Buy stuff at Goodwill and other Thrift stores. This will recycle those items. Shopping at other second-hand stores accomplishes the same purpose, and may still save you money. Same can be said for yard/garage sales. And, don’t forget to donate your stuff when you’re done with it.
     Perhaps my favorite – Go barefoot as much as possible. This will save wear and tear on your shoes and socks, thus saving you money.
     Bike it or take the bus. I realize often-times this is not very practical.
     Use compact flourescent lightbulbs. These cost more up front, but last many times longer.
     Buy a water filter, rather than buying filtered or spring water. You could drink water right from the tap, but if you read the water content report, you probably wouldn’t drink it straight. Water filters are not very expensive to purchase, but they can take a lot of time to maintain. If you can afford it up front, I’d suggest a whole-house water filtration system. At least that’s what I’m hoping to afford some year.
     Use natural air fresheners. I’m thinking flowers and fruit.
     Break the spending habit. Only buy what you need.
     Do things which are not addictive.
     Purchase used building materials. Use Bamboo or palm instead of wood flooring.
     No bag. No receipt. If purchases are small, don’t bother with the bag. Otherwise take your own bags (or boxes). Do you really do anything with that receipt? If not, don’t ask for one.
     Use baskets purchased through fair trade. Baskets can be used for bags, waste-baskets, & storage. And besides, they look nice.
     Sew up old clothes. They’ll last ten times longer.
     Compost. Unless you have no place to put the compost.
     Which is better – blue ice or ice cubes? Blue ice can be reused, thus saving water. I suppose you could refreeze the melted ice cubes, but that can be time consuming; not to mention gross. Ice is natural, blue ice ain’t.
     Get alternative viewpoints. Tune into NPR, PBS, or BBC sometime. Pick up a magazine, such as Yes!, at the healthfood store. Or save money, and pick up one of the freebie papers.
     Fake low-flow toilets. If you don’t have a real low-flow toilet, try displacing some of the water in the tank – by rocks or some other media. Also, replace all your faucet aerators with low-flow aerators ’ not very expensive. Low-flow showerheads cost more, but save more water.
     Use natural cleaning materials, such as baking soda, vinegar, and myrrh – put 4 drops in the toilet and leave for a day to kill fungus.
     Consider sharing a ride to work. Perhaps you could share your house, or live in co-housing. Perhaps you can think of other things/ways to share. Co-eating perhaps.
     Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’.
     Avoid plastic. It’s made from petroleum products.
     Make your own pizza. It can be fun. True, perhaps not as much fun as Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee in a box was growing up. Anyway, Pita or French bread; Tomato Sauce, spices, veggies. Cheese.
     Reduce/Reuse Newspapers. How much of the newspaper do you read? Could you stand to only read the newspaper on weekends? How about once/month? You might get lots of coupons, but usually they’re not for anything sustainable anyway.
     Reuse/Recycle packing materials. Any packaging store will take packaging material off your hands. Reuse boxes.
     Which is better – Microwaves, Ovens, Toaster Ovens? Microwaves are faster and more efficient, but not everybody thinks they’re safe. Toaster ovens are smaller and therefore should take less heat, but they’re usually not as tightly made and therefore loose more heat than regular ovens.
     Consider using a laptop or pda, rather than a PC. PC’s (Computers) take more space, not only in your home office, but also in the landfill. They also require more materials to build. Most people have laptops as their second computer. But perhaps it should be their first. Laptops are not as ergonomic as regular computers, but perhaps that will cause people to use them less – hasn’t been my case yet.
     Well that should get you going.

     Some additional thoughts on affordable sustainability:
Ways of Wisdom
Living Deliberately
Shore Bank Pacific
Conservation Economy
Yes, but How