No man is an Island as they say, and over the last 2 years I have made new friends with a similar ethos to me, and become closer to people I already knew who had similar ideals. Over that time, I have picked up free stuff from them, as they down sized or decluttered and knew I would be interested in something they didn't need anymore.
This week though, 2 new friends had flatmates move out (leaving bags of clothes behind) which has resulted in a free wardrobe revamp for me!
This is something I wish I did more of. From leaves and flowers to berries, fruit and nuts, there is loads of free food to be found at different times of year. Unfortunately I never make time for it, or think of doing it when I get some free time, but on Sunday while out for a walk I smelled some wild garlic...and this is the outcome:
You can also make pesto from dandelions and nettles...which are generally available closer to home, and for a longer season.
We have been getting our orange juice in our own jars at a farm shop we go to every 2 weeks, and as it costs more than tetra pack (€4/l a 50 cent discount from bringing our own containers) I had assumed it was just one of those thing that just work out a bit more expensive if you want to get it zero waste.
But a few weeks ago I wasn't feeling well, so got some supermarket orange juice...and turns out there is no comparison! ...so not even considering any sustainability issues I am much happier with my twice monthly treat than the idea of reverting to an inferior product. (And they even let you take the peels for any candying, rind grating or infusing ideas you might have up your sleeve).
When I cut my hair last June one of my zero waste friends said to me excitedly "now you can use rye flour as shampoo!" At the time I wasn't interested, being perfectly happy with my shampoo bars....I had no intention of switching...but a few weeks ago we ran out...so we just started using using a teaspoon of rye flour mixed with water to make a paste instead. Rub in leave for a few minutes and then wash out, easy! Unintended benefit....it costs less than €1 a year!
When you are trying to cut down on food waste eventually you start looking at the 20% that we are just not used to eating and change your habits.
These parts: peels, ends, seeds etc that other people throw out and become parts of meals where other people would have to go out and buy something.
Examples are carrot top pesto (doesn't smell great but tastes delicious), Veg scrap stock (also not a great smell when you are making it-but great in everything you would usually add stock to) apple scrap vinegar (which I don´t actually use in food, but do for cleaning).
When you are trying to live sustainably, you encourage people (either directly or abstractly) to give you gifts that can be used up rather than sit on a shelf. This ends up saving you money because while most gifts are usually not things you would buy for yourself....wine is something I would splash out on...and I got about 2 months supply this Christmas! ...that and vouchers for experiences which will also mean I spend less on going out!
Christmas can be very expensive, there is the presents (buying and wrapping), the social events (consuming and dressing), and then the decorating and card sending.
Over spending on presents is easy to avoid, everyone really understands now that they have everything they need, so you are really just giving a token and it doesn´t really matter how much it cost as long as you think they´ll enjoy it.
You can find great gifts in charity shops, as long as you have time to make repeat visits multiple shops, I don´t think this method is perfect though as you will end up with at least one "it will do" present if you rely completely on charity shops.
Consumables-food, drinks, candles, soap etc are excellent to stop the build up of stuff, especially if you can get a more sustainable alternative eg. soya wax candle in an upcycled container or handmade soap loose, are another great option.
Homemade is another option-crafts (useful stuff using upcycled materials) or food.
Vouchers are the ultimate no build up of stuff gift, but I am not a huge fan because of the specific monetary value attached.
Athough I don´t choose the gifts to be cheaper (and not all of them were), approaching the idea of getting presents with sustainability in mind meant that I ended up spending less.
I am no longer a user of wrapping paper or gift bags. Everything this year will come in newspaper or salvaged brown paper. You can get paper tape or twine to fasten the packages, but I used ribbon taken from previous presents or elastic bands from bunches of fresh herbs. The tags were made from a cardboard box, or from a sticker sheet that someone had accidentally printed an invoice for me on the back of (I am pretty happy that they didn´t reprint it for me). Total cost zero.
I spent much less money here because the vegetarian option is usually the cheapest thing on the menu, or there is nothing vegan so you end up with two side orders instead, and there isn´t even any point in looking at the dessert menu!
When you make everything yourself, you put more time and effort in, but the ingredients do end up being much more affordable than pre-made dishes. Plus animal products are generally more expensive.
Dressing for the season:
If you are working towards a capsule wardrobe you aren´t going to fall into the trap of buying a Christmas jumper (or skirt) or a new outfit for your Christmas party. You are also used to wearing the same thing again without washing in between so you never end up with "nothing to wear" situations.
Much like my diminished need for a Christmas jumper, I am no longer interested in buying a load of stuff that is going to be in a box for 11 months of the year. And I am certainly not running out to pick up anything disposable. It doesn´t mean I don´t decorate! Last year I painted the windows (with my niece and nephews) which was pretty festive. I also hung strings of cards (which I added to this year with the new cards that came).
Have never been a big deal for me, I never got into the habit of sending them. But if you did and you wanted to be more eco, you could opt for email or photo message distribution which would also work out cheaper.
All in all I think if you are conscious of the environment you don´t get caught up in a load of the hype and consumerism of Christmas, so you end up spending less.
Another way you end up saving money is by clubbing together to buy stuff to avoid packaging, and inadvertently getting the wholesale price. Whether you do this just between friends, or through a facebook group (and friends you haven´t met yet) the result is the same, you get your stuff package free, and end up paying less then youu would if you went to the supermarket.
Living more sustainably means needing less stuff, and it also means letting go of stuff you aren´t using, so I put an electric fire, a hair dryer and a straightener up on adverts and reclaimed €150 of their value. So there is the money back I get as a saving as well as the savings from not buying things as flippantly any more!
When I started this blog I was on quite a tight budget, I was on carers allowance and C was looking for work. Our monthly budget was €750 a month after rent.