Photos by Blake Patterson and My Photo Journeys, Flickr
Reduce, reuse, recycle. This has become a familiar mantra, but they are not all of equal value to lessening our impact on the planet. Recycling is great to do and helps give more life to some materials such as paper, aluminum and some plastics, reducing our need to extract new raw materials. Even better is reusing items that have already been created and assembled, decreasing the need to replace them as frequently. The most impactful is to reduce: if we just buy less stuff, we reduce up front the need to extract resources, burn fuel for shipping, create packaging that is thrown out as soon as we take it home, and deal with the waste that is produced throughout the life of the item, from its production to the point it is no longer useful. Take a hard look at your purchases. Ask yourself if it is something you really need. Think about where it will be a month later – will it still be useful? How about a year later? Will it just be adding to clutter in your house? Living with too much clutter creates its own kind of stress (see Green tip, April 25, 2014). Find satisfaction in your life through ways other than stuff. You and the earth will be happier for it.
Photos by Blake Patterson and My Photo Journeys, Flickr
While we are all waiting in our homes for the Covid-19 pandemic to pass, it is still recommended to get outside and exercise. You can experience nature safely even with just a walk through your neighborhood or sitting in your yard. As we move into spring, listen for the plethora of birds that are now singing, admire the flowers that have begun to bloom, and take notice of leaves on the trees and young plants that are starting to emerge and grow. Being in the outdoors has great health benefits as a way to de-stress, improve your sense of happiness and well-being, and has even been connected to lower levels of sickness. Take this time to reflect on how important green spaces are to our general health, well-being, and enjoyment.
Next, take steps to preserve natural areas for the time beyond coping with a pandemic. Support organizations and legislation that protect our natural areas. Participate in park clean-up events in your community to remove trash and invasive species. Create more natural space in your own yard be replacing lawn with native plants that provide cover, flowers, and berries and other food sources for wildlife. You will be happier for it!
Photos by Susan O'Donnell
The grocery store might not be your favorite place to visit when you're at home, but is it ever fun when you're in another country. An article in Eater describes supermarkets as "must-visit travel destinations," and I have to agree, having spent a disproportionate amount of my travel time over the years wandering the aisles of foreign grocers. They're one of those strange little destinations that I like to sniff out everywhere I go, much as other travellers gravitate toward clothing stores, pharmacies, libraries, cafés, or art galleries.
The beauty of the grocery store – whether it's a huge supermarket or a tiny bodega – is that it gives you a glimpse into what local people buy to cook, snack on, and what they pay for food. This offers clues into their lifestyles and preferences, and into the agricultural and cooking practices of the country. I stare at the strange fruits and vegetables, the exotic-looking seafood, the cheeses, the spices, the breads, and oh, the chocolate... always the chocolate!
Being the environmental nerd I am, I like paying attention to packaging and seeing how different places present foods for sale. Italy, for example, has an awful habit of requiring customers to bag their fruits and veggies in plastic for weighing, while Sri Lanka leaves everything loose in bins. In Brazil, everything is prepackaged and swaddled in absurd layers of plastic, whereas I was able to use cloth bags in Costa Rica and buy loose fruit in Turkey.
I've noticed that people in grocery stores tend to be friendlier than in other places because they don't expect to see you there, an out-of-place tourist. They smile, say hello, and sometimes ask questions, which can lead to great conversations. I had an animated discussion with a teenaged cashier in a neighborhood corner store in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, over which bag of crunchy mix to buy. He insisted that the one labeled 'spicy' would be too hot for me, but I told him I was willing to risk it. He laughed and we ended up talking about my favorite Sri Lankan foods for ten minutes. (And just so you know, the mix was just fine.)
Visiting a grocery store is also a good way to save money as a traveller. You can stock up on curious-looking snacks with hilarious names (think 'Ah-Ha Vanilla Cake on Chocolate' or 'O-Kay Layer Cake'), call it an exercise in cross-cultural studies, and suddenly you've got a frugal dinner to munch on a street corner (hopefully not in Florence) or in your hostel common room.
Sometimes you can share your edible discoveries with fellow travellers, which makes for a better meal. This happened to me in Istanbul, when a Russian guy at my hostel pulled out containers of salty cheese and honey and flatbreads, and I contributed apples and chocolate. We feasted as we swapped travel stories and that's how I planned my next day of sightseeing.
The financial savings extend to souvenirs, too, which I always buy at grocery stores. Whether it's ground spices for my mom, a bottle of truffle oil for my husband, or chocolates for my kids, the grocery store is the first place I look for unique gifts that aren't marked up to crazy-high tourist prices.
It's interesting then to come home and look at one's own local grocery store through new eyes. What would a visitor think? What stands out, and what do the food displays say about us as a culture? You might be surprised by what you realize.
February 26, 2020
photos from Flickr by keetr and Sharon Hahn Darlin
Frugality comes with benefits that extend beyond your pocketbook and personal life. The truth is, frugality doesn’t just benefit “us;” it can benefit the planet we live on too. By making fewer purchases and consuming less, we can positively impact the environment in a number of ways.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash in 2012, with only about 87 million tons of that material making its way to the recycling bin. That means that, on average, each American created approximately 4.38 pounds of waste or trash per day -- which is, quite frankly, rather alarming.
Although frugality can’t solve every environmental problem that modern society has created, it’s a start. The little things add up.
For starters, reusing and repurposing old items instead of throwing them away means less trash in landfills, dumps, and waterways. Meanwhile, families who buy used items instead of new will inevitably throw away a lot less product packaging over the course of a lifetime. Trading used items around also means less energy used for production, packaging, and shipping for every item you don’t buy. And buying a cheap, fuel-efficient used car (or ditching it altogether in favor of a bike or public transportation) helps reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases.
The bottom line: Being frugal means consuming fewer of the planet’s resources, and that’s always a good thing.
by Holly Johnson Updated on Sep 27, 2019
photo by Susan O'Donnell