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3 Ways To Embrace Sustainable Living Without Spending Money


It’s easy to get sucked into the belief that you need to buy a plethora of green products in order to embrace sustainable living.
In my case, there was a sense of shame that accompanied the box of plastic wrap in my kitchen drawer after learning more about our single use plastic crisis

But real, sustainable living means using what you have until the end of its life, and being mindful about your use of the earth’s resources. This seems increasingly difficult in this consumer driven society, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. By re-using and up-cycling what you have, and buying consciously when needed, you can make a huge impact on our environment!

It’s wild to think that September is already here, and so in honour of Back-To-School, we’ve compiled a list of three fairly accessible ways you can live more sustainably and embrace sustainable living this school year (and beyond).

#1. The Conveniently Inconvenient Disposable Coffee Cup

You had to know I’d start with the disposable coffee cups. Coffee is how I start every morning and I’m willing to bet it’s how many of you begin yours as well.
While it’s certainly more convenient not having to worry about remembering to bring your reusable mug, and instead grab a coffee on campus before sauntering off to class, the amount of waste created from coffee cups is overwhelming. Around 2 billion disposable coffee cups are used every year in Canada, and ashamedly, Canadians produce more waste per person than any other developed country on earth!
In the 11 months we’ve been open, we’ve saved over 10,500 disposable cups from entering the landfill. That’s from our cafe alone! Think of how many other cafe’s there are in the Halifax Regional Municipality. That’s a LOT of coffee cups.

I know those to-go cups look like they might be recyclable, but they contain a plastic interior lining that means they end up in the landfill instead.

So, while you may feel that “just one cup” won’t make that much of a difference, think of how many other Canadians are sharing that same sentiment…

Before You Buy:
I guarantee you’ve got a mason jar or two laying around. Perhaps it’s the jar of pasta sauce in your fridge. Maybe it’s the jar of pizza sauce in your cupboard… Once you’ve used the contents, clean them out and use them to house your cup of joe (or for a plethora of other things).

If you drink your coffee on the go, consider purchasing a Cuppow Straw Lids to easily convert your jar into a travel mug.
Mason/Canning jars are such a versatile sustainable living tool, and there’s no need to head to the store to purchase them: take a look around and you’ll see they’re used for a plethora of things in your pantry.

If you’re already using all of your canning jars and want a dedicated reusable coffee mug, consider the Joco Reusable Glass Cup which features a silicone sleeve to protect those hands and an ergonomic design to prevent splashing during your commute.

#2. The Reusable Bag Dilemma

Stop right there.
I know you read that, thought to yourself “obviously” and maybe rolled your eyes a little. I can’t blame you. Re-usable bags are everywhere, and I know most of you have a few (or 12) reusable grocery bags at home that you routinely forget to pack when you go out to buy groceries.
The biggest obstacle for me was that these reusable bags simply aren’t compact enough to keep in my purse. As a mom and a bus-rider, this quality is fairly important. Grocery trips tend to happen on a whim, and heavily tied to convenience.

Before You Buy:
If you have a few plastic grocery bags laying around at home, go ahead and reuse those as long as you’re able. They’re extremely compact and weightless, making them easy to slide into whichever type of bag you happen to have with you. I’m sure they’d even fit into your pocket, if you take a moment to fold it up!
Once you’ve used them as long as possible, consider a Tiny Companion Bag and a couple of our Lightweight Produce Bags, which are compact enough to keep in your purse, backpack or briefcase.

The produce bags in particular are a favourite of mine in lieu of those awful plastic produce bags you find in grocery stores. I’m rarely able to find any paper produce bags (normally located near the mushrooms and peppers) and these are light enough to not impede the weight of whichever produce I’m buying. I tend to use mine for smaller produce that’s difficult to carry, like lentils, peas, nuts and similar.

#3. Use What You Have, Refill As Needed

Out of shampoo? Dish Soap? Olive Oil? Before you throw out those empties, help extend their life and bring them to the shop to refill them! We carry a ton of bulk products, including shampoo & conditioner, vinegars, deodorants, spices, beans and much more.

The added perk of coming in to refill your empties is that you can purchase as much- or as little- as you need. Not sure you’ll like the one recipe you found that uses xanthan gum? No problem; Buy 1 Tablespoon! Do you have a sensitive scalp and aren’t sure if you’ll like the shampoo? Take enough for a few washes- problem solved!

We strive to be accessible, and it’s important to us that sustainability feels within reach for you; because it is.

Have a bulk item you’re looking for, but we don’t carry it? Send us a message and let us know 🙂 Many of our bulk items come from your requests!

What are your best accessible tips for sustainable living?

Aly Dort
Aly Dort is a freelance illustrator and stationery designer living in Halifax, N.S. She is passionate about mental health, social sustainability and empowering those around her.