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No, I’m not talking about tuberculosis. I mean the act of consuming with a purpose. I’ve already written a post on The Joy of Purposeful Spending, but I wanted to include consumption, because consumption doesn’t just apply to spending and saving, but also eating, using, and wasting. I say a lot of things all the time, but “Less consumption, less production” seems to be bubbling out more often lately. I am just as happy to use less as I am to spend less, because ultimately it’s all saving money to me and everyone knows how I feel about saving money. The fact that purposeful consumption also has a positive impact on the planet is a tremendous bonus.
I’m not just passionate about saving our money and resources; I love saving everyone else’s too. Just because something isn’t mine, or I don’t pay for it, or I have the ability to use and waste something however I want doesn’t mean I’m going to do that. I take every business and expense personally, and treat them how I want to be treated. Golden rule, y’all. Next time you go out to eat, try imagining that restaurant is your home, or your child’s lemonade stand. Wouldn’t you love if people only used what they needed, and/or brought their own to-go container so they didn’t have to take your Pyrex home? And wouldn’t it be great if people brought their own cups to the lemonade stand and your kid’s business plan didn’t involve supplying styrofoam ones out of their allowance? God help them if any child of mine tries to buy styrofoam anything.
I get the biggest kick out of consuming purposely every where and in every way I can. Living in Tucson has made me super water-conscious and I recently had an epiphany in the shower. I don’t have many pairs of underwear, so I like to wash my dirty ones in the shower. Instead of soaping up and rinsing a washcloth for my face, a loofah for my body, and my undies to get them clean, I can just soap up the undies and use them to wash my bod. WIN!
If I could leave one impression on the planet it would be that saving is as much, if not more, fun than spending or using. You just have to give it a try. I mean do.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
Note: I don’t wash my face with my undies. I do have some standards. Also note: Greg refuses to participate in this.
Here are some of our favorite ways to consume less:
- Refusing the cup. And the lid. And the straw. I never leave home without my no-sweat plastic tumbler (with a lid and straw). I have never had an issue refilling it anywhere- gas station, fast food, or sit-down restaurant.
- Refusing the disposable water bottle. This is America, land of clean drinking water (sorry, Flint); drink it. We lost the free insulated bottle I got from my last hospital assignment, so we recently upgraded to a Klean Kanteen 32 oz for hot and cold liquids, and we never leave home without a 32 oz Nalgene full of water. When we travel abroad we take a Steripen to use in our Nalgene so we don’t ever have to buy a disposable water bottle.
- Refusing the (especially styrofoam) coffee cup. I also never leave home without my Aladdin eCycle (recycled and recyclable) reusable coffee mug. Microwavable and dishwasher safe!
- Refusing the straw. Go without, or try these reusable straws. Or just take the one from your tumbler.
- Refusing one-time use plastic cutlery. Because I never leave home without my own. Occasionally mine get lost or broken (GREG), so I bought these reusable ones for travel. You could also just take some from your metal set at home, but I don’t know about flying with a metal butter knife. I’ll ask TSA.
- Returning the unopened condiments and spices (or refusing them) we don’t use when eat away from home. I recently saw someone throw away an unopened syrup container and my head about exploded. Just go put them back in the bin or on the counter, it’s okay.
- Refusing one-time use condiment containers. Just use your fry box, or burger paper, or tray. I was never so proud of Greg as when he walked half a mile to get us Shake Shack, and returned with the fries dumped in the paper bag, and ketchup sitting in the fry box. No individual packets, no plastic to-go containers, just one of my favorite burger-and-fries in all-paper packaging. Thank you, Gregory, for contributing to my life plan.
- Refusing the to-go box. I know you’ve got a million plastic containers at home- take one next time you go out to eat. Keep one in your purse or car. Or just use your napkin to wrap up your food.
- Refusing the to-go cup. We’ve already covered this- just take your own cup inside a restaurant. Hide it in your purse or under your jacket if you’re embarrassed. Personally I’d be much more embarrassed using a styrofoam cup with a disposable plastic lid and straw, than I am taking my own cup in.
