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Home Articles Eco Living - by Li Living an Earth-Friendly Lifestyle Eco Living: Living Green on a Budget
Eco Living: Living Green on a Budget | Print |  E-mail
Li Wong's Eco Living Articles - Living an Earth-Friendly Lifestyle


     I personally think that most people are aware of environmental issues (many studies, including my own thesis research seems to support this), but they may not know the extent of the damage of ecological issues, how exactly to live green, or think it is really expensive or time consuming to be eco-friendly.  Some green technologies and products are initially more expensive than conventional products, but usually they tend to be cheaper and better for you and the Earth in the long run.  Trying to live green on a budget may take a little more creativity and planning, but it is entirely possible and easy to do, once you get started!  At times, living green can actually be easier on a budget, since most people watching their budget usually tend to consume less (over-consumption is one of the biggest environmental problems, and simply consuming less is one of the most eco-friendly things you can do!).  Here are some quick eco living tips for the most common necessities (general, food, cosmetics, soaps, and clothing), which are great green practices for all people, whether they are on a budget or not!



General Green Tips:


Consume less


     This eco tip can’t be overemphasized.  Even if you don’t know what steps to take to live more eco-friendly, if you consume less, you are already well on the way to living green J.


 Buy green when you can and buy wisely; plan your purchases in advance.  Try initially replacing only a few basic necessities with green products


     It can be hard figuring out how to live green.  Start slowly and replace products that you use daily and on a regular basis like food, light bulbs, and skin care first, and think about the big stuff (like home furnishings, cars, etc) later.  Eco-friendly products tend to cost more in the short term but over time they can save you money, greatly improve your and your family’s health, and they have a lower impact on the Earth’s ecosystems.  Also shop around; look in weekly ads for the best deals on eco-friendly products, clip those coupons, and write a shopping list (to avoid impulse shopping) and stick to it!  Many regular and health food stores have their own store coupons or offer ‘double coupon’ days. 



Green Food Tips:


Buy the store brand


     If you are on a budget, consider buying the store’s brand name.  Often food stores have their own line of products, which tend to be just as high quality as other brands but often are gentler on the wallet.  Some health food stores offer many organic staples like soup, beans, pasta, nuts, etc, at great prices, which usually cost less but are just as delicious as other popular brands.



Cook meals from scratch, don’t buy as much pre-packaged food, and eat out less


     Eating prepared foods (dining out or buying packaged foods) is not only expensive but can be unhealthy; many precooked meals are high in fat, salt, and sugar, and also low in vital nutrients.  It is usually cheaper and healthier to make things from scratch, and you can control the quality of the ingredients, and spend the money you saved on healthier eco-friendly foods.  For people with time constraints there are many easy, simple to prepare meals that you can cook in minutes like fettucini alfredo, chili, stirfries, and quesadillas.  Yum!



Try to eat as many locally grown and organic foods as you can


     Pesticides can have huge impacts on the environment, as well as on your health.  Some studies have shown that organic foods are higher in nutrients than conventional foods.  Whenever possible try to get organically grown produce or foods grown by local farmers.  In many areas, many (but not all) local farmers grow their food organically but can’t afford to have their farms certified, so they are not listed as ‘organic’.  Even if local foods aren’t organic, they still have many eco, health, and social benefits.  If something is grown and sold locally, then there is less pollution (less CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, since the foods are not transported across the continent or half way around the world), food is often left on the trees longer to ripen (so tastes better and develops more nutrients), and you are supporting your local economy (since more money goes directly to the farmers: no middle men).  Visit your local farmers’ markets when they are in season (see the links below for farmer markets in your area).  Many places also have green food co-ops, where every week during a season you can get a box of organically grown local foods for a flat rate fee.  Be sure to check your local community papers or Local Harvest’s website (see link below) for information on where to find your local food co-ops.



Eat more vegetarian foods, or organic, non-hormone, and grass fed animals and animal products


     Vegetarian and organic foods overall tend to have less impacts on the Earth than meat products and conventionally grown foods.  Also eating vegetarian and organics foods are generally healthier and contain more vitamins and minerals (plant foods are extremely rich sources of antioxidants and vital nutrients).  An added plus is that many vegetarian meals are budget friendly, so you can spend the money you save on green items.  If you aren’t keen on the idea of going vegetarian all the way, try replacing one meal a day with delicious veggie based meals.  Try a veggie-topped pizza, a delicious veggie Indian Curry, or a simple but filling eggplant parmesan.  If you eat meat and dairy, try to buy grass fed, organic, non-hormone, free range, cage-free, or locally raised meat products.  For more information on the ecological impacts of the meat industry, check out the two vegetarian sites listed below.




Green Skin Care/Cosmetics


Buy only what you’ll use within the next couple months


     Buy only what you need.  All natural (100% natural), nearly all natural (almost all natural except for maybe one or two minor ingredients), and natural based cosmetics (mostly natural with a few synthetic ingredients.  Note: many natural based brands may contain irritating or potentially toxic synthetic ingredients so be sure to read labels carefully to see if the ingredients are benign or not) typically have a shorter shelf life if they don’t contain synthetic preservatives, so only last weeks to months (depends on the product).  In addition, all natural and nearly all natural, as well as many natural based cosmetics, are super concentrated because they do not contain any or as many fillers like conventional brands so you only need to use a small amount to get great results.  It is highly recommend that you try samples before buying full size; most small online vendors offer samples since they usually do not accept returns.



