Life is all about picking your battles, and unfortunately green living is often one of those. No doubt because of its increased popularity, more and more companies have opted to hop on the bandwagon as a way to charge people more for something that appears to be less harmful to the environment. Unfortunately, many sustainable, fair trade, and eco-friendly alternatives don’t fit into the budget, and so we have to ask ourselves where we’re willing to draw the line. At some point you’re going to have to choose the non-green option, and even though it may be frustrating, know that there are so many other ways to participate in a greener lifestyle.
The first move towards achieving a better balance between your budget and your ideals, is to sit down and rank causes, initiatives, and lifestyle changes from most important to least important. Know that this can be a process, a fluid list that is subject to change at any time, but acknowledging what is most important to you is key to avoiding frustrations later on.
For instance, my list would probably look something like:
- Supporting our local ecosystem
- Conservation of ecosystems & biodiversity at large
- Supporting the local economy & agrarian system
- Eating healthy and seasonally-conscious meals
- Supporting fair trade, sustainable fashion
- Reducing what we need to live on
- Reducing our waste
- Minimizing our carbon footprint
- Prioritizing a plant-based diet
Once you’ve created your list (however long or short it may be), pay special attention to your top 3 items. Make a separate list to tease out what you are or would like to be doing to make a difference in these areas.
In my example, I wrote that my top three initiatives were: supporting our local ecosystem, conservation of ecosystems & biodiversity at large, and supporting the local economy & agrarian system. To delve deeper into these, I would then write a list along the lines of the following:
- Be conscientious of what plants are being grown outdoors, provide a space for pollinators to feed, pledge not to use chemicals in outdoor growing operations, ensure that the consequences to the local ecosystem are evaluated before action is taken.
- Donate to organizations working to achieve these ends, continue growing carnivorous plants inside to preserve these delicate species, educate others, and use my political voice / vote for conservation.
- Buy local and cut out big box stores as much as possible, make use of the local CSA and farmers market scene to get produce, look for boutique alternatives to nationwide chains.
Now that I’ve done this exercise, I have a handy list of what is most important to me when working to achieve a greener lifestyle and I have essentially handed myself the keys to success. Instead of trying to make all of my lifestyle changes at once, I can instead look at ideas I’ve written down for my top three initiatives and begin to build a budget around what I can do to carry out these ideas. For my first point, I might make an effort to do more research into fertilizer alternatives, and try to budget in some flowering plants for my pollinators despite what I might have originally been planning on planting. To the second point, I might sign up to donate a few dollars to my chosen organization every month, or I might prioritizing spending on my carnivorous plants over other non-essential expenditures. The last point might be the most monetarily strenuous, but I would look into local alternatives and perhaps be willing to pay a bit more if it meant that I was keeping some farm stand or small business afloat. Either way it’s about picking one or two ideas that make the most sense to you and building those into your budget.
The key to living a greener lifestyle and keeping your wallet happy is to prioritize which green alternatives are both realistic for your current budget and a high enough priority that you’ll genuinely feel good making them. Once you can find that killer combo – even if it’s only a few changes – I can almost guarantee that you’ll find yourself feeling less frustrated and more fulfilled.
Remember that you don’t have to make a whole bunch of changes at once, and that it can be just as fulfilling to choose one or two alternatives that resonate with you as it is to live that Instagram-worthy green lifestyle. All of us are going through a process, and sometimes it’s important just to acknowledge where you are on the path towards that eco-friendly ideal.
I hope all of you find these ideas helpful, and that you incorporate some of them into your next budget!
Do you already budget for your green alternatives? Have any tips? Share with us in the comments below!