- Refusing the K-Cup. Few things make me sadder to be an American than our rampant use of disposable Keurig cups. Frankly I don’t care for Keurigs, I think they’re more trouble than they’re worth, but… every hospital unit has one, so I bought a reusable K-Cup which I never leave for work without.
- Scooping up the soap that’s dripped onto the counter in public restrooms instead of getting a fresh pump. Waste not, want not.
- Taking my own towel into the bathroom so I don’t have to waste electricity or paper products drying my hands. You know an excellent place to get cheap towels? The sterile surgical kits at work. Obviously I would never open a new kit for this, but if they aren’t used in a case, hell yes I’ll take them home. Also a great idea for cheap towels- old t-shirts or scarves.
- Refusing the plastic bag. Think of the lifespan of the average plastic bag. What is it, 27 minutes from the grocery store to your car to your house? Or 30 seconds from the drive-thru to your belly? Not on my planet. If you’re like us, you’ve got about 50 reusable totes lying around the house. I never leave home without a few in my purse and a bunch in both our vehicles.
- Refusing the resealable plastic bag. I get the appeal of a Ziploc bag, I do. But so many products we buy already come in resealable plastic bags. Wash and reuse, baby. Or stop and consider whether you really need that resealable bag, or if your item could go in a reusable container instead.
- Refusing the trash bags. We have bought or found so many bags that we can use in our kitchen trash can- packaging from pillows, and tortilla chips, and basically anything on a nursing unit. For some reason hospitals like to wrap sanitized items in trash bags and I have seen countless nurses remove those fresh, clean bags and throw them in the trash. Why would anyone throw a new or partly-filled bag out?! Fill that thing up! I am truly a bane to all other nurses. Just think twice, that’s all I ask. W.W.J.D?
- Refusing the drive-thru. If you haven’t figured it out yet, G.Hammer and I love crappy food, but we’ve made it a rule to never ever ever use a drive-thru. We save gas, time, to-go packaging, and calories by getting off our crappy-food-loving asses and walking inside.
- Turning the car off if we’re going to idle more than 10 seconds. Emissions, gas money, you get it.
- Never letting food go to waste, even if it means we’re eating spaghetti for breakfast and penis-shaped pasta for dinner (a gift from a friend). Side story: I accidentally left the refrigerator door open all night and our heavy whipping cream totally curdled. But it didn’t smell or taste bad, so for the sake of purposeful consumption I continued to drink it. After a week of loose stools and chewing my coffee, then standing over the sink debating for a few minutes, I finally dumped the rest out today. #rip
- Flushing once a day. Or five, depending on the number of loose stools. Flushing just every other time cuts your toilet’s water consumption in half. Imagine if you only flushed once a day, like before you went to bed every night. Praise the water gods- what savings!! Note: I always flush poo. Some standards.
We are all human. We are all going to create waste on a daily basis. This is something I really struggle with, being a member of the the only species on the planet that actively destroys the place.
I hope and pray when I die I come back as a Bottlenose Dolphin, or a male African Lion, or a garden slug. You don’t see them dumping plastic into the ocean, or bulldozing native forests for a shopping center.
I don’t know why I was born a human, but I’m comforted knowing there are simple ways I can decrease my impact, while simultaneously increasing our loot.
Here are a few articles on waste worth checking out and I dearly hope you’ll read them even if you’re a right wing nut job and think me a dirty hippie. One thing is for sure- we only have this one planet and we all have to share.
How Long Does It Take Garbage To Decompose?
Approximate Time It Takes For Garbage To Decompose In The Environment
Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here In 2507?
I love that people recycle, I really do. But refusing goes seven billion times farther than consuming and recycling. Think about it.
Refuse. Then reduce → reuse → recycle → waste. I would love to hear any ideas you have to use less and save more. Be green, my friends. And not just environmentally friendly. 😉
What are you favorite ways to consume purposefully?