Before we get into all the money I’ve saved with sustainable living, I want to interrupt this broadcast to make sure you know this is the third part of this series. If you haven’t yet, go back to part 1 and part 2 to get the full story.
This is the third and final part of the series How I save £2500 per year by living zero waste. I’d just like to preface this by saying that literal zero waste isn’t actually the goal here, it’s more about the journey and finding different ways to lower your environmental impact while saving money. Let’s get into it, eco friends!
Sustainable living secondhand shopping
I’m ashamed to say it, but I used to judge people for shopping secondhand. I thought it was gross, weird and stingy. I thought second-hand shops sold dead people’s clothing and thought they had a weird smell. Actually, I still think second-hand clothing stores have a weird smell but also I don’t care.
But life is all about constantly growing and evolving, and boy, have I changed since then. An analogy that really changed things for me was when someone asked me if I’ve ever slept in a bed at a hotel and used the towels… I thought well yeah, duh. Suddenly it seemed kind of stupid to think clothing that had been worn by another person was weird, yet sheets and towels that had been used by hundreds of other people were ok. When I started dipping my toes in the sustainable living community on Instagram, I noticed a lot of people talking about shopping second-hand. And they often had absolutely gorgeous outfits that cost them less than fast fashion. I’m so glad I opened my mind because there’s enough stuff on this planet!
Now I try to always look for a second-hand option everywhere. My plates are second-hand, the pots that hold my plants are second-hand, my bedding was given to me by a friend, the book on my nightstand is second-hand, the laptop I’m using to edit this podcast is second-hand and so is the iPhone I use to record it. I’m a total second-hand convert.
And second-hand living doesn’t mean you need to use old and outdated stuff either. I have the latest MacBook and iPhone – I saved a few hundred on both because they had a few minor scratches on them. Last year alone, shopping second hand saved me a whopping £450 after doing some tech upgrades, buying apartment stuff on Gumtree and asking friends and family for stuff they no longer use.
Zero water upcycling instead of buying
We are so programmed to think that every whim, want or need should be fulfilled by buying something new. Online shopping has just exacerbated this. These days, I try to wait at least 30 days before buying anything new. From the moment the thought pops into my head that I want to buy something, I write it down on a list on my phone and wait a whole month before I’m allowed to buy it. This has really helped me overcome impulse purchases and very effectively targeted advertising that leaves me feeling like I need this thing. Let’s be real, I likely won’t even remember exists in a year from now.
During those 30 days, I look for second-hand and upcycling options. Upcycling is the process of taking something that would have otherwise become waste and creatively using or tweaking it to serve a purpose. The benefits of upcycling are two-fold. This process diverts materials from landfill that would otherwise just be sitting there for the next 500 years, or worse, polluting the environment. The second benefit of upcycling is that it prevents the need for more resources to be used to create something new.
Last Week’s Episode: How I save £2500+ per year with sustainable living (part 2)
So let’s use the example of plastic plant pots. I have quite a few plant babies who reached propagating age last year. While I could go out and cheaply buy some new plastic plant pots for this, I instead looked for a solution that doesn’t involve buying anything. I’d just put some yoghurt containers into the recycling that are the perfect size and shape for this. If I chose to buy new pots, fossil fuels would need to be taken from the ground, transported to China, manufactured into a set of 5 plastic pots, packaged in more plastic, transported all the way to the UK for me to buy and use.
Instead of that huge process needing to occur just so I can propagate a plant, I can instead just clean the yoghurt containers I already have, poke some holes in the bottom and voila – a free, upcycled plant pot. Last year I saved about £40 by upcycling things.
Pin this for later – and join me on Pinterest while you’re there for more sustainable living tips!
Sustainable living borrowing and renting
From cars and technology to clothes and utensils, many people frequently spend their hard-earned money on things that they will use less than a handful of times. Then said thing sits in the cupboard gathering dust. Luckily we’ve seen the rise of the sharing economy, where we can borrow and rent all manner of things from somewhere to stay when we’re travelling with Airbnb, to car rides with Uber and designer brand clothing for special occasions via websites like Rent the Runway. And it makes environmental and financial sense to borrow and rent things when we need them, as opposed to buying something to use infrequently.
The founders of Uber began their business because the average car is used just 5% of the time. When I was a teenager, all I wanted was my own car, but as soon as I got one I realised it was by far the biggest expenditure I had. I was pouring my hard-earned money into buying it, insuring it, maintaining it and paying for petrol – for my beloved car to be driven a few times per week. Of course, this is a very location-dependent issue and I’ve always been privileged enough to live in areas with great public transport. And also, I don’t have any little ones which makes the decision to not own a car much easier.
When travelling, I always opt for hostels or Airbnbs which are often cheaper than hotels and have a smaller carbon footprint. Since discovering that renting clothes is a thing, it’s definitely going to be my port of call for any fancy events in the future. I’ve also gotten over my embarrassment of asking people if I can borrow things. I used to think asking someone to lend something like a big soup pot or garden chairs was a cheap thing to do and worried that the person might reply with, well why don’t you just buy your own. Not that any of my friends and family would say it, but my response to that imaginary circumstance would simply be, “as a minimalist, I don’t want to buy something to use it once and then have it cluttering up my space.”
By participating in the sharing economy, I reckon I save about £100 a year on average when not including the savings I enjoy by not having a car. As many people don’t have access to adequate public transport, I don’t think it’s fair to add that to the total. But hopefully, in the near future, more of us will be able to enjoy car-free living and the associated savings!
Eco Action Step
Your eco action step for this week is to find a way to upcycle something. Whether it’s something small like using a yoghurt container as a plant pot or fashioning an old t-shirt into washable makeup rounds. Share it to your Instagram story or in a post and tag me @SarahBassett.co because I’d love some extra upcycling inspo. And that’s it. Now you know exactly how I save £2500 per year living zero waste.