Living Sustainably on a Budget
A common (and very valid) reason for not living a sustainable lifestyle is that it is too expensive. When companies pay their workers a fair wage and spend money on quality materials that don’t contain microplastics and haven’t been dyed with harmful chemicals, their items usually cost a little more money. Capitalism has presented us with a false truth that companies can produce quality products for extremely cheap prices. Whether it’s clothing, homeware, or anything in between, quality and ethically made products cannot be sold cheaply- this prevents the manufacturers being paid properly and leaves no room to invest in sustainable materials. I mean think about it- if a top can cost £20, and the average clothing markup is between 50% and 60%, then how could this result in a fair compensation for the worker who made the top? That being said, there are plenty of sustainable alternatives that won’t break your bank (take it from me, a self proclaimed bargain hunter).
Sustainable Fashion on a Budget
Sustainable fashion on a budget could not be easier. All the most sustainable options are also the cheapest. There are stunning brands out there making beautifully crafted sustainable clothing, but often their prices are not accessible for most people. Instead of giving up and shopping in H&M or Primark, reconsider the plethora of options allowing you to access a variety of pieces and styles for less.
Sharing is Caring
If you’re in need of that newness fix (let’s face it… who doesn’t love new clothes) find a friend that feels the same. Shop your friend’s wardrobe - borrow jackets, shoes, skirts, whatever takes your fancy. If you aren’t the same size as your friends - you can still borrow accessories such as earrings and headscarves - these can completely transform an outfit. Make sure you ask before you borrow, we don’t want to be responsible for burning bridges. Better yet, if you’re as lucky as me, you get to move in with a friend who wears the same size clothes and shoes as you, and you end up with a shared wardrobe. 2 is better than 1!
If you love fashion, the chances are your friends do too. Or at least - they might be interested in getting rid of unwanted clothes in exchange for something new? Imagine a whole new outfit or a cute new top - completely free. That’s a clothes swap for you. Make a group chat or event page and announce the time and place (your garden, the local park, the living room) and get everyone together. If you all bring 1+ items to the event, everyone can leave with something they love. It’s social, affordable and fun. Maybe, if you’re lucky enough, one day they’ll even make a movie about you and your old pair of jeans starring Blake Lively.
Can’t be bothered with the logistics? (we don’t blame you bestie, it’s been a long few months). Scout your local area and see who’s hosting a clothes swap. Local universities, cafes and sustainability groups might have an event soon - keep your eyes peeled.
Get in Loser, We're Going Secondhand Shopping
If you’re not into wearing clothes that have had a life before you, unfortunately this section isn’t for you. Or none of the ones leading up to this one, actually (you’re on your own). Set your alarm for 5:00 am because you’re heading to your local car boot sale. When you think of a car boot sale you might think of old people selling weird coins and trinkets- which it is- but you can definitely find some unique and beautiful clothing for less than £2. Just chuck it in the washing machine and it will be as good as new.
If early mornings aren’t your thing (pls don’t speak to me before 9 am) check out a jumble sale. They are usually hosted in church halls or community centers. You’ll probably bring down the average age by 30 years - but you will walk away with items for as little as 20-60p. That’s giving Pretty Little Thing a run for their money, only this time the prices are cheap without exploiting garment workers.
And if you’d rather spend the day in, and maybe update a few things here and there from the comfort of your couch, then look no further than Vinted, Depop, Vestiaire and Ebay. You can either spend the day browsing inspo and saving things for the future, or if you’re after something specific, spend the day doing ‘market research’. Slow fashion means there’s no rush, right? If you’re feeling time pressure to hop on a trend while it’s still alive- chances are, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Make sure you see what your options are, find the best bargain, and make some offers!