Make It Yourself (MIY)


     The most cost effective way to have great skin on a budget is to MIY or ‘Make It Yourself’.  You can create some very economical but effective products from very simple ingredients that you can find right in your kitchen.  By creating your own products, you can control quality while saving money.  Even if you occasionally splurge and buy an expensive raw ingredient (for example helichrysum or rose essential oil), it is still more cost effective than buying pre-made products (since essential oils are highly concentrated substances and you only need to add a few drops to your products, so a small bottle of essential oil will last you a very long time).  Check out the anb (all natural beauty) portal’s website for easy MIY recipes from experts in the natural beauty, herbal, or aromatherapy fields (including a few of mine).  My blog also has many recipes and aromatherapy, herbal, natural skin care, and ecological information.





Background of natural soap


     Soaps are one of the most used cosmetics.  When many people make the switch to real soap, they are surprised at the price of real soap compared to a bar of conventional ‘soap’.  Real soap is usually more expensive than conventional ‘soap’ because of the higher costs of natural ingredients, and since most natural soaps are handmade.  Most conventional ‘soaps’ are not real soaps but are actually ‘syn-det’ bars (made of synthetic detergents, or a blend of synthetic detergents and real soap).  Real soap is made from a variety of vegetable and/or animal fats, an alkali like lye, and usually contains some herbal ingredients, and natural or synthetic fragrances (note: once the fats react with the lye, there is no lye left in the two final products, which are soap and glycerin).  An average of $4 to $7 per bar may seem like a lot for a bar of natural real soap, but considering that a bar lasts at least 3 to 5 weeks of daily use (about the same time frame as a conventional bar; depending on size, formulation, and frequency of use) they are still relatively economical.  And once you’ve tried a natural bar of soap, you’ll probably never go back to ‘syn-det’ bars ever again!



Tips to make natural soaps last


     To make soaps last, make sure you keep them out of the stream of water and that you use a well-draining soap dish.  Real soap made by small hand crafters is rich in glycerin (small handcrafters do not remove it like many, but not all, large companies) and often superfatted (have excess oils and butters added) so they are very emollient and may ‘melt’ quicker if they sit in water.  It also helps to cut the soap up into smaller pieces (2 to 4 pieces): small pieces last a lot longer than when using the whole bar.


     If you have a large family or just go through soap fast, consider buying it in bulk.  A few of the larger natural soap companies have precut multi-packs of bars and also uncut bricks of soap that you can usually buy at discounted prices.



Soap information to Make it Yourself


     For those who are crafty, try MIY!  The ultimate budget saver is to make it from scratch using the cold or hot process method, but for people who don’t want to handle lye or who want a less time consuming and less complex method to make soap, try using a ‘melt and pour’ or a ‘rebatch’ base (both bases are made with lye, but the lye and oils/butters/fats have already been converted to soap and glycerin, so you won’t need to handle lye when using a base).  Or try making and using ‘soap less’ cleansers made from common, inexpensive kitchen ingredients.  Some good natural cleansers are organic whole milk yogurt, honey, or oatmeal (see anb portal and my blog for recipes, links below).






     Overall organic clothes tend to cost more.  However, since they are usually made with high quality materials they last longer, so they are ultimately more wallet-friendly (because you won’t have to replace them as often) and gentle on the Planet too (less toxins into the environment, and also many organic lines are socially conscious too).  Since it is extremely expensive to replace your whole wardrobe all at once, slowly replace one item at a time with either organic items or at least buy American made clothes.  Keep an eye on your favorite stores (either local or online) and try to buy items while they are on sale.  Buy only what you wear or that needs replacing (we all have been guilty of buying clothes that just sit in our closets, unworn).  For those that are sewing savvy (which is the least expensive alternative) buy organic cloth in bulk and make your own!





Link to anb (all natural beauty) portal’s cosmetics recipes and articles:



Links to vegetarian websites about the ecological impacts of a meat based diet, and vegetarian information:




Link to my sister’s blog (beXnlog) on vegetarian foods (includes many recipes):



Link to USDA’s farmers’ markets search by state:



Link to Local Harvest’s site to find farmer markets, food co-ops, natural grocery stores (you can do a search by area):




About The Author:


Li Wong has a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Biology) and has nearly completed her M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy.  She has been crafting natural cosmetics and studying aromatherapy and herbalism since 2001, and is currently a student of Jeanne Rose’s Aromatherapy Studies Course.  Environmental interests include conservation, botany, ethnobotany (uses of plants by indigenous peoples), mammals, organic standards in cosmetics, urban wildlife issues, environmental education and awareness, and public perception.  Her all natural, eco-friendly, vegan cosmetic company will open very soon. 


For more information on environmental issues, eco living, natural cosmetics, aromatherapy, and herbalism check out: Solarkat’s Eco Blog.  http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/


If you have any questions on eco living please feel free to contact Li at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it



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