Our green resolution for February is to use what you have. If you haven’t heard of No Spend February, I suggest you do an Ecosia search to learn about the philosophy. Basically, we all have plenty of stuff in our homes already and you can probably go at least a month – some people go a year – without buying anything new. Not only will this help your bottom line, but it will help your carbon footprint, which is, of course, where I’m going with this. 🙂
It’s really useful to remember that everything you buy comes with a carbon footprint. From the materials sourced to make or grow the product (and its packaging), to the transportation it needed to get both to the store and to you, to its eventual demise in either a landfill, recycling plant, or compost pile. Some things have bigger footprints than others, but not buying things is a pretty straightforward way to reduce your footprint. So, how do you do it? The same way people have since the beginning of time. You get creative!
We’ll be eating a lot of beans, clearly!
Get creative with your pantry.
Take a good, long look into your cupboards, freezer, and fridge. Chances are there are a lot of random foods in there you’ve been avoiding. February is the time to dust them off (or thaw them out) and eat them. You might need to think outside the box a bit, but chances are you can eat pretty comfortably without grocery shopping for anything but the basic perishables and maybe a couple teaspoons of spice. Think of it as a personal challenge to meet March with a clean, organized pantry. This is also a good time to think about food waste and avoid buying things you don’t end up eating. You can make a reverse shopping list to save you time and energy at the store. I’ll write more about how to keep a streamlined pantry later this month.
Choosing a few colors – in my case earthy jewel tones – and sticking with them makes it easy to match.
Get creative with your wardrobe.
If you haven’t created a capsule wardrobe already, now’s the time to do it! Instead of searching for clothes online or in person, pull out everything you have and take some time making a few really great outfits that are easy, flattering, and work for you. Then look through your accessories and choose ones that will match those outfits. Take some photos of the outfits or sketch them on a piece of paper and pin them inside your closet door. Then donate everything else. That’s right, I’m not just suggesting you don’t buy any new clothes in February, I’m also suggesting you donate a large portion of your wardrobe. Why? Because people only wear a small percentage of what they have in their closets and what’s the point of keeping all those perfectly good clothes out of circulation just because you might wear them someday? I’ll write more about creating a capsule wardrobe later this month.
Let your essential tools live out their natural lives. My computer is almost 12 years old and this toaster, which we inherited from my grandparents years ago, is of unknown age.
Get creative with your “essential” tools.
I’m using the term “essential tools” very broadly here to mean anything you actually use and (think you) need to live your life effectively – from your vacuum to your dryer to your car. Essential tools may vary from family to family, but what they generally have in common is that when they break, we fix – or, more often – replace them. Since we aren’t buying anything new in February, now is a good time to think about fixing things when they break instead of replacing them. Duct tape and super glue go a long way and you’d be amazed at how easy it is to get almost any part online. Our food processor, for example, has broken twice, and twice we have easily found replacement parts for it. There are also skilled people in your community who can fix something for you. Good for local business and good for you!
Another thought on “essential tools”. Next time you are looking at a new gadget or tool, don’t buy it right away. Borrow from a friend or try to do the job without that tool. Many tools are used once and then squirreled away. You may also consider not fixing or replacing a tool when it breaks. We realized we get along just fine without a stand blender after ours broke last year. We still make smoothies every day with our immersion blender and an old canister. Lastly, when you do buy something new (not in February!), make sure it is good quality. You will save money over time, I promise.
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. If you need or want something, try to find it through Freecycle or Buy Nothing groups, or good old-fashioned yard sales.
Get creative with your supply chain.
Buying stuff isn’t the only way to get stuff you need or want. As mentioned above, borrowing is a great way to get something you need only occasionally. Libraries have all the books and movies you need, rental places rents trucks and vans, and many common tools can be rented from hardware or grocery stores. Also, chances are your friends, family, and neighbors combined have just about any tool or resource you might need. If you feel uncomfortable about borrowing, you can always offer something in return, like money or a favor or use of your tools.
And sharing with neighbors and friends is an awesome way to reduce spending and carbon footprints. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, utility carts, rug steamers, blow up mattresses, tents…. these are all great candidates for shared belongings. When you are thinking of buying something you won’t use often, ask others if they are interested in going in on those items with you. Chances are you won’t both be using whatever it is on the same day. For things like lawnmowers, schedules are a good way to avoid confusion.
Getting creative with what you have does require a bit more time and effort than clicking “Buy Now” on Amazon, but you will save money and reduce your impact on the planet by doing things the old-fashioned way, and you will get the satisfaction of knowing you are sticking it to the capitalist pigs trying to steal your money (oh, wait, that was an essay I wrote in college…).