Take a Break (Have a Kitkat)
We’ve all heard the line ‘the most sustainable clothing item is the one you already own’ and we could not agree more. Buying new clothes should be kept to a minimum because honestly… none of us need anything new (that’s a generalisation, but you get the jist). Try going a month or two without buying anything new (yes that includes second hand clothing). A month isn’t that long and taking this time away from shopping will do the planet and your bank account some good. Whilst buying second hand is amazing - shopping when you don’t need anything is still damaging. That being said, just because the month is over doesn’t mean it’s time to go on a shopping spree! Just like your Duolingo streak, this one will also bring more satisfaction the longer it lasts.
Eating Sustainably on a Budget
Maybe I’m a stereotypical vegetarian, but vegan and vegetarian options are not always more expensive! A lot of the time, they are actually cheaper. Vegetables, beans and legumes are some of the most affordable things in the supermarket. Let’s find out how to eat sustainably on a budget…
What I mean by getting organised is…meal prep. For so long I zoned out as soon as I heard these words in a sentence. Obviously it’s cheaper, but it's time consuming and boring right? Wrong. Give it a try for one week and you will be amazed at how much money you save. Vegan meals like chilli con carne and lentil dhal will cost you about £3 for 4 sizeable and filling portions. No one likes to be hungry after they eat, so pack your meals with plant based proteins and your hunger will be satiated. Not to mention your bank account and the planet will thank you. You don’t have to eat the same meal everyday for 5 days - switch up the accompanying carb or add more vegetables (variety is the spice of life).
We recommend lentils, black beans, chickpeas, and any other beans from the supermarket for a plant based protein and affordable base for many meals. Check out Instragram for delicious vegan and zero waste recipes. An obvious favourite here is Deliciously Ella- but if you’re not one for recipe subscriptions, you and I can patiently wait for her occasional Instagram recipes.
Eat What You Buy
It might sound simple, but eating what you buy is one of the easiest ways to ensure you minimise food waste and save a lot of money by utilising everything you purchase. If you buy more food before you eat what you already have, it will inevitably go mouldy or pass its ‘consume by’ date (even though who strictly abides by that anyways?) before you’ve had a chance to eat it. Not only are you wasting food, you’re also wasting money! Practice having willpower and use up everything you have before heading back to the shop. If you’re taking a trip away, give your fruit and veg to your housemates/friends - make sure someone eats it even if it’s not you. Take this with a pinch of salt- buying food when you want and need it (intuitive eating) is the way to happiness, but it can also often lead to a much heftier receipt at the grocery store. Being aware and mindful of the food waste we produce will make your piggy bank happy in the long run.
Beauy & Lifestyle
Less is More
Once again, we would like to thank capitalism for feeding us the narrative that we need dozens of products and an hour-long AM/PM routine to achieve perfect skin. When it comes to your skin, a lot of the times, less is more (unless you have been advised otherwise by a dermatologist). And this isn’t coming from a perfect-skin, Gwenyth Paltrow type of girl. I struggled with severe and painful adult acne between ages 18 and 21, and spent £100s on specific face washes, creams, ointments, moisturisers, spot treatments, etc. and my skin only really started clearing up when I reduced all of that to washing my face with a Dove bar of soap, simple moisturiser, and SPF. The fewer chemicals your skin is exposed to, the better. Not only does this help your bank account, it also reduces plastic waste. The beauty industry generates tonnes of toxic and physical waste, so buying less will really help reduce the amount of bottles in landfill (particularly as bedrooms and bathroom bins are rarely divided into recycling and general waste).
Knowledge is Power
The TikTok girlies have spoken, now we’re reading 10 pages a day to become that girl. But on a serious note, if you’re into reading, buying pre-loved books online is cheaper and helps make the most of the resources we’ve already produced. We also recommend supporting your local book shop. Better yet, support your local library. If you’re not at university anymore, make use of your alumni status. And if you’re nowhere near your alma-mater, your local library will welcome you with open arms (for free)!
That’s a wrap. If you’ve made it this far please share this article with anyone who could benefit from it. Let’s work together to share the truth that sustainability does not always have to be expensive, helping more people access ethical alternatives. No piggy bank was harmed in the making of this green closet (& lifestyle!).