How to be sustainable on a budget

Conscious consumerism, sustainable living, eco-friendly and ethical fashion. What do these words mean to you? Good things? Inconvenient things? Expensive things?  


At its core, the sustainability movement, the CoGo movement, is about minimising our environmental footprint and protecting the planet.


It’s about buying less, saving, growing your own food, repairing rather than replacing, etc. It’s about changing the way we consume – quickly, conveniently, frequently – and slowing down and doing what’s right for people and the earth. These humble solutions are the best ones.


But the world of marketing has turned the idea of environmentalism on its head, suggesting that we can buy into the movement without making major lifestyle changes. The entire movement has become a new marketable commodity that people can buy into; it has become cool to be ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’. Social media in particular has made sustainable living seem completely inaccessible for the everyday person, for people like me, because it seems that we have to buy more in order to be sustainable.


You don’t need heaps of money to live sustainably or consume consciously. Developing countries actually have a lower carbon footprint than developed countries - it’s the people in the industrialised nations who are responsible for the greatest share of the world’s environmental issues.


Sustainable living is not about consuming the fanciest eco-conscious product. The best way to live sustainability is to embrace a simple lifestyle. Yes, there are amazing sustainable living products and options that not everyone has access to because of the high costs - some brands of ethical clothing, solar panels, electric vehicles, package-free bulk foods, organic fruits and vegetables, etc. But there are still so many options available to people on lower income brackets, from practicing minimalism and consuming less to carrying reusables (that you probably already own).


To be more sustainable without spending a dime, do a life audit. What do you already have? What do your family and friends already have that they don’t want?


1.     What can you use instead of buying a new $30 water bottle? Finish up some pasta sauce, peanut butter or coconut oil, clean the jar and voila, free reusable water cup.

2.     Cut up a washcloth into reusable face pads for removing makeup.

3.     Use old t-shirts instead of paper towels.

4.     Trade. Raid your friends’ closets and bookshelves. New stuff, zero waste and zero cost.

5.     Understand your trash. What exactly are you throwing away? Can it be composted or recycled? If not, can you swap that item for something else?

6.     Make your own cleaning products out of cheap, common household items like baking soda, white vinegar and a lemon or orange. There are heaps of recipes out there.

7.     Simplify your beauty routine. What products are you using that you don’t really need? How about giving your face a break?  Have you tried natural alternatives like coconut oil for lotion, lip balm and makeup remover?

8.     Go a month without buying any new clothes. Pull all your clothes out of your closet and hang them up in different places. Look at them differently. Fall in love with your clothes again, reinvigorate items you haven’t worn in years. Or, trade.


There are hundreds of tips like these, to live more simply, sustainably, and leave less of a mark on the earth. It doesn’t have to break the bank.