Because reducing consumption is the simplest way to make a difference.
Who says you need to live extravagantly to get a lifestyle check? Not if you live with me in the same household. If I have a motto, it would be “simplify.” And this goes not only for every aspect of housekeeping, but for most aspects of my life in particular. Simplicity of lifestyle is, in fact, a Benedictine value that probably got ingrained in me back in my St. Scho days.
So, I acquired this attitude of always wanting to live a simple life, I put little value to material possessions (except those that are really useful, gardening tools for example), and I happen to exist in a generation filled with overwhelming economic and environmental constraints. There goes my reduction equation.
Reducing consumption is a must. It is NOT uncalled for. It’s a social responsibility. To be honest, I get really turned off by people who buy or collect things that have little utility to them. I hate being invited to houses with rooms full of stuff that they don’t even use but still keep. I hate seeing food thrown to waste. I just have an aversion towards those who seem to purchase too much. It doesn’t even have to do whether you can afford them, but whether you can consume them all, or if your survival is at stake if you don’t have them.
I guess I lost track whether this aversion is something that I have acquired from living in a material-obsessed world in the last three decades, or if it was my interpretation of a virtue that was taught to me when I was young, austerity perhaps, I’m not sure. But this is how I am now. And while I respect what people do with their money, I would just like to emphasize the repercussions of their purchases and activities to the environment, be it in terms of waste generation or resource depletion, and if they even feel any amount of responsibility or accountability to what is happening in this world because of their actions.
For the most part, I wonder why it takes so much energy (persuasion energy) to make people realize this. I don’t understand why millions of people turn off their lights on earth hour, but still don’t see that what they really need to do goes beyond their light switches. I do not observe earth hour. But I turn off my lights when they’re not in use.
There are a lot of things that ordinary people, busy people, employed people, can do to reduce their consumption and their waste generation at the same time. Unfortunately, some ways are not as practical as others. But there are little steps that can be done. Below are examples of how my reduction equation is practiced in real life, in my own household.
1. We skipped the grocery. The grocery is a huge warehouse full of stuff, half of which can be consumed, half of which is synthetic packaging that goes to waste. While we have been refraining from a lot of processed food in general, I allowed myself to purchase a number of processed or semi-processed items that I have yet to find non-processed alternatives for. The exceptions include:
– flour (white flour and wholewheat flour)
– oil or shortening (vegetable oil, olive oil and butter)
– spices and condiments (I have a lot of these, unfortunately)
– sugar (refined sugar for baking and brown sugar for everything else)
– pasta and noodles (I have tried making these fresh but it’s not worth the time it takes to make them)
– toiletries and laundry aids (soap, detergent, shampoo, toothpaste)
– alcoholic beverages
2. Plan your meals. Meal planning to me is like hitting many birds with one stone. It allows me to choose to prepare food that uses ingredients that are in season, and therefore fresh. It reduces food going to waste because all ingredients purchased are going to be cooked according to the meal plan and not left rotting in the refrigerator. It allows the proper scheduling of cooking times and eating times, which increases time efficiency and reduces the energy consumed during cooking.
3. Make food from scratch. This takes more time and effort but is way cheaper than buying instant food products. And it’s healthier and fun. I make my own pizza dough and pizza sauce. We cook our own noodle dishes, and never eat instant noodles. I make my own salad dressing, and never buy those bottled stuff. We eat freshly prepared sandwiches and home-baked cookies instead of store-bought biscuits.
3. Use more physical energy. I walk to work, Turo rides a bike to the farm, we walk the children to and from school. We water the plants by walking around with a pail instead of using a hose. If it’s not unbearably hot, we fan ourselves or go outside where it’s cooler instead of turning the ceiling fan on.
4. Monitor utility consumption. Utility bills take up a considerable portion of our monthly budget. The good news is that such expenses can be controlled, at least to a certain extent. We recently switched refrigerators because the one we used previously was several cubic feet larger than what we really needed. We collect rainwater for watering the plants and for cleaning. Turning off appliances and unplugging them is pretty basic, but it still takes some effort to do so religiously.
5. Cut down on fuel use. Thanks to unending oil price hikes, my once locomotive family has spent the last few months without going on a trip. We miss traveling though but we’ll probably be limited to just a couple of road trips a year. Daily travel is no problem because we can easily walk or ride a bike to get to anywhere we want. Our weekend recreation is going to the park, with no fuel consumption involved. We recently got into the habit of cooking with charcoal, also thanks to increasing LPG prices and a char-broiler lent by our landlady.
We are contemplating on many other ways to reduce our consumption but that would involve investing in specialized equipment such as a brick oven, saving up for LED lamps and maybe an LED TV, solar garden lamps, a hybrid car, who knows?
These are some of the ways I could think of which are actually doable given our current lifestyle. What about you? Why don’t you think of your own ways by which you can reduce. Remember the economics of reduced consumption go beyond your monthly income and expenses.